Zoom tips: 7 ways to improve on-screen body language

Body language plays a key role in effective communication. What messages are you sending? Consider these tips for more impactful and engaging Zoom meetings
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Zoom fatigue tips

Researcher Albert Mehrabian’s famous 7-38-55 rule states that spoken words, tone of voice, and body language respectively account for 7, 38, and 55 percent of the meaning we communicate to others.

Before all communication moved online, you might not have realized that your messages were being conveyed mostly by non-verbal cues. As video calls become the default, you need to make a conscious effort to think about what message you are sending with your on-screen body language.

7 Zoom tips for better body language

Here are seven tips to help you build trust, increase engagement, and reach agreement on video calls.

1. Make constant eye contact

Position your eyes at the same horizontal level as the camera. Add a book below your laptop if needed. Looking into the camera is the equivalent of making direct eye contact. Do not look down, away, or read other things on the screen, as eye motions can be easily detected.

[ Want more advice on how to communicate effectively? Read also: Zoom tips: 6 ways to make meetings better. ]

2. Sit back so people can see your complete gestures

According to an analysis of TED Talks speakers, most viral speakers use an average of about 465 hand gestures, twice as many as less-popular speakers. Make sure your top torso is positioned in the center, and pay attention to whether your hands often stretch beyond the screen. If they do, move the camera even further away.

3. Smile and nod – a lot 

It’s much harder to express focused attention on-screen, so signal your presence and that you are listening by smiling and nodding along, more than you would in person.

4. Sit straight and lean slightly toward the screen

Slumping in your chair can make you seem unenergetic, so use an open posture. When people meet in person, leaning towards the speaker can express interest, so you want to imitate that movement here.

5. Avoid touching your face

There’s a common perception that people who touch their faces when answering questions are signaling deception. While this isn’t always true, it’s best to avoid fiddling with your hair or touching your mouth or nose.

If you want to establish a connection with the other person on Zoom, mirror his or her talking pace, posture, gestures, or tone of voice.

6. Mirror the other person's body language

Mirroring is a powerful tool that we use instinctively to bond and build understanding with one another. If you want to establish a connection with the other person on Zoom, mirror his or her talking pace, posture, gestures, or tone of voice.

7. Use an uncluttered background

A sloppy background can make you seem disorganized or careless. Some virtual backgrounds can also make the meeting feel even more “cyber” than it already is. If there’s an uncluttered space at home (and ideally one that does not show your bed), the on-screen experience will feel more authentic.

Remember, the common wisdom “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” is just as true in the virtual world. Leaders need to go above and beyond to build trust from a distance and improve performance in your organization.

You need more than the words you speak to convey your message. So improve your body language with these simple tips and improve your next Zoom conference.

[ Are you getting Zoomed out? Read 10 ways to fight Zoom fatigue. ]

Kate Yuan is a startup consultant with a focus on go-to-market strategies and enterprise sales. She has worked with startups in four continents and 30+ countries as an investor, advisor, and operator. Most recently, she was the Operating Partner at Hemi Ventures, an early-stage fund investing in mobility, biotech and enterprise AI sectors.