With depositions, mediations, and legal proceedings maintaining virtual attendance, minding your body language while noticing the body language of others is essential and may prove difficult in virtual proceedings. With people getting comfortable working from home, it is important to ask if you are sending the wrong signals without even realizing it. The full definition of body language states that it is “Body language is the science of nonverbal signals such as gestures, facial expressions, and eye gaze that communicate a person’s emotions and intentions. In total, there are 11 types of body language that we use to communicate. Unlike words, body language is often done subconsciously and constitutes a large part of our communication” – 16 Essential Body Language Examples and Their Meanings.
When presenting yourself in a virtual setting, there are 3 major items to be mindful of when on camera. The first is posture, one of the first things that people notice, which can tell a lot about what you are paying attention to and your mood. The second is your hand movement, which can indicate nervousness or insecurity. The third would be the movement of your eyes, because that can indicate where your focus is, also a good reason to not have other screens going while in a virtual setting.
What Posture Indicates in Virtual Settings
Here are some things that you may be saying with your posture alone. Leaning on your desk or table can indicate you are bored or uninterested in the proceeding. This can give the wrong message to the rest of the proceeding. Leaning back in your chair can also indicate a lack of interest or just make you seem unprofessional. Good posture would be sitting closer to the edge of the seat or camera and being engaged; relaxing the shoulders also demonstrates confidence and engagement.
Hand Movement Sends Strong Signals
Fidgeting, touching your face, playing with your hair, and tapping are all indicators of nervousness or insecurity. During a virtual proceeding, this can send the message that you are not confident, and can compromise questioning of a witness, or defending the witness. Ensuring that your hands are calm and steady will send the message of confidence. The witness movements are also important and can give clues about how the witness feels, so always good to keep in mind when questioning.
Eye Contact and Movement
In the age of technology, many of us tend to have more than one screen going at a time, whether that be a computer with multiple screens, a tablet, a phone, or any other device. Darting eyes and extra screens will quickly give the message of not paying attention or not being interested. While these things can be useful to keep up on tasks, manage cases, keep in contact with clients and coworkers, it is important to keep this in mind during a legal proceeding. Maintaining “eye contact” or looking into the camera gives a strong message of attention and interest.
The above key points will give the right message in the age of technology when remote or virtual legal proceedings are becoming the norm. Covid-19 brought to light the sustainability of remote work but even with most places open opening up, many are anticipated to remain remote to help save on the cost and time of traveling to and from locations and courts. Ensuring that you are sending the right message in these remote or hybrid legal proceedings is critical.
Professionalism in virtual settings is still important, however, it doesn’t stop at making sure you dress well, it also includes following best practices when in a remote setting and ensuring that you have a good computer and a solid internet connection. Some best practices in a remote setting include using headphones with a good microphone so that you can hear and be heard, a modern computer or tablet that has good specifications and can handle the workload you are putting on it, a good webcam, updated software with strong security settings, and making sure that you are muting between speaking to ensure that you are not creating feedback or background noise that can be disruptive. I believe that everyone has been in a virtual conference call or legal proceeding where someone has issues with their computer freezing, a bad microphone or speaker that makes it hard for others to communicate, a blurry webcam or of bad quality, or has background noise or feedback that makes it hard for everyone to hear what is going on. Being professional and prepared for remote or virtual legal proceedings is essential for success.
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