For those of my clients who feel more comfortable working from the safety of their home or office, we employ zoom technology to best emulate the live mediation or arbitration experience. With the advent of Covid, the world of law has dramatically changed employing the latest technology in order to provide a safe yet effective platform. For those inexperienced with video-conferencing, a “dry-run” will be conducted prior to the hearing to insure that all participants are familiar with and confident in the over-all process. Here are some tips and ideas as you approach your on-line mediation.
The Importance of Body Language in the World of Video-Conferencing. We all know how significant the slightest gesture can influence the outcome of a trial. Much has been said on this topic and I won’t bore you with a recital of the many pundits who opine on the subject. Suffice it to say that many of the masters of body language agree that facial expressions far outweigh the other parts of the body (hands, posture, legs and arms) in influencing positive or negative reactions. So, clearly, in the world of video-conferencing we must stay on-guard 100% of the time.
Some of the basic rules are so obvious, but tend to slip from us while in the course of a hearing. Don’t grimace, roll your eyes, make snide comments, dress “down” for the hearing, etc. That is the easy stuff.
But there is some nuance that I’d like to discuss. Keep your eyes focused on the screen unless you are taking notes. If you happen to work with two screens (as I do), you can do a little experiment. Look at the secondary screen for a moment and glance back to your primary screen to see how clearly it shows your lack of engagement. The primary screen will show your eyes looking elsewhere, just as if you were meeting in person. Not a good look! I know there is a great temptation to look elsewhere, but the person or persons you are working with will pick up on this and realize you are not paying attention.
The bottom line is to pay attention, listen carefully and avoid false expressions of emotion. Don’t fall for the false feeling of protection just because you are separated from your parties by a computer screen. Conduct yourself as if they are in the room with you.