In recent years, entrepreneurs have found they can dramatically cut down on travel expenses through the use of technology. Meetings that would once have required a cross-country plane trip or eight-hour drive can now be conducted by phone, webinar, or video chat. Videoconferencing software has, in fact, been so popular that businesses have begun to use it to hold job interviews or to meet with professionals located in the same town.
For client meetings, videoconferencing can be beneficial, especially if the clients aren't nearby. Professionals can meet one on one or bring in several team members for a group conference. Unlike other forms of communication, videoconferencing brings the benefit of being able to see the other person's expression during the conversation.
But unlike a face-to-face meeting, a videoconferencing does create a divide between those communicating. The video quality usually isn't perfect, making it difficult at times to see the other person's expressions. Still, there are a few important body language cues that can be easily seen on camera. Here are a few tips to help you decipher your client's body language during your next video conference.
Regardless of video quality, body posture usually comes through loud and clear. Watch the client's posture throughout the call, paying particular attention to gradual changes in posture. A person who goes from sitting straight up to leaning back may be showing signs of boredom. However, it can also be a sign that the client is growing comfortable and feeling relaxed as part of the conversation. In general, however, an interested, open client will sit straight up, facing the camera with an expression of interest.
Often a person reveals far more than he realizes through the small gestures he makes. Barely-perceptible nods often indicate agreement, while a slight tilt of the head can be a sign of confusion or disagreement. If you can see the person's hands, watch for signs of fidgeting or light drumming on the table. Those types of gestures could be signs the person is either bored or distracted.
Hopefully you'll be able to see the client's face well enough to make out expressions. Eye contact is an important part of engaging a client. If the person is averting his gaze frequently or furrowing his brow, you may have lost the person's interest. If, on the other hand, the person's brow is relaxed and his eyes appear to be smiling, you may have won a new client.
While the nature of video conferencing limits you to a view of only a person's face and upper body, you can still tell a great deal by the person's movements. If the client seems to shift position frequently, it could be a sign of restlessness or boredom. It could also merely be the sign of a person who has a difficult time sitting still. If this is your first meeting with the client, you likely won't have a baseline to determine whether this is normal behavior or not, unfortunately. But if you see such restlessness, it may be a sign to redirect your approach.
With body language, often the overall picture of how a person is behaving is a better indicator of a client's reaction to your words. While video conferencing technology has its limitations, those indicators can still be used to guide your approach as you meet with your clients.
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