Hari Patience-Davies offers six easy body language hacks – three dos and three don’ts for virtual calls.

Humans pick up so much information from body language – it’s one of the most important reasons why you should always have your webcam turned on during Zoom, Teams or Skype calls. But it can be hard to know what do with your hands during those calls – when speaking should you gesture or stay still?

If you want to gesture, gesture. If you want to stay still, be still – just keep a few things in mind to make sure you don’t slip from a comfortable stillness into visible boredom…

Don’t lean on your elbows or rest your head on your hand

This is classic bored body language – and you might not be bored, you might just be tired, but your audience doesn’t know that, and from their read of your appearance you look unengaged and bored.

So don’t do it – unless of course that’s what you want them to think.

Don’t cross your arms

Another bad body language move – this time your arms are acting as a barrier between you and the camera, so you either look like you’re scared of the audience or contemptuous of them (“I don’t need to engage with you.”)

If you have to cross your arms, see if you can do it so your arms are lower than the angle of the camera. I’m still not a big fan of this look as it can make people seem stiff and remote, but so long as the “barrier” of your arms is off-screen it’s neutral body language.

Don’t sway in your chair

It may feel casual and relaxed to you, but to your audience it appears that your attention is elsewhere – “away with the fairies,” as my grandmother used to put it. Worse still, constant swaying from side to side or swinging the chair from right to left on its swivel can make your audience start to feel a little motion sick.

Plant your feet flat on the ground and use that leverage to stay still. If your feet can’t reach the ground it’s time to find a good solid footrest. This is actually recommended posture for working at a desk (feet flat on the ground, 90 degree angle between calf and thigh, don’t cross your legs) so it’s a good habit to get into.

Do make eye contact with the camera

Stick-on googly eyes, post it note arrows or little lego figurines are your friends when it comes to keeping eye contact with a webcam. If you want to engage your audience, don’t look at the video feeds on your screen, look at the camera at the top of it (or wherever your webcam is) – it’s a much more effective presentation approach.

Do sit up straight

Shoulders back, chin level, camera at eye height – that’s the best posture to adopt when presenting to camera.

It’s the best posture for presenting in real life as well, but it’s sometimes harder to remember that when you’re sitting alone working from home, miles from any of the people you’re presenting to – when you’re sharing a real life meeting room with them, the confident body language of good posture is natural to adopt.

Do keep your elbows by your sides

If you’re someone who gestures a lot, then you may have noticed that particularly enthusiastic movements aren’t always picked up by the camera – sometimes they’re off-screen because of the narrow field of vision, sometimes they may be below the camera’s eye shot, and raising your hands up to gesture in front of your shoulders can interrupt the audience’s view of your face and be off-putting.

If you keep your elbows glued to your sides, your lower arms can still move and gesture on camera, but they won’t be lost offscreen to the sides, or obscure your face.

You may have to practice this a bit as it really doesn’t feel natural to begin with, but it’s worth it as it ensures your hand gestures are visible without being a distraction – and as a bonus, keeping your elbows close to your sides also keeps your shoulders back and helps maintain that good posture we should all have on screen.


Photo by Matthias Oberholzerm on Unsplash.

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