19 Jan 21 / Blog

How to build rapport in an online meeting

Teams calls and Zoom meetings have replaced the face to face meeting. So we’ve lost the body language and natural conversational flow we rely on to build rapport online with people.  Here’s how you can overcome the barriers that the screen puts in our way.

Eye contact

Where are you looking when it’s your turn to speak?   At the decision maker’s window on screen to assess their reaction?   Or maybe you’re distracted by the image of yourself on screen?   

If you’re making an important point, that’s when you stop trying to read the room and look down the camera lens.  Make figurative eye contact to build rapport online. Down the barrel of the camera is where your favourite news anchor looks when they read your news headlines every night, because that’s how they connect with you and build rapport.

Start with Why

Tell your audience why your presentation or proposal matters to them – from the outset.  Otherwise you risk putting everyone to sleep with a lengthy agenda and all those housekeeping notes.  If it’s a webinar you’re running, here’s a handy playbook to remind you where to focus.

Have you ever listened to a sales pitch explaining the company’s ‘unique value proposition’ and ‘solid 150 year history’? How does that make you feel?  Connected is not the word that comes to mind – in fact, it’s the opposite completely.  How about starting your pitch with how you can help your client. Watch how they sit up and pay attention. If they’re intersted they lean in to the conversation and you can build rapport online very quickly from there.

Your energy

It’s hard to bring your best self to a meeting when you’re juggling homeschooling and caring responsibilities with the demands of a never-ending schedule of virtual meetings.  But you need to be conscious of the energy that you bring to each interaction.  So – your presentation might not be important. Fine, if that’s the case, then cancel it and send everyone a Slack update instead.

On the other hand, if you are going to present, then do your audience a favour and get yourself into performance mode. If you show them that you care, then you’re signalling to them that this presentation is something they should also care about. 

Just as you would for a live performance from the stage, take a moment to ground yourself and breathe.  And with your mic on mute you have the added advantage of being able to fit in some vocal exercises like these to warm up your voice  – in complete privacy!  So these exercises demand that you be present and focus on what matters in your presentation.  And that’s not the brilliance of your content, but instead it’s all about being in the moment with your audience.

The virtual meeting might not be the ideal way to build rapport with a first-time acquaintance.  But it has the distinct advantage of allowing you to reach many more first-time acquaintances than the in-person meeting ever could.  So embrace it, and become conscious of your performance in every meeting. Watch how it helps you to be memorable and back up your content. When you make an impact and add value, that’s a great start to any relationship!

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