In today’s world, where digital interactions increase with each passing day, your digital body language becomes as important as your body language in in-person meetings.
A picture is worth a thousand words and helps convey a message better. Similarly, your body language is an essential component of your communication that helps convert it into effective and clear communication. It’s a form of non-verbal communication that is used by humans to describe their emotions/feelings through physical gestures. For example, a person from one country goes to another country and he doesn’t have a knowledge of their language. So, instead of greeting them in their native tongue he can either wave his hand or do a handshake which is generally accepted all over the world.
Nonverbal communication is also adapting to the technological evolution and moving to digital non-verbal communication. So, it is important for us to understand what it is.
What is Digital Body Language?
We are in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic now. Most of us have got used to working from home and are attending an endless string of virtual meetings on Zoom, Skype or any such applications. Presentation in these meetings is becoming increasingly more important. While we frequently think it is what we say that carries the most weightage in our meetings, it’s more often what we don’t say.
We think that the majority of our communication is verbal, but can it be causing a severe disconnect with the people who are in your meeting?
Have you pondered on why this disconnect is happening? How many of these virtual meetings have you conducted or attended with your cameras on? You will realise that many or most of these virtual meetings are not as half effective as face-to-face meetings because of this lack of body language element in this mode of communication. And it’s not the platform/mode that is failing us, but actually most of us are missing/overlooking the need for keeping our cameras on during the meeting for various reasons
…and in the process missing out an important element from our communication:
Improve Your Digital Body Language
In the world of virtual communications nonverbal cues often speak louder than our words. Eye contact, facial expression, postures and physical gestures increase our ability to connect with family, friends, clients and colleagues, to build or strengthen trust, and to communicate more effectively.
Sharing or passing information in real-time is not limited to verbal transactions or the use of language. Nonverbal communication is extremely powerful and has been the subject of study for many social scientists, philosophers and psychologists. While vocabularies and languages are different across different countries and cultures, but nonverbal communication remains universal and understood globally. People from India to Morocco understand a smile or a frown.
Both in our personal as well as professional lives, our posture is evaluated by how relaxed we appear as well as our body’s orientation, leaning and the position of our arms. Gestures, postures and Body movements are defined as any movements and signals you use, such as waving, winking, rolling the eyes, nodding, and pointing.
As a leader or a manager, it’s vital to understand not just the meaning of the words other is speaking, but the overall presentation. Discovering the many functions of nonverbal communication will make your meetings more collaborative and more productive.
Few tips on improving your digital Body language:
- Eye contact: Keep your eyes on the person with whom you are talking. Even though we are not in the same room, we can pick up just about everything from that person’s face that we’ll need to understand the intent. Avoid looking at oneself (quick hair checks are okay, but how many times have you talked to somebody who is clearly speaking to their image? Are they even paying attention to you?)
- Focus: There are so many distractions available right now. Phone, open browser tabs, various beeps and pop-ups on the computer. Family members etc. Stay focused. Focus on the person or people that are in the meeting. Notice their behaviours and mannerisms and close down as much of the other “noise” as possible so that you can really engage and focus on the meeting.
- Appearance: Present oneself as we do otherwise in person. This can be really tough for some people. Be on time, be dressed appropriately, speak in a clear and confident voice. If you come to the meeting with notes, use text mapping to mark them up well.
- Posture: When you see yourself on the screen, it should not be visible whether you are sitting or standing. Should Maintain a proper posture is a key part of forming a more sophisticated presence in a virtual environment. This may seem like an irrelevant detail, but poor posture can have long-term negative effects on the first impression of a person. Also, should always avoid sitting with your arms crossed, as in a conversation it is important to show that you are invested in the interaction.
- Situational Awareness: While presenting, be aware of your audience’s nonverbal communication cues. As the presentation progresses, watch for signs of stooping, yawning or dozing off; this means others lost their attention. On the other hand, if the group is energized and interested, participants’ body language may convey that they want you to ask for their thoughts and input. Learning to read a group’s mood enhances your abilities as both a speaker and also as a manager.
- Paralanguage or Paralinguistics: involves various variations in one’s voice, such as tone, pitch, rhythm, inflexions and volume. These signs can have a powerful effect on communication. A loud or forceful tone, for example, may convey a stronger and more serious message compared to softer tones. Sarcasm or mockery can also cause problems — a manager’s sarcastic tone creates stress because their tone (joking) is meant to contradict their words (hurtful or even biting).
- Self-evaluation: Evaluate yourself and monitor your progress. Ask yourself the following questions about your performance: How was I perceived at the meeting? Could I have done something differently? Were people really interested and were paying attention to what I was saying? Did I listen well to others?
Conscious attention to the seven tips mentioned above related to digital body language will go a long way in improving the effectiveness of your virtual meetings. Go ahead and communicate as you do in the real world.
Dr Shreya Govind (PhD) is a Behavioural trainer, POSH Trainer, HR Consultant and has magnetic skills to influence people. She believes training enables positive transformation internally & externally. Her reliability, communication skills, responsibility and friendly nature are assets that would bring to her work. The quality of hers ensures all her training sessions and workshops are dynamic, energetic, result-oriented and value for money.
Also Read by Dr Shreya Govind: The Art and Science of Communication