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23-10 | BY: | In:

Building Rapport in the Digital Age

Our lives are online like never before. We are connecting through screens, and seeing into people's lives like never before. So how do we actually build connection, or rapport, online? Peter Koijen answers this question, and gives his top three tips on how to establish and build rapport online.


How to build rapport online

How can you build rapport in this new digital world through online platforms? That is the key question I would like to answer.

What is rapport, and why is rapport key?

Rapport is one of the key basic principles to getting things done in life. Rapport is having a connection. This connection can be with an individual, with a group of people or with any other living or non-living part of this planet. 

Rapport is the difference that makes the difference in influencing others, in asking someone else to do something for you, in getting your kids to go to bed, in selling products, in asking your boss for a raise, and your boss asking you to do something new.

Rapport is natural and can be created

Rapport is already there naturally between people. Some people like each other naturally because they have the same hobbies, same background, same emotions and same language. 

However, you can also create rapport by being willing to adapt yourself to the other person. You can literally mirror or match body, voice or words. Or you can also connect and show empathy for someone’s position and connect with their emotions, energy and point of view. 

In this dance you can create rapport in a way that you start to follow and match each other. 

The problem with online

Now the problem with online rapport building is that the body would like to participate in an energetic connection building. However, you are dealing with a screen and a slight millisecond of a delay as well as not being able to fully capture the whole body posture, as you are only showing each other your upper body. There are ways to improve this though.

How to improve rapport online

Here are three main key areas to work on to allow you build rapport online:

The first thing you want to check every time is the light, the position of the camera and your own position. 

Firstly the light needs to emphasize and light up your face. Your face is a very powerful part of your body because it shows all your emotions. When you are visible, people can really connect with you at a more subconscious level. Research has shown that when you are having technical problems, or when your face is not clear then there is more irritation, less credibility from you and less connection. Therefore make sure your lighting does not make you look like you are in a witness protection programme, when people can also see your shadow. 

So if you don’t have professional lights, make sure you take any lamp that shines in your face, or the natural daylight on your face. Test it with every call because sometimes the light changes with the time of day. 

The camera needs to be positioned straight in front of you. If you are looking down you are literally looking down at people. You are showing the ceiling too, and the rule of thumb is not to do that, as it not only gives a downward perspective from the viewer, but can also cause a distorted image that disturbs and distracts unnecessarily.

Secondly, you want to go slower than normal. Especially if your energy is very busy, you need to slow down—not only in your pace of speaking, but also your gestures. You can always speed up if the mutual energy is there. However, start by feeling the energy from the other people. Follow first and then lead.  In rapport it is all about matching each other’s energy, and online this requires much more attention since there is a screen in between and a lack of the full body energy to be able to do its work like it did when you were face to face with someone. 

Thirdly and lastly, make sure you are interacting as much as possible. The attention span for a call for adults is about 5 minutes per mini cycle, and then afterwards maximum 30 to 60 minutes. If you have a call lasting 1.5 hours, it really needs to be with a lot of interactions, stretching and variations. You can do this by using questions. However if you are more in a webinar-type setting, you can invite people to stand with you to stretch, or use the chat for questions, or even ask rhetorical questions. 

These points are some of the key elements in building rapport online. It is important to develop yourself in this because the world is getting more digital and when you can make the difference in this, you will also make the difference in the results.