By Annette Hoare | Owner of London Born Wine Co.

At the Chamber Business Before 9 Virtual Networking Event on Wednesday, July 8, 2020, I talked about Zoom communicating. I am fascinated by this topic. I asked myself what rules are we using? I found little information. I then contemplated on normal face to face discourse and how that would NOT work on Zoom.

These are my thoughts.

80% of communication is nonverbal and sometimes Zoom feels confusing as we are devoid of most of the visual clues. Zooming creates a few seconds delay in sound getting to the receiver. The facial expressions and verbal utterances are out of sync. How does this affect our rapport?

I illustrated that sometimes on Zoom if we cannot hear we bring our face very close to the screen. In normal discourse this is either seen as adoration or a threatening posture and I saw some of you move back as I came closer.  So, when talking to people on social media, be aware of how close you are and what message that is conveying.

In normal conversation, we use body gestures to say we are entering the conversation to interrupt other people. It’s harder to do that on Zoom. In normal speech, if the person has spoken too long, we turn our head or body away or avert our eyes. Do we pick up on these clues on Zoom? My experience is that we do not. Maybe in your Zoom chat group you could assign a facilitator or moderator or develop a social clue to enter the conversation and interrupt those who dominate.

Some people will sit low in their chairs so all we see are eyes or eye lids, again does this allow us to misinterpret visual clues?  When talking to people, we detect minute changes in eye movements, empathise when we see tear ducts opening, and we think we are skilled at interpreting emotions. I doubt if we detect these on social media. From my studies with face-to-face interactions, it appears we are universally ok with a smile or happy face yet load all sorts of projections, misinterpretations, and cultural expectations into other emotions.

I wonder whether we are better with just audio on Zoom. Some studies show that orchestra and music auditions are more reliable if done behind a blank screen or curtain. If we really want to understand the person on Zoom, are we to operate in audio mode?

Then there’s non-verbal messages on giving a speech or talk. We use gestures – often hand movements below the shoulder – to portray that we are trustworthy or knowledgeable, and use body movements to show empathy and that we are one of them. Where does all this go on the head shot Zoom meeting?

Maybe we could use the background as a conveyer of this message. What if I sat in front of my bookshelf showing my psychology and communications book titles? Or our London Born Wines banner as a background as Anna (Anna Murre, Executive Director) did with Lincoln Chamber of Commerce sponsors. Did you get a glimps of the clarinet music on a stand as I unintentionally swung around on my chair? What was the perceived message?  This and clothing are digressing into staging. There is a plethora of YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn (plus other social thingies that I don’t know the names of) videos circulating on this topic.

Here is one of my favourites – it talks about setting the stage, lighting tips for getting your computer right, and intriguingly putting your phone on a coffee cup:

What’s your experience of Zoom or other communication platforms?

Ontario Grown. London Born. Our family and friendly staff welcome you to come taste our wines, wander in the vineyards and enjoy the splendor that is the Niagara Escarpment. Come with open eyes and open minds and you may be surprised. Aure Wines is committed to providing attractive wines, while following ethical employment and environmental practices. Visit for more information. 

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Image credit | Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels

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