There’s no escaping virtual meetings now. Even if you’re heading back to the office, some of your colleagues might not be: hybrid working means those Zoom or Teams get-togethers are here to stay.
That means if you want to get on in your career, you need to make sure that you’re able to give your best performances on camera as well as in person. So if you’re always struggling to turn off the mute button and make your voice heard, here are some of the best expert suggestions we’ve found for making an impact over video chat.
Look your best
Being seen is the first step to making a positive impression, so always have your camera on: the meeting host will appreciate seeing at least one friendly face. A bit of flattering light will also go a long way to boosting your confidence on camera. Sunny Lenarduzzi, a former TV reporter and YouTuber, tells BBC Worklife that people should look for front-facing natural light, setting their laptop in front of a window with the light hitting straight on. “It’s amazing for making your eyes pop and making you look really presentable on camera,” he says.
Use your body language
It can be hard to get the same rapport with colleagues over video calls that you would have in the same room. But tutors at Rada Business, who train executives to have a greater impact in meetings, say that shouldn’t mean you overlook your physical presence. “The physical element of performance in meetings is often neglected and yet this has the greatest impact on our communication,” say Abi Eniola and Rachel Griffiths. Check-in on yourself to make sure you are not physically withdrawn in the meeting. Sit upright and forward, with both feet planted on the floor for a confident stance, they suggest.
Be quick on the draw to unmute
We’ve all learned the importance of muting yourself, so every cough and background noise doesn’t interrupt the flow of the meeting. But if you want to make a good impression, you’ve got to be able to speak up at the right time. “You’ll invariably be called on to speak and, after being jarred awake from your half-slumber, you’ll fumble around for what seems like an eternity to try to unmute yourself,” writes Zoom veteran Doug Aamoth for Fast Company. “There’s a much better way!” With the Zoom window active, just press and hold the space bar to instantly unmute and talk – a bit like a walkie-talkie.
Some meetings can suffer from the dreaded online silences when participants feel disconnected, and the ideas are really not flowing. That’s your opportunity to shine – if you’ve come prepared. Think of a couple of on-topic questions or proposals before the meeting so you can help fill in any silences. Your boss is sure to remember if you’re the one who spares him from a frosty reception. “Be ready with ideas. If you want to stand out, think of possible solutions to problems and say something,” writes lawyer and strategist Avery Blank in Forbes magazine. “Your job is to make your manager’s job easier.”
Make use of the chat window
You can’t be the star of the show all the time: being good in meetings means listening too. But when you’re not speaking, you can still make your presence felt in a supportive way in the chat window. When people are referring to an article or document, you can post the link. You can respond to other speakers with support or questions. “The chat window is a unique opportunity in virtual meetings to elevate your presence, add dimensions to your ideas, and demonstrate that you’re fully present,” says communications professional and executive coach Joel Schwartzberg. All of that helps to show you’re engaged, informed, and ready to contribute.