How to put other people at ease during Zoom meetings
Yes, you only get one chance to make a first impression, but every time you meet with someone — whether a client, your boss, or even an old friend — you’ll make a memorable new impression.
For those of us working in industries dependent on personal relationships, it pays to practice making positive impressions and creating good rapport.
A unique way to create positive rapport: Anticipate how you’ll make others feel and find ways to put them at ease during virtual meetings, especially through your actions and your virtual meeting space.
Think about it this way: When you back your car into a parking spot, you’re giving yourself a clear vision of what’s ahead at the moment you’re ready to pull forward.
Similarly, when you put thought and care into how you’ll come across during your next virtual meeting, you’re giving yourself a clear vision of how they’ll see you.
Your actions can put people at ease during one-on-one virtual meetings
- Discover the color of their eyes. We all know eye contact demonstrates our engagement and interest. So next time you meet with someone, spend an extra second gazing into their eyes — just long enough to take in their eye color.
Then, if you’re in the U.S. or Canada, follow the little-known 50/70 principle: Hold eye contact 50% of the time you’re speaking and 70% of the time the other person is speaking*, for 3-5 seconds at a time.
- Let your voice smile. When you smile frequently, you implicitly encourage the person you’re speaking with to smile back. (Have you tried to keep yourself from returning a smile? It’s difficult.) That’s due to our brains’ mirror neurons, which reflect the most dominant emotion or personality around us.
When we smile, our brains release endorphins, which relieve pain, and serotonin, an antidepressant**. When you smile during a Zoom meeting, you’re helping your counterpart feel the same positive sensations.
- Be mindfully aware, always. Pay attention to the culture and tone of each meeting. You know best what is appropriate behavior, so always act on your best instincts.
- Take note of your appearance on camera — your personal appearance, your background, your attire, your facial expressions, and even your computer desktop’s appearance.
- Free your airways. Sit with good posture (shoulders back, chin up). You’ll create a strong, clear voice the other person doesn’t strain to hear.
- Check how your background appears before your meeting, each time.
- Position your camera so your eyes are even with the lens. (Place your laptop on a small box or stack of books to achieve the right height.)
- Sit with good posture — back straight, feet flat on the floor, facing the camera.
- Tread lightly with virtual backgrounds. They’re useful in a pinch, but they distract listeners when they appear unrealistic or don’t convey a professional image…a beach scene is fun when meeting with friends, but it may convey a mindset that doesn’t sit well with your employer.
- If there’s a chance you’ll be sharing your screen, have your documents open and ready to share, and clean up stray files from your computer desktop. (Try keeping a folder called “Desktop” for hiding files just before you join a meeting.)
- Avoid wearing wild, colorful prints during virtual meetings.
- Assume meetings are being recorded and you don’t know who might view it.
- Of course, always show interest in the person speaking.
Then, make your virtual meeting space inviting and presentable
Even though many of us have been attending virtual meetings for well over two years, we haven’t necessarily put thought into how our virtual meeting space impacts the people we meet with.
Put people further at ease by taking time to set up an inviting virtual meeting space.
- Designate your space. Even if you don’t have a home office, permanently designate one corner of your house for your virtual meetings — one place you know will always provide a professional, comfortable setting.
- Create an inviting background. Strategically place a privacy screen or a favorite piece of artwork behind you. Try placing a pillow or plant somewhere in the background to create a focal point and bring subtle softness to the other person’s screen.
- Test your audio. Good audio quality during virtual meetings is at least as important as a good visual space. But if your room contains mostly hard materials (such as wood or tile), other people may hear distracting echoes when you speak on camera. Record yourself speaking, and listen back for noises and echoes you haven’t noticed before. If you hear distracting sounds, place sound-absorbing panels, curtains, cushions, or blankets in the space to minimize echoing.
- Arrange your lighting. Generally, make sure light (whether from a lamp or a window) is directed toward your face — that is, it’s placed in front of you. If your meeting space can face a window, you’ll look your best in the flattering natural light. Ring lights are another simple way to evenly light your entire face. Another option is to place lights to your left, right, and above, giving a more natural look.
When designed simply but strategically, the audio/visuals of a virtual meeting go unnoticed — the ultimate goal for putting others at ease during meetings with you.
And if you spend one or two hours now setting up your professional, presentable meeting space, you won’t have to think about it ever again!
I hope you discovered new ways to engage your colleagues and clients and enhance your relationships, even during virtual meetings.