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Nonverbal Communication Cues To Feel More Human on Video PT. 1 - Your Virtual Handshake

Video is the only digital channel of connection that showcases the full spectrum of our nonverbal communication. On video, we can play around with our setup (our new virtual handshake), our body language and our vocal delivery, to send powerful messages to our audience. 

As many of us have experienced, video can be used in a variety of settings. From very formal uses like important keynotes, critical sales calls or institutionalized training recordings, to more casual interactions like a real, interpersonal moment with a friend. Naturally, the way we choose to show up on video in these various contexts will be different. And truthfully, there is no single right, or ‘perfect’ way to show up on video. 

Over at Virtual Sapiens, we love helping people discover their authentic selves on video, to help them feel confident, comfortable and free to express their intention with clarity. But many professionals still wonder how they can show up on video in a way that feels confident and comfortable, when they feel, well, uncomfortable and in some cases, awkward and self-conscious. 

As we will see in the mini series that follows, our very own nonverbal communication can take a leading role in empowering us on video. Our body language in particular, can help us feel more confident, more comfortable and more authentic in our videos which in turn, makes our videos that much more powerful. 

Whether you are preparing for a more formal video presentation, or a casual video to send off to a friend or colleague, video presents us with a playground of opportunity to connect the way we want, when we want. Our ability to develop a toolkit of nonverbal communication tips and tricks specifically for video, is like a superpower - and in this mini series - we’d like to give you some ideas to get you started.

As you make your way through this three part miniseries on how to leverage nonverbal communication to enhance connecting on video, keep in mind - there is no absolute right or wrong way to use these cues. Rather, think of this as your playbook - it’s always up to you to decide which cues feel right to you, given your goals and the context of your video. So if you’re in search of a little extra confidence boost, read on!

Part One - Your Virtual ‘Handshake’

We have all heard, ad nauseum, that our setup is important on video. The three stars of a strong video setup are: 

  • Framing

  • Lighting

  • Background

Now before you move on thinking, ‘I get it already’. Wait. 

Looking at framing alone, over the multitude of assessments taken by professionals through our AI assessment tool at Virtual Sapiens, 93% return issues with their framing. 


Your framing is a powerful place to start. Remember, the lens represents your audience’s perspective. The way you orient around your lens is one way you can quickly change the tone of a video. For example, you can create a more intimate feeling, or a more distanced and professional feeling - it’s almost like magic, except it’s nonverbal communication science!)  

  • Lens distance. Your distance from the lens mirrors the same rules as when you are in person, called ‘proxemics’. 

  • Being too far away, people may feel less close and connected to you.

  • Being much closer to the lens can create an intense feeling of connection for your audience. In some cases, if you are really close to lens, or zoomed in,  your audience may feel the intensity of the closeness is too much. Consider keeping your audience in mind when you set your distance up. Keeping a distance of about 2 feet can be a very happy medium.

  • Lens Height. 

    • With your lens located below you, you will be looking down on your audience. This may make your audience feel small, less equal and less connected with you and your message. 

    • With your lens too high, your audience will be looking down on you. This makes you appear childlike and reduces your impression of authority.

    • If possible, having your lens right at eye height helps you set up a feeling of equality right from the start of the video event.

When your framing is just right, you give yourself the opportunity to actually leverage your full expression toolkit. Because people can see more of you! (Instead of just a floating head.)

Take a look at this Loom recorded video to see some of the above options in action.


While framing is one of the areas that can most quickly improve your virtual presence, lighting and background are not far behind. 

When it comes to lighting, we like to share two rules of thumb: 

  • Try not be to be backlit - if possible, use a ring light, or other source of light direct on your image (not into your eyes…that’s just painful)

  • If possible, keep your lighting evenly balanced, and focused on your image. This helps your audience connect more quickly with you:) 


One quick, but powerful, note about your background: unlike most in-person meetings, on video we can control what our audience sees. So before defaulting to a blurred background, try to reduce clutter in the environment behind you. Be creative and don’t be afraid to add some of your own personal touches to your background - based on your level of comfort. It will set you apart, help you create trust, and connect faster. 

Take a look at this short Loom to see how I quickly, and cost-effectively created a bit of personality to an otherwise ordinary room:

If you are looking to record a more formal video, for instance, one which may be viewed multiple times, shared with a client or as part of your company’s institutionalized training resources, spending a little more time getting your setup right can actually help you feel more confident about how you are showing up for that important video moment.

In short, your framing, lighting and background are your virtual handshakes, or outfit. With your framing and lighting setup according to suggested best practices, I always encourage people to lean into your individuality with your background choices. Taken together, these three elements of your setup provide a lot of optionality for you to play around with until you find what you are most comfortable with depending on the types of video you are creating.

Read the rest of this series:


Oct 26, 2022

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  • Rachel Cossar

    Co-Founder/CEO @ VirtualSapiens