There’s something that thousands of hours of live and pre-recorded video work have taught me – and it’s to be super-aware of how my voice sounds on camera. People read things into our tone of voice that we might never have intended.
But it’s crazily easy for our voice to go from calm, credible and grounded, to whiney and untrustworthy – without us even realising.
So today I want to share a ninja tip with you that can help you to feel calmer, as well as giving you more credibility on screen, whether it’s a team meeting, a presentation to a client, or creating a training course.
Here’s What Happens:
If we’re stressed or tense or nervous or worried – or irritated or angry – it shows in the body. Shoulders get worn as earrings and we shift from belly breathing to upper-chest breathing.
And even if you’re not stressed, sitting in a chair can trigger this, if we slouch our shoulders and curve our backs. This compresses the diaphragm (just below the rib cage) and the lungs and triggers upper-chest breathing.
The problem with this – apart from the fact that you won’t be sending as much oxygen to the brain as it needs to think clearly – is that it trigger’s the body’s fight-flight-freeze response.
Shallow upper-chest breathing kicks of the ‘sympathetic nervous system’, which is the bit that puts us on high alert for threats and danger. This diverts blood flow from the frontal cortex of your brain (the bit that answers questions brilliantly) to the primal part that only cares about survival.
That’s why, when we are stressed, it’s hard to think straight, we can easily lose our train of thought, and we can’t answer questions as easily, if we’re put on the spot.
The adrenalin and cortisol that flood our body also increase the likelihood of conflict. The part of the brain that is designed to look for threats will be trying to find them in your team meeting or board presentation. And if it’s looking for them, you’re more likely to interpret throwaway remarks as criticism or challenges.
The other side effect of this – which is made much more obvious by being on video – is how it affects our speaking.
Upper-chest breathing constricts the throat, which changes the sound of the voice and can make us sound whiney and negative – without us meaning to. And the other people in the meeting are hard-wired – at a deeply subconscious level – to to notice stuff like that.
It’s a near-instant credibility-trasher.
And there’s more…
The posture that comes with the fight-flight-freeze response gives signals to others on the call that you’re up for a fight. And if this was triggered by poor posture slouching, it tells others you’re bored, or lacking confidence. And all of this information is processed at a below-conscious-awareness level.
They’re signals we never intended to give off. But others make assumptions about us as a result of them, without realising.
What’s the solution? This One Takes Under Sixty Seconds
If you spot your shoulders turning into earrings or notice that you’re tense and your throat feels tight – how about playing with this now, anyway:
- Take three deep sighing breaths (in through your nose and out of your mouth with an ‘ahhhh’ sigh – these can be silent, if you’re live in the meeting!)
- Shrug your shoulders a few times to release the tension – rolling them in circles, if you’re ok with doing that on camera. This helps to increase the oxygenated blood flow to your brain.
- Sit up straight, tucking your chin under slightly, to relax your neck and throat muscles.
- Consciously allow your breathing to return to your belly area and focus on the physical experience of belly breathing for at least ten breaths – this resets that fight-flight-freeze response.
- Then smile before you next speak. If it’s not a topic where smiling is appropriate, then smile inside. Allow a gentle wave of calm, relaxed confidence to wash through every cell in your body.
It works every time! Breathe like a confident, calm, relaxed and alert person and your body will do the rest. How about trying it out now and letting me know in the comments how it feels?
And I’d love to hear from you: how might you remind yourself to be more aware of your posture and your breathing during video calls? And what difference did this technique make for you?
This article was originally published at http://www.clarejosa.com/soulledleaders/zoom-meeting-ninja-tip/ which is where you can also find out about Clare’s courses to help you to feel more confident on video.