With workplaces increasingly using video conferencing to connect people working in geographically distributed locations, you might be finding yourself appearing on camera at work a lot more than you used to. And if you’re like most people, you’re probably not fully enthused about this – most of us aren’t delighted to deal with cameras at work.
For those of us who dislike this increasing use of video at work, a recent article in the Wall St. Journal will further stoke your concerns: It turns out that coming off as “likeable” is much harder via video than it is in-person. For instance, job candidates who interview by video receive lower likeability ratings, lower interview scores, and are less likely to be hired than those who interview in person, according to a study published in Management Science. And what’s more, people watching a speaker on a video conference are more influenced by how much they like the speaker than by the quality of the person’s presentation. That’s a real confidence-booster if you’ve got to use video at your job, huh?
So if you can’t avoid video conferences at work, what can you do to appear more likable – or at least to cancel out the likability deficit video introduces?
1. Make “eye contact” by looking into the camera. In a face-to-face conversation, you probably don’t hold eye contact the entire time; you’d come across as unnervingly intense if you did that. But on video, looking away comes across as distracted or unpolished. Looking into the camera the whole time will make you appear more engaged and more likable. (And remember to look into the camera, not at the picture of the other person on your screen. If you look at the latter, you’ll appear to be looking slightly away from the person you’re talking with.)
2. Smile when you talk. A serious face staring out of the screen without any emotion isn’t going to up your likability factor, so smile when you talk. And try to make it natural so that it feels genuine.
3. Pay attention to your tone of voice. If you put some effort into sounding warm and enthusiastic, you’re likely to come across better on video than if you use a monotone. Remember that you’re not talking to a computer; picture the people on the other end of the connection if you can’t see them.
4. Pay attention to the lighting. Aim light at yourself from the front, not from behind you. A lamp with diffused lighting about six feet in front of you works well. You can also try covering your light source with a cloth to soften it. And make sure that you’re not backlit from a window or a light source behind you, or you can end up appearing on the screen as just a dark silhouette.
5. Position yourself in front of the camera correctly. Don’t sit as close to the computer as you normally would. Instead, sit a little bit farther back so that your face and upper shoulders are framed in the shot. Additionally, try placing the computer slightly higher than you normally do, so that it’s capturing you face-on, rather than you looking down at it. (Try propping it up on some books to get it to the correct height.)
6. Use the highest-speed Internet connection you can. On slower Internet connections, the video might not align well with the audio and can cause awkward time lags. If nothing else helps, try plugging your computer directly into your Internet cable, rather than using a wireless connection.