Pt. 2 Building an Authentic Body Language Vocabulary for Video
This post is part of a larger series on nonverbal communication cues for video.
Body Language is the most popular component of nonverbal communication, and particularly over video, it can be the loudest.
While the virtual playgrounds we find ourselves in may feel small, they are powerful. Within this window, our body language can align with our intention, or it can deviate. When our body language aligns with our intention, we are at our most impactful as communicators. What we are saying, pairs with our body posture, our facial expressions, our hand gestures - and our audience really trusts what is being said.
On the other hand, when our body language is not aligned with our intention, our audience can often feel confused…’is that person really excited about this product? They don’t look very excited…’
As you read through these primary body language cues to leverage on video, keep in mind that they can be used in many different ways - and to great effect! With a toolkit full of body language tips and tricks, you can always make different choices depending on what feels most authentic and best for you.
There is no ‘perfect’ way of showing up on video, but there are often things we can choose to do more of, or less of, depending on what our intention for the video is.
The primary body language cues we can play around with when recording asynchronous videos are:
While most of these cues stay consistent whether you are in-person, or on video, let’s focus on the three that feel most different on video.
Best Practice: When speaking, anchor your eye gaze into the lens.
The lens is your audience’s viewpoint. By treating the lens as your audience’s eyes, you create the most direct connection to them.
If you are among the abundance of professionals who prefer to look at the individual you are speaking with on video (very normal, but also very disconcerting to the actual human you intend to connect with), this is a skill you will want to work on.
Hacks to help you build new eye gaze habits on video
For asynchronous video recordings in particular:
Imagine you are speaking to the person you are sending the video to. Remind yourself that they will be watching the video from the perspective of the lens.
As you would in-person, don’t stare unblinkingly at the person you are speaking to. Practice keeping your typical blink rate, perhaps you break eye contact for a moment or two here and there.
If helpful, use a sticky note by the lens or orient your script as close to the lens as possible, so that a slight glance at that will not result in a significant looking away.
Try out the Virtual Sapiens Sidekick. Our AI can help you stay on track and will prompt you to look into the lens if your gaze has been misaligned for too long.
Check out this Loom to see this advice in action!
It’s normal to lose connection with our facial expressions on video, especially when we don’t have a live human on the other end to interact with. At the same time, our audience will still take cues on how we feel about something based on how we engage with our facial expressions.
Best Practice: Align your facial expressions with the intention of your messaging.
When recording an asynchronous video, we have a very short period of time to make an impact. Our facial expressions can help engage our audience quickly, especially when our facial expressions align with the intent behind our messaging.
If this is a pleasant, upbeat video, try out a smile or an eyebrow flash right from the greeting. This is an area where practice is particularly helpful. It can feel silly and inauthentic to be expressing ourselves when we are… well, talking to ourselves.
As with any communication, we want to keep our audience in mind. What choices in your facial expressions would you like to make to ensure your audience connects with your intended message?
Try out a few variations in facial expression that reflect how you want your audience to perceive what you are saying. This is truly powerful when done thoughtfully and when aligned with your intention.
See for yourself here:
Best Practice: Show your hands and use open palm hand gestures to increase feelings of trustworthiness, openness and connection throughout your video recording.
Have you ever wondered why in western cultures we 👋🏽👋🏽👋🏽 to greet people? And have you noticed that many of us do this when signing on and off on video?
From an evolutionary perspective, we wave to demonstrate that we are a safe, friendly presence. That we have nothing to hide, nothing we are holding in our pockets or behind our backs.
On video, we can continue to leverage this notion by incorporating open palm gestures when we are communicating.
Things to keep in mind:
Your framing can help your hands have to be comfortably visible - this means you need enough space and distance to include your hands without having your hands up by your ears.
Try not to overuse hand gestures. It can become very distracting if your hands are constantly in view, and in motion.
Be intentional with your hand gestures - use them to add nuance and emphasis.
Check out some examples of effective hand gesture use in this Loom:
This is a lot to think about…especially when you are also thinking about what you are trying to say…this is where practicing comes into play.
With any of these body language cues, we want to remember that we are building new habits, and new muscle memory, for effective video communication. This takes intentional practice, and time.
While you can still practice in front of a mirror, you can actually use video as a way to practice! If you are looking for feedback and assistance on what you can do better from a body language perspective, try out our coaching solutions at Virtual Sapiens - get relevant feedback whenever you want it.
Read the rest of this series:
Nonverbal Communication Cues To Feel More Human on Video PT. 1 - Your Virtual Handshake
Nonverbal Communication Cues To Feel More Human on Video PT. 3 - Tone