For some, seeing and hearing ourselves on a video call is the ultimate in embarrassment. But with the technology unlikely to be going anywhere, what steps can we take to boost our virtual self-assurance?
It’s a rare soul that truly enjoys the sound of their voice or staring at themselves on screen. A recent study highlighted that one in six employees are still uncomfortable with seeing and hearing themselves on a video call. As the Zoom boom continues and video calls and meetings become an essential part of our day-to-day lives, let’s look at some strategies that can help us feel more confident on screen.
Take up space
Confident people take up space. “Remember that you belong in any room that you enter, and if you don’t feel like you truly belong, act like you belong,” says award-winning TV producer and author, Shonda Rhimes on her MasterClass course. Position yourself no further than an arm’s length away from the webcam, so your head and shoulders are comfortably visible on the screen. Sit up straight with your shoulders square – a good posture will help you breathe easier and reduce stress. Remember, if you hide or make yourself smaller it will send signals that you don’t feel important enough to be there.
Maintain eye contact
“Connecting visually is one of the most significant aspects of body language, whether meeting in person or virtually,” says Patricia Peyton, corporate body language specialist and author, in her article for Fast Company. Maintaining eye contact boosts oxytocin, the bonding and trust chemical, and raises serotonin – the happy hormone. If working from a laptop, make sure to prop it up on some books or a shelf so the camera is at eye level.
Adopt a strong, positive outlook
Remember, first impressions still count when meeting online. Research shows that viewers will form an impression of a speaker within 30 seconds of watching them. A strong smile and a confident voice will go a long way when it comes to presenting yourself over video meetings. While it’s important to be approachable, avoid starting sentences with an apology such as “I’m sorry but…” or “I just…” Neither make you look authoritative.
If you’re still feeling nervous, spend a minute or two concentrating on your breathing. Box breathing is a simple technique where you breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and breathe out for four seconds, for four rounds – imagining yourself drawing the four sides of a square as you go. This technique helps regulate your breathing and lowers your heart rate, which in turn will aid concentration and make you feel more confident.
Reframe anxiety into excitement
It’s normal to feel a little nervous when speaking over Zoom, but what happens when our anxiety overtakes us? A study by Alison Wood Brooks at Harvard Business School shows that we can actually trick our brains into using our anxiety to our advantage. Rather than trying to calm down, Wood Brooks suggests reappraising your emotions with strategies like saying “I’m excited for this call” out loud – and using the benefits of anxiety, like alertness, to help you perform better.
Use confidence tricks
Communicating with people through technology can make it hard to notice signals and respond appropriately. Speaker and confidence coach, Alexa Fischer runs a Confidence on Camera on Udemy and suggests placing a sticky note with a smiley face on your screen to remind you to smile. And if you find it hard to concentrate when your own image is staring back at you, with all its assumed flaws, another well-placed sticky note will help you focus on the job in hand.