Take control of your virtual body language

How do you consciously use your body language to master interaction in virtual workshops and hybrid meetings?


Maria Hansen

Facilitating virtual meetings

Imagine sitting in a cockpit on your way to taking 50 excited holidaymakers on the adventure of a lifetime. You are sitting with your back to the holidaymakers in the soundproof cockpit, and you cannot see or hear their reactions to what you’re doing. When facilitating a virtual meeting, it can often feel exactly the same way.

Are you one of those people who have put loads of time and energy into mastering the facilitation of virtual meetings? Perhaps you can recognise yourself in actually being comfortable facilitating virtual meetings with everything that it entails, from planning and design to technical setup and facilitation of the meeting. However, you may still often feel that you are not really successful in your communication. Perhaps it is hard for you to sense if your participants are engaged and actively involved on the other side of the screen, or maybe you don’t get the reactions you expected despite the fact that the content of your exercises or what you present is good.

When facilitating a virtual or hybrid meeting, the physical distance between you and your participants makes it more important than ever to understand how to make your body language a co-player to ensure that you shine as a facilitator or trainer.

Be aware of yourself and your energy when communicating virtually

The American psychologist and communication theorist Paul Watzlawick once said: “You cannot not communicate”, and this also applies in the virtual space. As a facilitator on the virtual stage, it is not enough to have control of your agenda, presentation and technical setup. If you are not aware of how your body language and on-screen appearance affect the energy you bring into the virtual space, you risk having non-engaged participants and compromising the quality of your meetings. Try spending two minutes thinking about some of the best dinner parties or festive events you have attended. What made them special? What made them memorable? When I do the same, I think about the host. A smiling host greeting you with open arms is what our participants should experience when they arrive or check into meetings facilitated by you.

In this article, we will take a closer look at how you as a facilitator can train your interaction skills by consciously using yourself and your energy when communicating.

The article builds on our experience with body language training in physical meetings as well as theoretical perspectives on a conscious use of body language. In addition, the article builds on the book Virtual Facilitation2, describing six principles for creating engaging virtual meetings. We will take as a point of departure the book’s third principle: “manage the energy”.

Forget about eye contact – it builds confidence in you as a facilitator

What?! As if it wasn’t enough that you cannot hear, smell or touch the people you meet virtually, you must now also shut down your visual sense by avoiding looking at each other.

It may sound a little controversial to forget about eye contact in virtual or hybrid meetings, and this is of course also only a half-truth. It is not that you should avoid looking each other in the eye altogether, but you need to be aware of when you are doing it.