Smile For the Camera! How Important is Non-Verbal Communication for Virtual Workforces?
Non-verbal communication plays a major role in face-to-face interactions, but what happens when a workplace goes online? With many businesses having implemented remote working during the pandemic, you might think non-verbal communication is less important in a virtual environment than in the office. The truth is quite the opposite: body language and facial expressions are key to video meetings.
Why Non-Verbal Communication Still Matters in a Virtual Workspace
Non-verbal communication is a term that encompasses many aspects, such as posture, eye contact and gestures such as nodding and smiling. When you’re not in the same room as someone else, it’s easy to assume they don’t notice these things – but if you’re on camera, others in the virtual meeting can read your body language. While you might think they’re focusing on what you’re saying, verbal communication makes up only a small part of human interaction. People often pay more attention to what you don’t say, which is why non-verbal communication should be at the forefront of your mind throughout any meeting, whether it’s virtual or in person.
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Tips for Non-Verbal Communication
Non-verbal communication in a virtual space has many of the same dos and don’ts as an in-person conversation. It’s easy to forget that people can see you when you’re behind a screen, but they’ll notice if you’re slumped in your seat and not paying attention!
Sitting up straight lets others know that you’re alert and engaged. This will give a confidence boost to whoever is currently talking, as they’ll know you’re listening.
Remember to make eye contact. The same rules apply here as they do in the real world: you need to look at people when they talk to you, and smile and nod where appropriate to show interest or agreement. When it’s your turn to talk, watch what your audience is doing. If their body language suggests they’re bored or distracted, they probably are, so think about ways to engage them. If your non-verbal cues are flat and uninspiring, they’ll lose interest, so try to vary your tone and include gestures to emphasise your point. But don’t overdo it – most people can spot when you’re not being authentic. Instead, let your body language reflect your natural enthusiasm and interest for what you’re discussing.
An aspect of non-verbal communication unique to virtual meetings is your environment. Your colleagues will be able to see the room behind you, and if it’s messy, they’ll interpret this as you being disorganised. As you might imagine, this is unlikely to inspire confidence, so it’s a good idea to tidy up before the meeting starts. Your desk may be covered in files because you’re working on them, but all everyone else will see is a mess, so make sure your space is clean and clutter-free. If you’re working from home, consider setting your workspace up somewhere with a wall or neatly organised shelf behind you.