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Face it, they're here to stay

This week, I had the privilege of being a panelist on a live presentation. Some of my colleagues attended, including "the boss," Erica Farber. I'm always hungry for presentation input and thankful when I get it — particularly on improving. After the presentation, Erica sent me a note saying, "The content, of course, was great, but overall, you didn't smile very much. Honestly, I was wondering if something was wrong. Are you ok?" How's that for a supportive and caring leader? She's the best.

I didn't realize I had not been smiling. I had computer issues just before the live event and had to switch from my desktop to my laptop at the last minute, which might have thrown me off a bit. Virtual meetings are here to stay, and Erica's question reminded me of the importance of nonverbal communication when communicating with others — not the least of which is to SMILE!

As though it was written just for me, Gary Genard's (The Genard Method) weekly email was an article entitled: Body Language: How to Look Great in Virtual Meetings.. He shares three key points:

Facial Expressions are a Picture of Your Mind — Your face takes precedence over full-body language online for the simple reason that it's mostly what meeting participants see. There is simply too much of your body that's excluded in a video call for it to be your primary tool of nonverbal expression. Because your face now fills the screen, it has taken over the starring role.

Hands and Arms You've Got There. — Use 'Em! — Provided you're far enough from the screen (around 18-24"), we'll be able to see your gestures and respond to them. Just keep your hand and arm movements within an imaginary square drawn around your upper torso. That way, your "visual energy" will be centered and focused rather than dissipated.

Lean In... But Also Lean Out — So-called body language "experts" will tell you about the importance of good posture in video conferences, and fair enough. But don't eliminate movement. The human eye responds favorably to change, not sameness. If you're the one who moves naturally in virtual meetings while others sit statue-like, you'll gain ground in terms of engagement and memorability (and, I'd think, reputation).

For me, it starts with eliminating distractions, turning off all notifications and screens other than the one you're presenting on, and being fully present. Even the slightest distraction will make you appear disinterested or (Gulp! Dare I say) even angry. Consider recording your next few meetings and reviewing your body language and nonverbal communication. You'll see how others see you, and you can adjust as needed.

Happy Friday!

Jeff Schmidt is the SVP of Professional Development. You can reach him at You can all so connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Source: Jeff Schmidt, SVP of Professional Development, RAB