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Speaking skills coach and stand-up comedian, Mel Byron, shares some top tips for coming across with confidence in those ubiquitous online meetings.

Back in the early days of lockdown, online fashion retailer, Boohoo, reported a surge in demand for smart tops and for jogging bottoms. How easily we’ve adapted to being on display from the waist (or even the chest) up. Zoom meetings have become the norm and how we look is very important. But even in our best new business shirt, we can still feel insecure how about how we come across online. Do I sound confident, or can they tell my heart is pounding ten to the dozen?

It’s been estimated that 73% of us hate speaking in public. Online meetings can really amplify that. It feels like we’re always presenting.  That feeling of dread we get as our curser hovers over the ‘start video’ button is as real as nerves we feel before getting up on stage. It’s totally understandable, but we can do things to mitigate against speaking nerves, and we can learn how to use our ‘visible parts’ to best effect. Happily, my top tips for online meetings are similar to the top tips I offer for speaking in real life. Hurrah for transferable skills.

So, let’s dive into some Top Tips for looking and sounding confident online.

  • Sit up straight – I know I sound like your mum now, but seriously, straight backs are good, and comfortable. Make sure your chair is at the right height, so you can put your feet flat on the floor. You’re wearing your slippers these days instead of your Jimmy Choos (I’m not spying on you, honest), so getting that feeling of groundedness is much easier and helps to stabilise your posture. This helps to open up your chest so you can breathe more easily. Talking of breathing…
  • Take it slow – Keeping it slow is the best thing you can do to overcome any feeling of nerves. Take a minute or two before your online meeting to take some slow, deep breaths. This will help stop your heart racing and keep you focused.  When called upon to speak, speak more slowly than normal too. This reduces fillers like ‘umm’ and ‘er’ and ensures you come across with greater confidence.
  • Use your arms – In Tip 1, I mentioned opening up your chest.  Now extend that to your arms. Don’t wave them about too much, but keep them open and use your hands for emphasis, much as you would do in real life. Be careful not to put them too close to the screen though, or they’ll look enormous.
  • It’s in the eyes – If you are in a meeting, just talking to the group, it’s fine to look around the screen. If you are presenting and all eyes are on you, look straight at the camera for a greater feeling of intimacy and connection with each listener. This is tough, as you’re just looking at a green light, but the faces are still in your sightline. Imagine you are a newsreader broadcasting to the nation.
  • The power of a smile – At the end of the day, nothing says ‘I’m relaxed, confident, and happy to be here’ like a smile. Of course, use your smile appropriately, but do use it whenever you can. More than ever, we need something that sparks human connection and a smile is one heck of a powerful spark.

Start implementing these steps at your next online meeting. You don’t have to do all five at once, but I would definitely recommend getting number one sorted asap. The right seating position will quickly set you up for success. Good luck and let me know in the comments how you get on.

Mel Byron is a trainer, coach, writer, and comedian. Check her out on melbyron.com, or email directly for details of online courses and webinars  – melbyron111@gmail.com