Performance Communication

Five Steps to Making a Great Virtual First Impression

Five Steps to Making a Great Virtual First Impression

More and more, the first round of job interviews and initial new client meetings are being conducted virtually via Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, and others. Regardless of the technology, the use of videoconferencing is a way to save time and travel, but still get some of the benefits of a face-to-face meeting.

That being said, from a communication standpoint, an in-person meeting is very different from a virtual one, so it’s important you’re prepared to take full advantage of the virtual medium to make the best possible impression.

1. Prepare your environment 

Wherever you’ll physically be during your virtual meeting, be sure to take a look at what’s in the room with you that will be seen by the camera and thus, the other person. Are there stacks of books and papers on the credenza behind your desk? Is your cat on the back of the sofa licking himself in inappropriate places? Is there a photo on the wall of your graduation party where you have not only one, but two beers in your hands, and your eyes are at half mast? Whatever the issue, you definitely don’t want something in the background that will distract the other person or create a bad impression.

2. Look at the camera, not your computer screen

Many times in a virtual meeting, I find myself looking at the image of the person on my screen, rather than the camera on my laptop. If you do the same, you can look like you’re looking at something else (or doing something else) rather than focusing on the interview. A little tip I use is to create a face on a sticky note that goes around my laptop camera, with the eyes level with the camera.

USe a sticky note to create a face for your computer camera so you'll look at it, not your monitor, during an interview.

This way, I look at that face, and nothing else on my screen. Just be sure to cut out a hole for the camera 😉

3. Position yourself the “right” distance from the camera

I don’t necessarily want the other person to be able to see me from head to toe- especially if I’m still wearing my bunny slippers. However, I also don’t want them getting a zoomed-in view of what’s up my nose either. Position yourself far enough back from your camera that the other person can see you from approximately the mid-chest up. Additionally, if you’re at the appropriate distance, the other person will be able to see your hand gestures (see #5 below).

4. Dress appropriately

Okay, so I was kidding before when I spoke about my bunny slippers, but it’s important to be appropriately dressed for a few reasons. We’ve all probably seen the Alka Seltzer commercial where the guy is on a virtual meeting because he’s home with a cold. Unfortunately, he coughs, drops his laptop, and the entire group of people on the other line sees his boxer shorts with the hearts on them. Definitely dress appropriately from head to toe, not only to cover yourself from a possible mishap, but dressing in your “power outfit” will help you communicate more assertively than if you’re wearing a business shirt and your pajama bottoms.

5. Take advantage of your body language

Because the interviewer will only see about 1/3 of you, take advantage of that 1/3 to convey interest, confidence, and competence. Lean in to the camera slightly when you want to make an important point or convey extra interest or attentiveness. Pay attention to your facial expressions and ensure they match or reinforce the message you’re sending with your words. When the other person says, “Isn’t that shocking?” and you say “Wow! Yes!,” you’ll want to be sure your face looks mildly shocked – your eyes might get wider, your eyebrow would go up. You shouldn’t say “Wow! Yes!,” with your face remaining flat and unchanged. Another tip is to bring your hand gestures up to chest height so the other person can see them.  Hand gestures shouldn’t be excessive, but they can help you add emphasis to a point. They can also communicate that you’re logical and authoritative, such as when you count off on your fingers the three steps you took to save the last company you worked for from bankruptcy!

Finally, be sure you practice using the virtual medium before your important meeting or interview. When the stakes are high, that’s not the time to find out your computer monitor doesn’t have a built-in video camera, or that you don’t know how to turn your audio on.

What other tips do you have for meetings and interviews in a virtual world? Comment below and share them!

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One Comments

  1. Renu Bonner
    12:58 pm

    Great tips!

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