Being authentic is the best way to connect over Zoom.
  • Debra Roberts is an author, licensed clinical social worker, and business consultant based in New York.
  • She explains there are several easy ways to get people to like you over Zoom and virtual meetings.
  • Roberts says to be yourself, show your authentic personality, and be an active and engaged listener.
  • Visit Business Insider for more stories

Most of us put pressure on ourselves to perform when we meet other people, whether at work or in a social setting, because we want them to like us. These days during the pandemic many first meetings are happening over Zoom. 

Debra Roberts is an author and licensed clinical social worker.

Like it or not, meeting online is different than meeting in person - and there are some unique challenges to overcome if you want to make a good impression.

When we meet someone on Zoom, we're missing many of the context clues we typically use to naturally decide if we like someone or not. That means the other person is also limited in the "clues" they experience when meeting us, so the pressure to perform can feel even greater.

The difference between virtual and in-person meeting

Think about it: On Zoom, we are only a head, a neck, and shoulders in a square box. Nothing below that part of our body is visible on the screen, so visual cues are restricted for both people. If their arms are crossed tightly, if they're tapping their foot nervously, or even if they have pants on, you can't tell because you can't see it. 

Before Covid, when meeting face-to-face, we were physically in the same place as the other person. We got a true frame of reference for what the other person looked like and how they carried themselves. We had clear visual, verbal, and physical cues. On Zoom, not so much. 

When we video chat, the experience can be awkward and it can lack a depth of connection. There is the potential for misunderstandings - especially misreadings of facial expressions and interactive cues to know when the other person is finished speaking.

These days, physical cues are lacking, too. We are missing what it physically feels like to stand near someone, to make eye contact while speaking, and to notice their energy when we shake hands. These cues tell us how it feels to be in the other person's company. We use all of this information and more to decide how we feel about someone and if we like them. 

Improving your likeability factor 

In an article last year, I talked about how employers should be teaching their employees about likability and the importance of relationship building so they can create immediate positive connections with customers and quickly be seen as trustworthy. 

The most important part of likability in any setting or relationship is connecting with the other person and their experience. Here's how.

1. Be yourself 

If you want to be liked on Zoom, the best thing you can do is show up in an authentic way by being yourself. Think about how you want to come across and be genuinely interested in the other person, just as you would if you were physically meeting face-to-face. Make an effort to connect with the other person. 

2. Show your personality

Since some of our "personal energy" can get lost in an online meeting, it's also important to find a way for them to get a true sense of your personality. I recently spoke with Kristin Thompson, CEO of Speak, Serve, Grow, who said, "Learning how to be yourself online can be tricky."

Thompson, who teaches entrepreneurs how to give dynamic talks to grow their businesses, said to, "Raise your energy. Think about telling the most exciting story that has happened to you and then bring that energy to the Zoom call. Your higher energy is a function of your natural personality so it'll come across positively."

Steven Lassman is vice president of Villas of Distinction and an expert in the travel industry, an area that's been hit heavily by the pandemic. When I spoke with him recently, he said that he always starts Zoom meetings by trying to make the other person feel at ease and comfortable by asking simple questions like, "So where are you located?"

He also always takes note of their surroundings: If there's a nice piece of artwork, or a photo of a child, or a vacation picture in the background, he'll comment on it. Doing so shows the person that he's paying attention and is interested in them and curious about them personally.

3. Be an active listener

Thompson also offered some specific suggestions for connecting online. She suggests sitting closer to the screen so you don't appear physically far away, and look into the camera, as that creates a connection. Of course, ask questions and actively listen.

When you're connecting on Zoom, don't focus on the missing "clues." Instead, connect with the other person's experience. Let them know that what they're saying and how they're feeling matters to you. 

Whether you're looking to connect with someone personally or in business, the same rules apply. Lean into the conversation, bring higher natural energy, and learn about the other person, pay attention, and then validate their feelings. Follow these rules, and you'll be on your way to likability in no time.

Debra Roberts, LCSW , helps savvy businesspeople navigate important conversations. She is an interpersonal communications expert, public speaker, and award-winning author, and creator of The Communication Protocol, an online professional development program for teams. Learn more on her website and follow her on Instagram.

Receive a daily news update on your cellphone. Or get the best of our site emailed to you

Go to the Business Insider front page for more stories.