At the beginning of my career (many years ago) I was provided customer service training. I don’t remember much about the training (apologies to the trainer) because it never really became a habit (learning is not an event).
One thing I do remember is the small mirror they provided as the anchor object (to help us remember and practice the new techniques). It was a small hand-held mirror with the word ‘SMILE’ printed at the bottom. A reminder to smile as we spoke to the customers (a difficult thing since this was an insurance claims service center).
BIG surprise – this simple behavior change actually did change the way I connected with the person on the other end of the phone.
WEBcam as Mirror
Now, many years later as I coach professionals in conducting virtual meetings and presentations, this behavior resurfaces…in a more modern way!
Instead of having a mirror in front of me, I put my webcam on so that I can see myself in the screen. No, I’m not checking my hair, but rather my facial expression, my posture, my focus.
You see – your facial expression can be ‘heard’ at the other end of the call through your tone, breath, pace, and even what you are not saying (read more in ‘how to read a virtual room‘).
These simple steps can help set the tone of your meeting or presentation. It is especially helpful if the upcoming event is a very important one or poses a challenge for you.
First – leave enough time between meetings and events. The uncertainty of the world will just wreak havoc on your timeline!
Second – Take a break. Don’t take your smartphone with you. Take a few minutes to walk outside….take in a deep breath of fresh air…fill those lungs! This step does two things: a) clears your head of whatever problems you were just tackling; b) gets oxygen into your lungs and brain. If you are not getting oxygen, your energy will be low, your breathing will be shallow, and you will start to sound nervous and uptight – or worse tired and bored. Not a great way to positively impact your audience.
It is especially helpful to take this step if the upcoming meeting event is a very important one or poses a challenge for you. Breathing calms you and oxygen in your brain will help you think more clearly.
Third – once you get back onto your office make sure you stand/sit up straight. Go ahead and let those shoulders relax down and back…get them away from your ears! This will keep your breathing deep and your confidence high. Unclench your jaw! All of these things can be translated through your presentation and will distract from your message.
Fourth – Now smile! This is the final step in getting and keeping you relaxed.
Make sure you set up either your webcam, or an old fashioned mirror so that you can monitor all of these things throughout our presentation.
Some people will say that you are paying too much attention to yourself and not enough to the other person / people. Well, the thing is, we have to pay attention to both. Presenting is difficult enough in person, and the virtual aspect of it just makes it more challenging -or maybe just different – but challenging none the less.
Your ability to focus on many things at once is really part of the human experience. But if your purpose in this encounter, be it a one-on-one meeting or a group presentation, is to communicate effectively – then you are really just focusing on one thing – getting your point across clearly – briefly – simply.
Your voice, your tone, your preparedness all contribute to that one goal.