Lisa Gherardini, the real-life model for Da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa painting, may not have succeeded on video. Why? That slight upturn at the corners of her mouth would have been nearly imperceptible to a virtual audience. In fact, it’s only recently that a study by the University of Freiburg claimed to settle the debate, that yes, she is indeed “happy.” But it shouldn’t take 500+ years to recognize a smile – especially on video.
Because a smile is one of your virtual superpowers.
Research shows that people who smile are perceived as friendly, approachable, caring. These are essential qualities that need to be present for a relationship to take place. And they are not conveyed as easily virtually as they are face-to-face.
Yet, I see a lot of Mona Lisa’s on video.
Why is smiling so hard on video?
If smiling is such a powerful communication tool, why don’t we see more if on video calls and meetings?
Emotions aren’t encouraged in business.
Many people have been programmed to put the brakes on our emotions (and thus our expressions) for fear of appearing unprofessional or not serious. Of course there are times you may be discussing serious matters, but a video message or presentation delivered by the grim reaper can be pretty wearing. In person, you might get away with this business poker face because it’s offset by your energy or your overall body language. But on video, your face looms disproportionately large. To not use your face to enhance communication and build relationships is a poor use of prime real estate.
You’re programmed to receive.
Place the average person in front of a screen and they instantly slip into “receiving mode.” It doesn’t matter whether that screen is a computer, an iPad, a television, or an IMAX screen. As consumers, we have been primed by media and technology to be passive receivers (for the most part) when in front of a screen, not active participants. Put a bowl of popcorn in front of us and we’re ready to sit back and be entertained! This is especially true of customers who are expecting to receive a pitch or a presentation.
Half smiles don’t cut it.
Understanding what the camera sees and thus how your customer experiences you and your message on their screen is a vital to creating a near in-person experience for your audience.
Often as not, people feel like they’re smiling, or mean to smile, but the camera doesn’t see it, because it’s too slight. And if the camera doesn’t see it, it doesn’t exist. What you think, feel, or intend to communicate is irrelevant. The true measure of successful communication is not that you sent the message, but that the audience clearly and accurately received your message. The consequences of inaccurately communicating a message on video may cost you a relationship, a deal, or even a job.
A Video-Friendly Smile
A video-friendly smile is one that is obvious and not debated for seconds, much less centuries. There should be no doubt in your audience’s mind that you are happy.
How do you know when you have a video-friendly smile on your face? Of course, you can review one of your recordings and see for yourself, but there’s an easier and more practical way to know if you are smiling sufficiently enough for your audience to see it.
Have you ever laughed so hard your cheeks hurt? Why do they hurt? Because an ear-to-ear smile involves more muscles than a half-smile. When you’re smiling fully, you should be able to feel the muscles in your cheeks move, not just the corners of your mouth. Unlike half-smiles, full smiles also require your lips to be parted. That means with a full smile you can feel the air on your teeth when you breathe in. Next time you think you’re smiling, make sure you feel those signals. You don’t want to be the Mona Lisa of video.
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