How to Be Persuasive in Video Interviews and Virtual Meetings

How to Be Persuasive in Video Interviews and Virtual Meetings was originally published on Vault.

Andres Lares is a negotiation and influence expert. He's the managing partner of Shapiro Negotiations Institute, which provides negotiation, influence, and sales training to top companies like Bank of America, Boeing, Bristol-Myers Squibb, ESPN, and Verizon. He's also the co-author of Persuade: The 4-Step Process to Influence People and Decisions, which will be published this July. The book draws on decades of negotiation experience along with research in psychology, sociology, decision-making, body language, emotional intelligence, and economics. Recently, we spoke with Andres about his new book, and how it applies to video interviews and virtual meetings. Below is an excerpt of that conversation.

Vault: Where did you study and work before joining Shapiro Negotiations Institute, and what led you to write Persuade?

Andres: I studied economics in college, and my favorite classes focused on psychology and negotiation. Since then, I've read just about every book on persuasion, influencing, communication, and decision-making. I read more out of interest than practicality, but I guess it paid off. After getting my undergraduate degree in Canada, I briefly worked for a baseball agent, then went off to complete my masters in both sports administration and business administration. During that time, I did some management consulting and spent some time with the Philadelphia Eagles and working for a football agency, which was later bought by CAA. Then I landed at SNI, where I learned from Ron Shapiro, one of the top minds not just in sports but in all of business. I learned from him for a decade before taking over his business, and then eventually I wrote this book. It was something I'd been meaning to do for many years and thought there likely wasn't a better time to do it than the pandemic.

What do you hope readers take away from Persuade?

Most great companies and leaders hire and promote based on what people can learn and achieve, not based on their current skill set. So, in my opinion, the three most important skills when it comes to professional success are: 1) the ability to learn, 2) the ability to communicate and persuade, and 3) empathy. I believe and hope that my book addresses No. 2 comprehensively, and No. 3 to some extent. Also, I hope readers will come to understand that most people follow a common decision-making process. As a result, if you're strategic in the way you communicate, you'll dramatically increase your chances of persuading other people. It's more scientific than you might think.

Could you speak about the importance of persuading and influencing people as it relates to the workplace?

Persuasion is essentially effective communication, and I'd dare say that there's not a more important and impactful skill. It impacts the way you write, which in turn affects your job opportunities. It also impacts the way you network. The way you develop friendships. The way you communicate within your organization and with clients. It's surely part of every negotiation, and essentially part of any conversation.

Since we’re mostly interacting in virtual environments, what are some best practices for students and professionals looking to make good first impressions and influence others in video interviews and virtual meetings?

First, set yourself up for success. Prepare for the interview or meeting so you can present with confidence and manage your environment. Of course, dress the same way you would for an in-person meeting. And before the meeting, to get into a positive frame of mind, do activities you enjoy like listening to music or going for a brief walk. 

Second, be engaging and interactive. The best way to do this is to spend time getting to know the person or people in the meeting at the start of the video conference. Don't hurry the personal aspects of a video call. You can always send an email, PowerPoint, or proposal, but you can't replicate the impact of getting to know someone. If it's a meeting, come with a list of questions to remind you to engage the other side. And if you're presenting to a bigger group, use polling, chat, breakout rooms, collaborative whiteboarding, and other features your platform offers to engage others. 

Third, use hand gestures. Hand gestures make a message easier to understand and more memorable. For example, if you give three reasons for something, consider using the gesture of three fingers visible to your audience. Another example is using two hands to compare. When making a comparison of any kind, use your right and left hands spaced out to provide a visual that supports that concept. Think apples and oranges. And when talking about yourself, when telling a story or something personal about yourself, consider bringing your hands in front of you with your fingers touching your chest, to accentuate this message.

Finally, don't forget to smile. Research indicates that smiling is a powerful communication tool, especially on virtual calls where you don't have many other tools at your disposal. Do it early and often. It impacts your state of mind and your audience's—it's contagious. If you need more convincing on the importance of your facial expressions, know that Alexander Todorov, a Princeton University psychology professor, could predict with 70 percent accuracy senate election results in the early 2000s solely by aggregating people's responses to a questionnaire where people glanced at candidates faces and answered who looked more competent and honest.

What’s the main difference between influencing others in virtual environments and in-person environments?

The more someone likes us (gels, feels a connection, etc.), the more likely we can influence them. In person, this naturally occurs merely by spending time with someone. The more time we spend with someone, the more likely we're able to develop a connection with them. Online, we don't have the luxury of spending as much time with people, so we need to be more strategic. Use video calls for the first meeting so you can create a better and richer first impression. Research the person or people you'll be interviewing or meeting with prior to the call. Write a few questions down prior to all virtual communication so you make sure your interactions are two-way and you aren't talking the entire time.

Is there anything that many people tend to do on video calls that they shouldn’t?

Arrive early is something that's often done for in-person meetings, but for some reason it's forgotten and underappreciated online. Not only is it respectful but it also gives you a little time to small talk with others. This is absolutely critical. Building rapport is tougher online than it is in person, since the virtual space is a less-rich medium. So, don’t forget to arrive early to your virtual meetings. It’s one of the best tools you have to build rapport.

You can find more information about Shapiro Negotiations Institute here and pre-order Persuade here.