GUEST COLUMN: Matt Abrahams, Stanford Graduate School of Business with 5 tips for better video engagement

Matt Abrahams, lecturer at Stanford Graduate School of Business and the host of the Think Fast, Talk Smart podcast gives us his 5 tips for better video engagement.

Technology has allowed us to connect like never before, as so many of us work from home. But as we all know, technology 
can really make or break how we’re perceived and how we get our messages across. Use these  straightforward tips that I share with my students. When you use Zoom, Teams or any other virtual tool, how you show up really matters;

1) Make sure you fill up half the screen with your face and upper body. Make sure there’s a little bit of room between your head and the top of your box. Check this out before you actually join the meeting. You have to be well lit too; as human beings, we read a lot on people’s faces. And if we can’t see your face, if you're covered in the shadows, like you're in the witness protection programme, it makes it hard for us to trust you. Be well lit and fill up the screen. 

2) You also need to make sure you raise your camera up so it’s right at your eye level. So it looks like we're looking directly at you when you're speaking to us. And make sure you look at that camera. So it looks like you're looking at us as we’re watching you. making eye contact is critical for building connection and trust. I take a picture of my family on most days I like and I tape it right behind my camera. So I’m looking at people I care about as I present that draws my attention to the camera and can be really helpful for connecting. 

3) Variation is also critical in your voice. If people are monotone or their rate stays the same. We lose focus and attention. We're designed to pay attention to things that change and vary. So make sure you vary your voice. A great way to do this is to add emotive words, adjectives, adverbs descriptors, we tend to inflict our voice as we say those. 

4) Make sure also that you gesture. No gestures are different. When you’re virtual, you need to make sure your hands are up and visible in the box. That means keeping your thumbs about at your shoulder height. And always make sure to gesture slightly beyond your shoulders, not so far that you go out of your box, but you don't want your gestures in front of your face or your chest. It makes you look tense and tight. 

5) When managing interaction like conversation during a meeting or during a Q&A session use paraphrasing. Paraphrasing is a tool that helps you signal that you’ve heard what somebody said, but it also allows you to interrupt and interject simply highlight or summarise something somebody has said and then add your opinion and link or bridge to the next topic. Taken together, working on engagement, presence, and how you can maximise your remote tools setup, you can enhance and hone your virtual communication. Taking the time to work on these skills will serve you well. Because while we’re all excited to return to more in person communication and interaction, virtual communication is likely here to stay. 


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