How do you create rapport over Zoom? I hear this question from all sorts of people, most days. Some are genuinely asking, and some are already resigned to it just not being possible.
Rapport Online is Entirely Possible
Well, it is something I have spent a lot of time thinking about and also done a fair bit of reading around. And of course, I try to do it every day – I am typically running two or three training sessions a day on Zoom, Microsoft Teams or WebEx. I believe the technology of Video Calls is amazing and actually, it is entirely possible to create rapport in these meetings.
Here are my seven top tips:
- Work harder at it. Sorry but that is just the truth. Connecting with people – when we need to – is something we took for granted in the room. It is harder online and requires more thought and more effort.
- What works in the room can probably be made to work online. The chit-chat that happens in the few moments while you are waiting for the formal proceedings to start is a valuable time to connect with people. If they are English, moaning about the weather is the traditional way to do it, but there are plenty of other shared inconveniences in the ‘new normal’ to pick out something we are all adjusting to. Chip Massey – quoted in Inc. – talks about Forensic Chit Chat. He uses open-ended questions (so you can avoid yes and no answers). He suggests talking about hobbies or celebrities, I prefer the latest news story or WFH experiences but I don’t find I need to be formulaic about it.
- Try to keep the eye-line right as much as possible. Looking at someone while talking to them is psychologically important. It is harder online but you know where the camera is on your laptop or computer – or perhaps you have a standalone camera. Try to look straight at it for at least some of the time. If your system allows, move the little thumbnails of other people to just below the camera: this makes it much easier to look in roughly the right place.
- If you have a friend online, indulge in a bit of banter or teasing. Clearly, we want to keep it appropriate, but I like to insult my fellow trainer, Eric Dixon, at least once per session because it lets the rest of the meeting know that there is an informal, jovial atmosphere. Often the clients follow suit and we end up having a really good laugh – whilst of course getting the work done.
- Verbal mirroring is something most people do in business and it should be used, just the same, in online conversations if you want rapport. You want to deliberately describe experiences or issues using the words your online colleagues are using. This is not hidden, we often say ‘as you describe it; ….’ or ‘as you rightly say ….’. Again, Massey gives it a formula, this one he calls ‘Three Magic Words’. He repeats back the most important three words a person has said–or just the last three words of their last sentence–to show them he understands and finds value in what they’re saying.
- If you see another person react to what you are saying – positively or negatively – pick it up and check it out. I like to use phrases such as ‘I can see that chimes with you …’ or ‘I am sensing or guessing that is not your experience’. Chris Voss in his book Never Split the Difference has a whole chapter on the benefits of labeling someone else’s emotions. Fortunately, few of us are in life and death hostage situations (where he learned his trade) but it is really helpful to demonstrate you understand how someone is feeling if you are working to influence them.
- Finally, I believe ‘faking it’ can help. TV presenters communicate huge warmth and fellow feeling in what is actually only one-way communication. They are acting but it is a great skill. We all know people who are almost saying ‘feel the warmth of my personality’. It can go too far but if you are not getting rapport online you might want to up your game a bit.
Get the Eye-line Right
Show You Care How Others are Feeling
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