Body language, whether digital or in-person, is essential as it conveys a person’s feelings and emotions in a nonverbal manner. We needed to watch out for the non-verbal cues dictated by a person’s body language pre-pandemic. However, things are different now with the onslaught of technology and the overarching pandemic that pushed businesses to go virtual. And as we transferred online, so did our body language, which we now aptly call digital body language.
Explaining Digital Body Language
As we enter one more year of the pandemic, with variants sprouting like mushrooms, people are now used to attending meetings online. Laptops and desktops have many applications that make online meetings and presentations possible.
Despite having all the applications within your fingertips, attendees feel a severe disconnect due to the lack of body language.
Our bodies serve as our most powerful communication tools, mainly since we are social animals. And with people becoming more accustomed to turning their video cameras off, speakers end up explaining to a window filled with black screens, weakening our ability to interpret social cues.
How to Enhance your Digital Body Language?
Because online meetings dominate the way we communicate with our remote family, teammates and friends, there is an increasing need to boost our nonverbal cues online to articulate effectively. These cues include facial expression, posture, eye contact and physical gestures.
People from all over the world recognise gestures, even if they do not understand your language. Clapping, for instance, is a universal gesture of appreciation. Imagine watching a show on Broadway between a French lady and a German gentleman. The three of you will clap at crucial scenes because, despite having different languages, you show your appreciation in the same manner.
Same way as smiling. Wherever you may be, smiling at someone is understood as something good.
Body movement, posture and gestures convey our current emotional state. As a leader, you must identify the effectiveness of the overall presentation through body language and the presentation’s content.
Let’s discuss the most common digital body language and how you can enhance each one.
Prepare for an online presentation the way you would in person. Go to the online meeting early, dress appropriately and speak confidently.
2. Eye Contact
Maintain eye contact with the people. Although attendees are not physically in the same room, the speaker’s face can speak a thousand unspoken words. Looking at your image is very noticeable. It’s acceptable to glance at yourself for a quick check, but it’s undeniable if you’re talking to yourself so please avoid doing so.
Distractions are abundant and may come in different forms. Do not let them distract you. It can be your cellphone, other opened apps on your computer, family members who are in the house with you. Mute all these external noises and focus on the people in the meeting with you.
Paralinguistics cover the different variations in a speaker’s voice like inflections, pitch, rhythm, tone and volume. Knowing how to use these properly can have a powerful effect on communication.
Proper posture onscreen will enhance your presence in a virtual environment. Your appearance onscreen should not show whether you’re sitting or standing, so check beforehand. Moreover, your posture onscreen leaves a lasting impression. It displays your level of interest in the interaction.
Monitor how people perceived you during your performance. Was it lacklustre? Were they engaged? Is there an area I need to improve?
7. Situational Awareness
As a presenter, take note of your audience’s digital body language. Check whether they started slouching or yawning, which indicate that you’ve lost their attention. On the one hand, eager and smiling faces mean that you need time for questions and engagement as they may want to interact with you. Moreover, I’d like to share some everyday things you can do and avoid during virtual meetings.
1. Keep your camera on
You are less likely to do something else when your camera is on. You want people to see you engaged and in the zone, so it’s best to show them that. Moreover, since people can see you, be mindful of your gestures and facial expressions. You must be careful to avoid any confusion and miscommunication.
2. Never do anything you wouldn’t do in an in-person meeting
Remember how distracting that person in the room was when they bounced their legs while speaking? While you won’t see this online, fidgeting is quite apparent and can destroy focus. Always maintain a straight posture and avoid looking at your phone.
3. Record Meetings
It’s great if you can record meetings that do not touch on sensitive and confidential issues to ensure that the message you pass on is the same message given. Why not share your recording with fellow employees through a shareable link accessible to all?
4. Share important information early on
Delaying when you share essential information may transmit the wrong message. Your audience may think that it’s not as critical and categorise it as a mere afterthought. Plus, people are less attentive towards the end of the meeting compared to the start. A leader who shows confidence through digital body language can be more impactful in communicating with their members online. Practising all of the reminders above can help you on your way to becoming even more effective.