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Nonverbal Communications Over Zoom

How to better present yourself.

I think we all could have used this training session back in March of 2021 when almost all meetings went virtual and we saw the dramatic rise in video teleconferencing.

Personally, I've seen all manner of faux pas when it comes to presenting oneself on camera during video meetings and webinars.

You can check out this presentation that covers many elements for doing a better job — in the future: How to present your best self on camera through nonverbal communication.

For those of you who just want my crib notes, here's some pointers that I wrote down:

  • Verbal to nonverbal communications is 1:14. Your posture and how you present yourself physically is the most important element.
  • Have the camera be about an arms length away from your body.
  • Raise the laptop to be level with your eyes. Use books, a table that elevates (I've got one) or buy a relatively cheap device made to just do that.
  • Have the lighting be balanced, so one side of your face is not shadowed.
  • Have an interesting background, not just a blank wall.
  • Your dress should match what your audience will be wearing, or "up it a bit."
  • An initial smile is key to presenting a likeable personality.
  • Show your arms and hands so you can be more expressive with your body.
  • Sit up straight, shoulders back, no slouching!
  • Keep your face forward, don't position yourself with the camera to the side.
  • Use slow purposeful movements.
  • When you talk with your hands, use both in a symmetrical way.
  • Look straight into the camera.

My last tip, which is the most basic of all, is "turn on your camera" when speaking. Otherwise all the tips above will not be applicable.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.