Virtual Event Recap: Building Trust and Rapport in a Virtual Medium with Cara Hale Alter

On May 1st, we hosted the webinar “Building Trust and Rapport in a Virtual Medium with Cara Hale Alter.”  Cara is the Founder and President of SpeechSkills and author of “The Credibility Code”.

Cara shared her insights on the advantages and disadvantages of virtual communication and her advice on how to use virtual communication to project your best, most confident and credible self.

As Cara taught us, our goal is to establish trust and create a rapport with the people on the other side of the camera and ideally to give the impression that you are sitting across from someone in person.

Here are a few things we learned about how to project your best image during virtual meetings and presentations:

Eye Contact: Eye contact is a key component of establishing trust both in person and in a virtual medium. However, the rules in a virtual medium are different than in face to face communication. It’s important to make eye contact in virtual meeting – but you won’t necessarily be looking directly at the person or people you’re speaking to. Ideally, you should look one inch below the camera. This will help you to look more natural and relaxed.

The way to project your very best image is something that takes practice to master. Try to train yourself to look through the lens of the camera and try to reach the person on the other side. Although it will take some practice and it may feel like a bit of a performance, it’s an ideal way to connect with your audience and establish a strong rapport.

Vocal Cues: Small adjustments can have a huge impact on how you’re perceived – especially when it comes to your voice. You can use vocal cues to your advantage – and prevent them from accidentally becoming a disadvantage. Pay attention to your inflection when you speak. Speaking with a downward projection, will help you portray confidence. Whereas if you find yourself using upward inflections, you could wind up detracting from your credibility.

Posture: Posture is one of the most important pillars for projecting confidence. To project confidence during a video call, you want to pay special attention to the way you sit. Your spine should be strong, your shoulders should be level and so should your head. Being literally “level-headed” will give you a strong leadership presence. It’s also important to look around at the people in your meeting and when you do this, your head should move independently on your shoulders so that you don’t appear stiff. Make sure that your nose and eyes align as you look around the room – it’s one of the key signals of leadership presence.

Framing: Framing is often overlooked on virtual calls but it’s a vital component in projecting a confident image and connecting with your audience. To frame yourself: Get yourself the right distance from your computer – not too close and not too far. Do everything you can do so that you’re taking up most of the width of your screen space and your audience has the best view of you possible. And most importantly, make sure your camera is as eye-level as possible so that you’re not looking up or down. Being eye-level with the people you’re talking to will help you connect them with them.

Hand Movement: Using your hands when speaking is almost always helpful (unless you’re giving a very formal type of communication, such as a eulogy or State of the Union address). This helps to create a relationship, establish a bond and add more interactivity to your message.

The best hand gesture is to reach out – as if you are literally handing people information. Reaching out is the most common hand gesture that people use when they’re speaking. Your body should be engaged and continually reaching out (this is useful even if people cannot see your hands).

Hand gestures also help to make your body language seem less stiff and also tricks you into having more vocal variety. It also helps to free up your brain processing skills so that you can give your best presentation.

Fighting Zoom Fatigue: If you’re experiencing “Zoom fatigue”, there can be several possible causes – each one with their own solution:

  • Being constantly on view: When we feel like we’re being stared at, it feels like a threat – so having your video on all the time can be stressful. You can counteract this by turning your camera off for a bit if you’re in “listening mode”, such as on a large group meeting or webinar, and reserving your camera time for more interactive, small group meetings.
  • Monotony: If your days are spent going from one Zoom call to another without changing your environment, you may be affected by the monotony. Try to break up the monotony by switching up your environment. Try switching locations by bringing your laptop into another room or your yard. Even if that’s not possible, try to take a break of at least a few minutes in between meetings to spend some time outside or in another room.
  • Lack of interactivity and validation: When you’re speaking on a Zoom meeting, it can sometimes feel like speaking into a void – you may not have feedback, such as nodding or laughter, to validate what you’re saying. This makes it difficult to gauge if your concepts are making an impact on the people you’re speaking to. If you’re in a meeting, try to be more intentional about giving feedback to people they speak – this will help them to feel validated and will help you be more active and engaged as well.

Virtual communication is here to stay and there are many reasons why you should take the time to master this medium. Trailblazers are the ones who differentiate themselves. Since many people are still getting used to this medium, mastering it will help you be ahead of the curve. The more comfortable you are in a medium, the more likely you are to come across as your authentic, confident self.