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Posturing for the office

Let’s face it: from now on, working on camera will be a much sought-after soft skill. That is because the nature of the workplace has drastically morphed in the last seven months. In the Dream Time before COVID, we commuted to work and mingled. Now, the “office” is often just a spot in the bedroom, living room, kitchen or den. In the old days, the dominant work posture for professionals was sitting. It still is, but with a critical difference. Before, when we all took our places in the meeting room, we could see our colleagues from head to toe. Not so with computer cams and webcams. It’s safe to say that 95% of what we see now are what TV professionals call talking heads – a person framed from about the chest up, most often from the shoulders up. This means about 90% of our body language is masked from the viewer. The biggest chunk of our interpretation of language is non-verbal, as much as 55%. So the talking head hampers our ability to get our message across, because our audiences depend heavily on non-verbal cues to assess the credibility of those speaking to them. You can easily work around this handicap. Here are few tips to help you adopt the best postures for camera work.

The deadly “C” Curve (Courtesy: athleanx.com)
The “S” Curve (Courtesy: athleanx.com)

Sitting
When we sit, we essentially “fold” ourselves in two. We adopt what ergonomists call the “C” curve. The amount of oxygen flowing to the brain is slightly altered because we bend forward at the waist. At team meetings, we usually recline into the chairback or fold forward, over the table. Physiologically the result is the same. Not good for our backs, or our concentration. The trick is to have an upper body that is “standing up”, while sitting down.  The result you are looking for is the “S” curve. Notice this person has come off the chairback, has straightened their upper body and has their hands at waist height. Transfer that posture to a meeting and it looks like the lady on the left in this photo. Sitting on the edge of her chair, upper body straight, slightly leaning forwards – a universal non-verbal cue of engagement – with her hands above the table.

Hands
They are an essential body language tool. As listeners, we need to see the speaker’s hands to gauge the emotional investment they make in their message. When we believe in what we’re saying, we became animated, our ‘passion” comes out in our hands.

Standing
The most effective communication posture is standing. The body is firing on all cylinders. There is more potential to use tools like whiteboards and flip charts. The big advantage over sitting is movement. Cameras love action. When we stand to speak, we can use more space, our hand gestures are more visible and can have more amplitude. That is why sports are so made for television. Football and hockey are total eye candy. Snooker, competitive chess, not so much. So, rather than sit for that next presentation, why not stand? The key is camera angle, getting the lens as close to eye level as possible. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Computer cameras cover a wide angle. The techies among you may have plug-in cameras. Most of these can be fitted to tripods to bring the camera to the right height and angle. If that is not possible you can DIY. I use a standing desk converter to boost camera height. I’ve also used dictionaries. Whatever works. The only technical must for standing is a good microphone and earplugs. These are easy to obtain online. Extension cables for microphones and earplugs are easy to get and will allow you to make the most of your space. Remember, whether you are sitting or standing, make the most of your camera. Make sure you are seen and heard properly. Your personal image and your organisation’s brand are on the line.