Showing up for work has taken on a whole new meaning in the last few weeks and while your commute may be easier, understanding what it takes to succeed in the new shelter-in-place universe is not as obvious.
Body language and presentation expert Linda Clemons says one of the key elements to nailing remote work performance is connecting well via video and that the rules for doing so are specific. Here are her fail-safe tips:
1. Prepare and rehearse
“It wasn’t raining when Noah built his ark,” says Clemons. So, don’t wait until you’re on screen with four (or 40) other people to realize your lighting is so poor they can’t even see you. One advantage of working remotely is that no matter how small your home is, you control your virtual image. Adjust lighting, angles, and props favorably and reserve enough time to test and refine your screenshot. “Even in a tight space, you can create a tight shot that shows you as organized, ready, and at your absolute best,” Clemons says. Also, pay attention to details. It’s one thing to have your young child or pet stroll into camera range unavoidably and another to have an overflowing hamper or sink full of dirty dishes as your backdrop.
2. Shower, shave and show up correct
Certain things seem like common sense — groom yourself as you would if you were walking out the door, don’t appear on camera in your robe or workout clothes — but may not be common knowledge. Even if your team’s emerging remote culture seems to welcome dressing way down, do not show up in your pajamas (as least, not from the waist up, says Clemons). Not only does it look like you’re not really working, you won’t feel or present yourself in the game-on way that you need to, especially now when the stakes for everyone in business are so high.
3. Smile, though your heart is aching.
If you’re hosting a meeting and you begin with a smile, others will automatically smile too and that helps relax things. “A smile is like a yawn,” says Clemons. “It’s contagious. These are tense times. We need that.” At the start of a presentation, smiling — even if you’re forcing it a bit— will help put you at ease and help others tune into what you have to say.
4. Acknowledge the elephant in the room
Everyone is stressed and every meeting offers an opportunity to show empathy and leadership, primarily by acknowledging that it’s a tough time but that we are all working through it, together—and will prevail. Clemons says you want to convey the message that “Yes, we’ve all panicked but now we have to pause so we can pivot and get back on purpose, as a team.” With new developments in business, our health and the global economy being processed throughout the day, you can briefly check in on the news during a meeting, but don’t dwell on it or any information that distracts from the tasks at hand.
5. Stay on time and on task
Strive to come across as clear, strong, and concise. Video meetings can be even more efficient than meetings in person because there are fewer distractions. That’s a good thing, so take advantage of it, don’t drag things out. When it’s your turn to speak, “Stay on message and on point,” says Clemons, adding a warning: “When you go long, you go wrong.”
6. Keep your energy up
“There’s a reason we connect with great talk show hosts,” says Clemons, and the common thread is that “they may be talking to millions, but we feel like they’re talking just to us.”
If you’re not used to video conferencing or if you’re uncomfortable being on-screen or with the technology, it’s easy to appear wooden or robotic. As much as possible, you want to come across as natural and open. Being stuck at home is making many of us feel drained so, on both audio and video calls, take extra care to modulate your vocal tone to be animated and energetic. On video, try to shoot yourself from the belly button up, if possible (think standard news anchor desk height) so that your heart is in the shot. These unspoken cues make an impact.
7. Be 100% present
There are going to be distractions and technological mishaps that throw the moment and pull people off course. It’s inevitable. So stay flexible, but keep your focus as much as possible. If you’re the meeting’s host or cause of the glitch, acknowledge it and keep going. Clemons advises that you let your meeting motto be no different than it would be if everyone was gathered together at the same table: “Be present in their presence.”