“Albert Mehrabian, a pioneer researcher of body language, found that the total impact of a message is about 7 percent verbal (words only) and 38 percent vocal (including tone of voice, inflection, and other sounds) and 55 percent nonverbal. It's how you looked when you said it, not what you actually said.”

New York Times

Unlike other communication channels, live video enables you to better connect with your audience by adding context through body language, narrative flow and tone of voice. The unconscious message delivered through video is as important as the message itself and is critical to building trust and credibility, especially during times of disruption as we are experiencing now with COVID-19.

Below are 10 tips you can use to improve your live video body language and communicate more effectively.

1. Fill the screen

Taking up visual space builds confidence with your audience and helps deliver the intened. message. Position yourself close to the camera so you can be seen clearly. Your presentation to the viewer should feel balanced, but deliberately present. However, it’s best to avoid being too close to the camera because this can communicate that you are aggressive. It is important to make the audience feel you are communicating confidently and openly.

2. Eye contact is critical

In live video, eye contact is a powerful tool that can be used favorably to deliver a message and create a sense of connection. The goal is to simulate face-to-face communication through video. The perceived eye contact conveys to the audience that the speaker is attentive, having commitment and conviction in the message and its’ importance.

In the case of live video, look at the camera instead of the screen and alternate by looking at the screen from time to time to prevent the speaker from thinking that you are staring or too robotic. During natural face-to-face communication you maintain eye contact 80% of the time, but look away at different times when thinking or pondering a statement. This conveys authenticity, emotion and “real” communication. By briefly looking away at times the presenter shows active engagement and a concerted effort to think about the importance of the message, and avoids feeling pre-recorded or too rehearsed.

3. Lean back – but only slightly

The position of your body can send visual cues to your audience and impact how receptive they might be to your message. Sitting too far back conveys disinterest, sitting straight up comes across as rigid or inauthentic, and leaning forward is aggressive. Leaning slightly back is proven to be the most effective.

4. Use your hands

Much like an orchestra maestro or conductor waves his hands to communicate, you too can use your hands to set the tempo and emphasis of your message. Gesturing with your hands grabs the attention of your audience and is effective for putting emphasis on critical points in the presentation.

5. Avoid using the same speed and volume

There’s nothing worse than a monotone presenter to put an audience to sleep. The simplest way to catch a viewers’ attention (and keep it!) is to modulate the speed and volume of your voice. Slow down to put emphasis on your most important points.

6. Use a pause

Have you heard the saying, “less is more?” The selective use of a pause puts emphasis on a moment, whether it be after the fact to ensure something is remembered, or before a moment to create anticipation. The smart use of a pause can grab an audience’s attention and make that moment more impactful and memorable.  But remember to use them sparingly, the over-use of a pause can give the perception of not being prepared.

7. Tell a story

Storytelling captivates attention, inspires the imagination and captures the hearts of your audience. It’s the oldest and most effective form of communication. A good story helps build a connection, allowing the audience to think and feel your message. Stories are memorable. Studies have proven time and again that stories speak to the audience in ways that numbers, data and presentation slides simply can't.

8. Don’t forget to smile (if appropriate)

Clearly we’re in challenging times and smiling might not be appropriate, but we should also celebrate our wins no matter how small they might be.  Staying positive is important and will impact your audience. Allan Pease is an Australian researcher and expert in body language. His research has shown the more you smile, the more positive reactions you will receive from others. Being open and using a smile improves the impact of your communication.

9. Practice makes perfect

It’s a cliché, but it’s true. You don’t want to come across as reading a script, but a certain level of practice ensures there’s a natural and convincing flow to the narrative of your message. You’re looking to achieve a certain balance. Your message should be rehearsed enough to connect your statements to create a convincing message without being monotone and scripted.

10. It’s ok if you mess up – it might even help you

The beauty of live video is that no one expects you to be perfect. It’s intended to be authentic, not over produced. Real people make mistakes and those mistakes make you vulnerable, which makes you more appealing, relatable and successful in communicating your message.

Small mess ups can create a sense of sincerity that can help you connect with your audience. Don’t let your body language ruin the moment by showing stress or frustration. Take a self-deprecating approach when it occurs. Use these moments to create humor, vulnerability and a stronger connection with your audience.

Learn More Live Video Presentation Tips

Live video can be difficult for even the most seasoned professional to master. In our upcoming webinar, "Learn to Present Authentically with Live Video," we give you actionable advice on how to become an effective presenter.