Building presence

Building presence

Last week I attended a great on-line event hosted by Mark Bowden; he is an expert in body language and communication techniques. For an hour, he explained how you can building presence when participating in an on-line event. It was truly insightful and amusing in equal measure.

These tips to go on-line are great whether you are a leader, you are part of a team or you are trying to connect better with people in general. That’s why I thought about bringing here a quick summary of what I’ve found more relevant.

While listening to him, I couldn’t help but thinking of the parallelism between the on-line world and the real world when it comes to building presence.

Easy come, easy gone

As everything in life, when you feel something is cheap you can let it go easily with no remorse. Attending to a meeting today could be a matter of a click. Too easy to create an on-line space and too easy to join in. It is a challenge to make people engage and not only attend; otherwise, they will evade (or check out if they can).

Therefore, ensuring their active participation can lead you to get more engagement: welcome them, make questions, ask for comments, make them work together, make the room for them to contribute. Everything you need to promote they become active contributors instead of passive consumers.

Less is more

If you are used to attending on-line meetings you’ll really appreciate when it is only scheduled for 30 minutes instead of an hour, right?

Paying attention, when people are on-line, is a hard task, harder than in-person: multitasking is even easier if you get bored and, if they don’t have their camera on, holding their focus is more difficult (no one is seeing if they are really there; it is easier to evade).

Therefore, there are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Make it short. Go straight to the point, send some information in advance if you need it (what about a flipped meeting?) and summarize.
  • Create variety (what Mark calls texture). Smaller pieces of content mixed with some discussion or even, if you can, get somebody else involved in presenting. Different voices and contents give texture to your meeting.
  • Play with your voice. Try different tonalities and vocal qualities.
  • Create a break in your content to re-engage: an image, a sound. Be creative.

These tips (promote participation and less is more mindset) are pretty similar to the best practices when talking about in-person meetings (if you don’t apply them, you should when those said in-person meetings come back to our lives). If you have your people engaged, you will make the most of your time.

The difference

Of course, the channel through which we communicate matters. And here it comes the big difference between on-line and in-person gatherings: it’s harder for them to see your eyes.

When we look into the eyes, we promote connection. And connection increases engagement (we are social mammals); we can understand the others better because we have access to their non-verbal signs.

Think about where you look when you’re in an on-line meeting (in case people have their cameras on, of course). Probably you look at the screen, seeking others’ faces. The problem when you look at the screen is that you are not looking at their eyes. Their eyes are ‘your camera’. So, place your camera at your eye level to look at it as much as possible.

Building presence is key both on-line or in-person. What will you do next time in a meeting?