I am confident that we all remember a presentation that was interesting topic wise, but you were simply unable to follow the person speaking. Communication is an essential tool to make your points stick in people's minds.

The following tips are easy to adapt in your day to day work, especially when being in a virtual call. Before you read, perform this quick exercise to measure their impact directly:

Record a quick video of yourself answering the following questions:

  • Who are you and what’s your profession?
  • What does your normal day look like?
  • What is a topic you are passionate about?

My communication training at Pitch Ninjas started off with this video. I had to watch my own recording again, first without and then with audio, answering the questions “Do I believe the person?” and “Does anything surprise me?”. Some aspects actually took me by surprise about my mimic when watching it without sound, so definitely worth the exercise.

What went well on first try

Yep, this is me, doing the video myself. The good parts: My gaze is directed to the camera, keeping eye contact with my imaginary conversational partner. It takes a bit of training during virtual calls, but you could start by facing the camera from time to time.

Screenshot of my video exercise

In addition, my position is pretty good. My upper body (chest upwards) is fully visible and there is an appropriate amount of space over my head. You can use your own hand to check it.

Things to improve

Besides what went well, there are a couple of things worth some attention. For starters, the lighting isn’t optimal: I mostly rely on natural light originating from a window. If one is having lots of calls it may be worth investing in two lights you could position left and right from your face to avoid shadows. The scene can benefit from neutral lighting instead of the yellow warmth in my example.

Another point of improvement is my background: Although I personally use the bike for kicking off smalltalk, it is indeed a bit distracting. Your background shouldn’t be completely clean either, but non-disturbing. You can use elements like a tidy bookshelf to bring in a personal touch.

My body position is good, but my posture is not: My shoulders are lifted and sloped. To appear more energised you can make use of the “Power Posture”: Slide to the edge of your chair, straighten your back and pull down your shoulders. Your hands may be placed on your legs or the desk in front of you. This affects how you feel as well and, by that, influences your appearance positively. Give it a go now.

Once your setup is complete, you can make your talk more engaging by involving your hands using gestures directed to your camera. To get a grasp on the impact, compare yourself listening to someone sitting still to someone using their hands. You may need to remind yourself of using hand gestures to underline what you're saying, but after some time it starts feeling more natural to you.

Actions you can take now

The tips described so far are pretty easy to adapt. Of course your content relies heavily on what you say and more importantly how you say it. Starting with being aware of your pace, e.g. by actively using pauses, followed by storytelling and the usage of metaphors. There are different frameworks for structuring what to say upfront, e.g. the “Problem, Solution, Benefit”-model or the “Think, Feel, Do”-framework. You may want to give them a read to leverage your communication further.

The advantage of the tips mentioned above is the ability to implement them without any further ado. Take your time and retake the video, keeping them in mind:

  • Be aware of your position and posture
  • Take care of good lighting
  • Have a non-disturbing background
  • Make eye contact
  • Use hand gestures whilst speaking

Now, compare it with the video you took upfront. What do you think?