Working from home means engaging in meetings without being seen or heard. But the question is – should you be invisible and mute at virtual team meetings?
In a physical meeting, you might choose to be quiet but you definitely wouldn’t be invisible. People could still see you listening, making notes and you physical presence would go recognized. One of the pitfalls of virtual meetings is that it is easy to be lost.
However convenient being mute and invisible might be, it can greatly harm your personal brand.
Some of the reasons why being visible in virtual meetings is important are:
To continue building your personal brand as an employee
To be a contributing member of your team
To get noticed even in the work from home scenario
To be in line for upcoming projects by virtue of your active involvement in virtual meetings
To not let work from home affect your visibility at the work place.
Here are a few effective ways to make sure you continue to grow your visibility at work even while working remotely:
Tip # 1: Switch the video on, whenever possible
Ideally, the video should be on at all times so that people can see you just like a physical meeting.
I know that a lot of times the bandwidth or internet connection isn’t strong enough. But keeping your video on during meetings to increase your visibility is worth it! (so fix that internet connection if required)
At least for the critical meetings (if you have meetings all day long, choose the important ones), consider them as physical ones and be there.
With your video on, people can see your presence, watch your reactions and remember you as a visible member in all virtual meetings.
Research has proven that keeping your video on creates a more real-meeting kind of atmosphere. It also helps people bond together with actual people rather than their photos.
There are 2 things you should keep in mind when you use video on your calls:
One, the light source. The light in the room should preferably be in front of you and not behind. The light from behind will leave a shadow on your face and darken it.
Two, the camera angle. This may take some adjustment – I also tried different ways to prop my laptop to get the right angle for my sessions.
Your eye shouldn’t be looking down at the camera- which is usually the case when we place the laptop on the table. Prop your laptop on a few books to bring the camera at eye level.
This way you will appear as a clean headshot – well lit and looking at everyone at the right angle.
Here is a video on how to set your camera and lighting right for a virtual call
Tip # 2: Speak up
One of the best ways to be visible in a virtual meeting is to speak up.
Take up the role of a moderator or any other role during the meeting. This will ensure that you have a speaking presence.
Make meaningful contributions on virtual calls
You can also use the speaking time to present your point of view on the ongoing discussion. This will be a more meaningful contribution from you.
Tip # 3: Speak up – loud and clear
Rambling in a virtual meeting will lose you audience attention.
Your voice needs to come out clearly when people can’t see you.
So be clear and structured.
- Decide what you want to say, state that clearly right at the beginning, give reasons for your views and end it – all in one go.
- Since your views are structured and presented clearly, your contribution will be noted by everyone in the meeting.
- Speaking up ensures that virtual meetings don’t diminish your personal brand and your presence is felt loud and clear.
- That people know you for your contributions when you go back to work and you could be next in line for upcoming projects.
Learn the art of articulation to be fluent and structured in meetings.
Tip # 4: Engage With Others
Research has proven that people are doing a myriad other things during virtual calls. Even if it is not your turn to speak or you don’t want to interrupt someone who is talking, you can still be active.
Use the inbuilt engagement tools on online platforms to show your presence.
You can use the hand raise, thumbs up and the applause options to respond at appropriate points. This is a great and unintrusive way to be present in a meeting.
You can also use the chat feature to send across your comments without having to interrupt the speaker.
Complete attention from you with regular responses also sends out the signal that you are tech savvy and are also fully involved in the meeting. (without multi-tasking)
If you are an organizer, this is also a great way to keep the engagement going. At regular intervals, ask them to show you a thumbs up or applaud for a contribution.
Calling upon them from time to time will reduce the chances of people zoning out and multi-tasking on the side.
Tip #5: Eye Contact & The Triangle Technique
If your video is on, eye contact also comes into the picture. Where do you look when you are staring at your laptop screen – when you talk and when you listen?
Most of the times we look at our own image when we talk on screen. This makes our eye contact appear a little off to the people looking at us.
Try this: Start a dummy video call and trace your eyes as you look at different points on the screen. Mainly, notice the difference when you look into the camera lens and when you look at your own image on screen.
- You may have to do this a few times to correctly trace where you are looking and which one looks right.
- You will clearly see that looking at the lens is the right eye contact to make with everyone – it seems like you are looking right at people.
But you can’t be staring at the lens the whole time – that’s not what we naturally do in physical meetings, right?
So how do we move our eyes around in a virtual meeting?
Use the Triangle Technique – in physical meetings, the triangle is imaginary going through the eyes and mouth of the person in front of you. Every 5-10 seconds, you move your gaze between the eyes and the mouth. This way you are not staring at someone the whole time.
The Triangle Technique helps move your eyes around naturally during a video call
In a virtual meeting, when it is your turn to talk – move your eye contact in a triangle. Only the triangle here is the camera lens of the your device, your image on the screen and another participant. Take turns to move your eyes to each.
This gives the impression of a normal eye movement and it’s like looking at everyone in turns. This can bring you as close to a physical meeting in terms of eye contact.
Tip #6: Anchoring
Virtual meetings are challenging in more ways than one. One big change is the way we use our body language – or don’t!
Most of us are talking heads on a laptop screen and the only other thing available to us is our hands. The rest of our body is gone along with its language!
Using hand gestures effectively can make you a better communicator on your video calls.
Research has shown that the right hand gestures get people to take you more seriously. The most popular TED Talks have almost twice the number of hand gestures than the one less viewed.
So making good use of them in virtual meetings can only enhance your image and what you say.
And anchoring is one of the ways to use hand gestures more meaningfully.
So what is anchoring?
- Anchoring is using different points on your screen to anchor different ideas.
- For instance, you might be talking about 2 projects. So you show your right hand to talk about one project and the left to talk about the other. And you use hand gestures using that particular hand for that project.
- This adds additional visual cues to what you say and make it memorable for the listeners. (Another reason why keeping your video on is a bonus)
Tip #7: Dress Up
I know one of the advantages of work from home is the luxury to lounge in your pajamas all day. One can make do with being mute and invisible in the long line of meetings happening all day!
But if your personal brand is important to you and want people to take you seriously, this will have to change!
Research has conclusively proven that dressing up for the job you want holds true as much for video meetings as for real ones.
And experts agree, at least the top half needs to be dressed up for Zoom meetings! You need to appear authentic and trustworthy in meetings.
The Harvard Business Review conducted a survey on 3 different backgrounds, colours and kinds of attire on a video call to see which one was the most preferred. And turns out that even on a video call, colours and types of attire matter.
Business casuals was the most popular choice if you are presenting to peers but suiting up is a great option if you are addressing senior managers or important clients.
So pay attention to what you casually throw on for virtual meetings and if it will make the impact you desire.
Tip #8: Find Your Energy Sweet Spot
You are sitting at home dressed casually. You plonked yourself on a couch for yet another meeting where you are a passive listener.
Suddenly, the discussion takes a turn and you want to say something.
How much energy and conviction could you send across on a video call from the comfort of your couch?
On the other hand, some people pump in a whole lot of energy on video calls since we know virtual medium needs a little more than physical meetings.
So what is the sweet spot to appear energetic and project confidence?
That’s what you need to find for yourself!
I sit up at my work desk – and you should too – to ensure I am alert. I use voice modulation to get the emotions across and of course, hand gestures add to the energy and meaning of what I say.
You should sound as close to how you would in a physical meeting. You need to be energetic and animated to keep your audience interested.