Turn Heads in Virtual Meetings: How to Be the Most Charming Person in the “Room”
Most people refer to me as warm and validating. They frequently tell me that they feel understood by me, that I am attentive, and they feel seen by me. But with the shift to virtual meetings, I felt like all my skills flew out the window. How can I show people that I’m listening through a computer screen? How can I show warmth when I’m not in close proximity to people? These were the questions we all had to wrestle with during the shift to telework services.
But don’t fret. There are ways to charm people even if you’re not walking into the room — even when you’re logging on to the computer screen. Here are 6 tips to instantly charm in virtual meetings.
Master pre-meeting small talk
If you learn to master the pre-meeting small talk, you can charm anyone in the virtual room.
We all know that meeting time “off-mute” is the most precious time in meetings. Maximize this time by logging on 2–3 minutes prior to starting. This allows for some off-mute time when you can be in control of the conversation. It allows you to connect with your colleagues on a personal level.
Start off by asking how your colleagues are doing in a genuine way. A generic “how are you?” elicits a generic response. Saying something like, “Hi Bob, how are things? I remember you were talking about your son’s recital, how did that go?” will elicit an entirely different response that paves the way for you to use your shining interpersonal skills.
Make anyone feel cared for with those 3 precious minutes before the meeting starts.
Summarize and reflect
There is nothing more charming than showing someone that you understand what they said and where they are coming from.
Summarizing and reflecting is a key listening and communication skill. Therapists use it often to show their clients that they are listening and they understand the client’s perspective.
When someone says something you want to highlight or clarify, summarize and reflect. You summarize by restating what the person says — for example, “It sounds to me that you would like to change the policy around tardiness. Do I have that right?” This gives you an opportunity to convey that you’re listening without making an assumption about what the person is saying. You want to reflect the content back so the other person has an opportunity to correct their point or add to it.
Here are some easy ways to reflect without sounding rehearsed.
- Did I get that right?
- Is that what you meant?
- Does that fit?
Specifically and selectively compliment
Charming people know how to appreciate and call out positive qualities in others. To master this skill, use behaviorally-specific praise.
Behaviorally specific praise is using positive statements that describe behavior in specific and measurable terms. It is effective to increase desirable behavior and decrease undesirable behavior. In a meeting, you’re not necessarily trying to change other people’s behavior, but it is extremely charming to tell people exactly what you appreciate about what they did.
For example, note the difference between “good job,” and “I really loved the way you organized that benefit. The photo booth was a nice touch and really made the event memorable.”
It’s crucial to be specific, but also to be genuine. Add caring nonverbal cues to your compliment — use a soft tone of voice, lean in, and smile when appropriate.
But sometimes complimenting others can sound like sucking up. Here’s another tip to avoid that pitfall.
Artfully compliment without sucking up
It is truly an art form to compliment without seeming like you are sucking up to the boss or coworkers.
Behavioral principles show us that it is more beneficial to receive praise intermittently — aka at irregular intervals — than constantly or not at all. Thus, to artfully complement without sucking up, you want to keep your comments balanced. Selectively praise in ways that have the biggest punch. Pick your praise sparingly, but when you praise, make it good. See the above tip to praise specifically!
Be specific about the actions you like and want to see again. Make it genuine. And use it sparingly.
Artful compliments are like glitter. A sprinkle makes things fabulous, but the whole box is tacky.
Master the art of validation
Validation is arguably the most crucial skill in building and keeping relationships. Validation is also critical to charm everyone in the virtual room.
Validation gives us the ability to acknowledge the kernel of truth in every perspective. It shows others we understand their point of view — even when we don’t agree with it.
Validation has levels. It can be as simple as leaning in, making eye contact, and showing we are paying attention. It can be summarizing and reflecting (see above). Deeper levels of validation include acknowledging that what the other person is saying makes sense given the present context or their past history. For example, I can say that “It makes a lot of sense that you’re feeling uneasy — I know deadlines give you anxiety.” The last level of validation is showing equity by showing that you would react in a similar way. For example, you can say, “Wow, if I was in that situation I would have been so angry!” It can also be as simple as saying, “I can see that you are hurting.”
A little bit of validation goes a long way. Keep it in your toolbox.
Show genuine concern
Networking and charm are all about building relationships. But people can easily spot when you’re building relationships just to check a box, compared to when you’re genuinely interested.
The core of being genuine is being interested in fostering a true human connection — just for the sake of connecting with people. It’s not necessarily about being the smartest or the wittiest person in the room, but about showing care and respect for others.
Get to know your colleagues. Find out what their hobbies and interests are. Follow up on conversation points they’ve told you about. For example, if someone tells you their dog was sick last week and this week you follow-up and ask how their dog is, they will know you were paying attention and genuinely care for their well-being.
Show up with functional validation. Functional validation is showing you understand people by doing something for them. For example, when someone is crying, passing them the tissue box is an example of functional validation. Offering to help someone meet a project deadline while they take care of their sick dog is another example. Show genuine care not only through your words, but your actions.
Go from average to alluring with these skills
Charming others virtually is a learned skill — meaning that with practice, you can be the most charming person in the virtual room.
Log on three minutes early to the meeting and show genuine care when making small talk when colleagues. Master the art of validation to show your colleagues and friends you understand them. Selectively compliment without sucking up, and you’ll have everyone impressed by your virtual interpersonal skills.
Of course, being charming is great— but building genuine relationships and showing care for others is most important. Don’t just use charm to get what you want, but use it to cultivate meaningful relationships in work and life.
Keep that in mind and show genuine care, and you’ll be the most charming person in the room — without ever stepping foot in it.