6 Gestures You Should Avoid When On a Video Conference

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We can see you! Yes, you. The one with the negative body language. Arms crossed, face in a scowl. We can all see you. You are overachieving on the non-verbal body language signals. We “hear” you loud and clear –the discussion on the video conference call is making you want to explode or run away? Are you clearly in some kind of distress?  However, the situation calls for a little more decorum –it’s the CEO talking so you might want to send another kind of body language message on this video conference.

What Are You Really Saying?

We all communicate through micro expressions. We read each other’s gestures, posture, vocal tone and facial expressions before a single word is spoken. Remember the TV series, “Lie to Me” based on the work of Dr Paul Ekman? He teaches people to accurately read facial expression and emotions to forge better relationships or uncover any dishonesty. Remember that 95% of all communication happens non-verbally, so it’s time to get self-conscious around what your body is actually telling other people. We are basically revealing our subtext all of the time and often it’s really not appropriate to the work situation. You want to put your best gestures forward when you’re in a meeting on a video call.

Here are 6 gestures to avoid when you’re on a video conference call.

  1. Don’t avert your eyes. Maintaining eye contact always makes a positive impression. Now, this is complicated on a video call because you might not know where to look. Do you find yourself looking at your own video? Or do you get obsessed with looking at the other people in the feed? You should be looking at the feed of the person who is currently speaking, or alternatively, directly into the device’s camera. This will provide the effect that you are in fact making eye contact with them. Try always to reposition the speakers feed as close to the camera as possible, so it always appears that you are making direct eye contact.
  2. Don’t become inanimate. An absence of all hand gestures will make you look disengaged and robotic. Speaking with your hands shows enthusiasm. Look you don’t want to be flailing your arms around the air like a Vogue dancer from the 1980’s. Find the balance. We are able to distil our points when we use our hands to talk. Holding them still will just render you speechless. However, when you are not talking but listening to someone else, then keep your hands in your lap. Don’t let them wander to scratch your nose or fidget with things on the desk. Then you’re being super distracting. You become the circus sideshow. If you want to help the main speaker, mirror their body language (within reason) as that makes the other person feel relaxed.
  3. Don’t slouch. Sit up straight. Your upper body is visible to everyone –so energise your spine and show that you are paying attention and not falling off to sleep. Lean forward slightly to show your interest and keep your shoulders back. Great posture also promotes confident vocal expression. It could seem that you are hunched over if your camera is mounted too high. The top angle can make it seem like you are smaller. Bring your full size into the frame. You don’t want to look distorted to the other people on the conference call.
  4. Don’t let your facial expressions run wild. Every expression tells a story –let yours be a friendly one. This is especially important when you are listening to others and are in “passive” mode. Don’t think you can leave your facial expressions unattended – they could be your downfall. Put concerted effort into looking engaged and open to the speaker’s points. Always have a small smile that shows some teeth –but not a smirk. Don’t ever force a smile because you could end up looking maniacal. Try and relax and genuinely enjoy being in the moment. Raise your eyebrows slightly too.
  5. Eliminate negative expressions. Leave quizzical, exasperated, frustrated, bored faces in your office drawer. Bring your best face. And don’t yawn. It could set off an epidemic on screen. Everyone will start yawning, and you could get stuck in what will be a mad never ending yawn loop.
  6. Don’t use sudden gestures. It can pull focus from the speaker as everyone looks to see what is causing the commotion. So don’t rock on your chair in case you fall over, don’t play with rubber bands and sting yourself, don’t gesture wildly to someone off camera to bring you coffee. You get the idea –always give focus to the one holding the “conch shell”. If you move quickly, the image could get jumpy or blurry for a moment. Move slightly slower to be on the safe side.

On conference calls, where there are a few attendees, we can often forget that we can be seen. Keep hyper vigilant, so you don’t gesture inappropriately or give off a disinterested appearance. Keep in the frame. Don’t be too close to the camera as every gesture will seem exaggerated and whatever you do, don’t cling onto the table for dear life when you’re talking.


Video conferencing is an ideal way for a remote team or business partners to really connect. When we can see the other people in front of us, we feel more engaged especially when the visual feed is in high definition.
Experience the evolution of the video conference call when using Zoom’s Video Conference or Web Conferences and sign up for a free trial.


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