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Influencing by videoconference [Week 2 of our 5-week series!]

Posted by on August 22, 2011

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Last week, we talked about how to successfully influence over the telephone. Now, in Week 2 of Influencing When Not Face-to-Face, we’re talking about Influencing by Videoconference.

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Videoconferencing has the great advantage of allowing two or more people to engage in a complete dialogue. You have the benefit of not only being able to hear each other, but to see each other as well. This gives everyone the chance to get an (almost) instant reaction to whatever they say or do and respond and adapt as the conversation develops.

Appropriate Influencing Behaviors

As a two-way interaction, all parties will be able to speak from their own agenda and have the chance to respond to the others’. Consequently, all the influencing behaviors from the Positive Power and Influence model are feasible.

Verbal and Non-Verbal Components to Your Message

All three components of communication are available: the words and “music”(audible cues people pick up on when you’re speaking) as well as the “dance” (your body language). However, room layout or technology might place some physical limitations on the amount or type of dance that is possible:

  • The camera’s field of view may mean that standing up is not an option
  • Any time lag on movement will also affect the way that your dance is received

Remember that the other people will be able to see you and what you’re doing. I found that when I first used videconferencing I was so intent on watching the other people on the screen that I kept forgetting they could see me equally well!

Benefits of Influencing by Videoconference

  • You can see and be seen, bringing all elements of communication into play
  • The two-way nature of the interaction means that you are likely to realize when you’ve achieved your influence objective and resist overselling it
  • Meetings tend to be scheduled and arranged in advance which means that people are prepared and focused on the discussion
  • Time and cost consciousness means that meetings are often more brief and to the point
  • It can be a good way to maintain personal contact with colleagues located elsewhere

Disadvantages of Influencing by Videoconference

  • A “studio” setting may inhibit people
  • Video image may lack clear definition and full motion sensitivity – particularly from PC-attached cameras. This may distort the impact of the dance and jerky movements may cause distraction.
  • Time lags between transmission and reception can mean that people aren’t always sure if others have heard or understood. This makes it more likely that people will repeat themselves or talk over one another.
  • Only looking at the screen rather than at the camera can have the impact on the other person that you are avoiding eye contact and lead to misunderstanding or perceived lack of interest
  • There can be limitations on sharing documents or physical objects

Influencing Tips and Hints

  • Make sure you know how the equipment works in advance
  • Establish a “contract” at the start of the meeting:
    • Agenda
    • Timing
    • Meeting roles
  • Agree in advance what documentation might be required as backup to the discussion
  • If there are others with you in the room try to pay as much attention to the participants on the screen as you do to those closest to you
  • Try not to use any sudden gestures or movements
  • Keep your dance positive and attentive when not speaking
  • Look at the camera occasionally rather than the screen; this will give the person at the other end an approximation of eye contact
  • You will probably be more comfortable videoconferencing with people you have previously met face-to-face

Now you know how to influence over the telephone and by videoconference! Enjoy your new skills and use them every chance you get.

Tune in next week for Influencing by Letter.

Angela Steatham is an expert trainer for CGWA. Based in the U.K., she delivers the Positive Power and Influence program throughout Europe.