You’ve been doing virtual meetings, Zoom meetings and other video chats for months now, and you might think you, and most attendees, have them figured out by now. nonverbal

Susan Ibitz challenges that notion.

Susan Ibitz

Ibitz, who heads Human Behavior Lab in Chicago, calls herself a human behavior hacker. She says her superpower is being able to “read” anyone in 90 seconds. Body language and deception detection are her specialties.

So, if you’re trying to sell your proposal, your services or your company via Zoom or any other video platform these days, what can Ibitz teach you?

For starters, pay close attention to more than the words spoken.

“The angle of the camera and how much we show of our torso and our hands shows much about our communication,” Ibitz says. “If I don’t see your hands, I don’t know if you’re a foe or friend. Our hands can emphasize how we express ourselves to others. How you move your body, or stop moving your body, is a communication.”

She recommends easy, open-palmed gestures, which studies have shown are universally recognized as friendly and welcoming, even among animals.

“We have the false perception emotions happen on the mouth,” she continues. “The mouth is the biggest liar on the face. Emotion really happens on the forehead and the eyebrows.”

Ever wonder what someone on your screen is really feeling when they react with a frown? Ibitz says it’s easy to know by “mirroring”: look into a mirror and imitate the same frown “and your brain is going to give you the emotion that person is feeling. Kids born blind and sighted kids have same body language when they feel victory, sadness and loss. Our brain is coded with this information.”

At the same time, your mouth is also your secret weapon. “When you smile, it’s more contagious than the flu,” Ibitz says, adding that research has shown that up to 95 percent of people will return a smile, which in turn triggers the brain to release feel-good endorphins. Pro tip: Before starting a meeting, watch an old comedy show on YouTube for a few minutes.

“The biggest secret I can give someone on a Zoom is to ‘open the door’ with a smile and make attendees feel welcome,” she says.

Susan Ibitz will deliver the keynote at Smart Meetings National 1-Day Virtual Experience on March 25. Ibitz helps people decode nonverbal human behavior to better understand people’s hidden emotions, intentions, and future behavior. A certified Level III Hostage Negotiator, Susan’s been trained by the CIA, the FBI, the U.S. Military, and the Israeli Military. Her consulting work in interrogation has helped police departments resolve criminal cases, and she’s a guest lecturer in the Criminology Department at Loyola University-Chicago.

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