Whilst your email and proposal writing skills might put Shakespeare himself to shame, it all goes a bit to waste if you’re going to turn up to a pitch with a face like a dropped pie. Here Manifest’s co-founder and managing director Isabel Thomson-Officer makes a worthy plea for the retirement of the ‘resting pitch face’.
There’s no denying that the last three years of virtual comms has taken a toll on how we communicate. Concealing ourselves behind face filters while embracing a new top-focused dress code, a few too many of us have found ourselves hiding behind a thin screen veil, often from the comfort of our own homes. While it may be cosier on the couch and there’s certainly less pressure to put on pants, the downside is that few of us know how to work a room through a screen, let alone absorb it.
The fact is, we have an RPF crisis on our hands and no, I did not just mis-acronym RFP.
Plaguing our industry from juniors to the board, ‘Resting Pitch Face’ has become a bit of a problem. Caused by a reduction in body language capabilities and laser focus on our faces, all you need to do is take a scroll through your next virtual meeting to see the sheer number that are guilty of conveying the boredom blues.
Suspect you or your team may have it, or, perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end of it? Then you’re probably not alone.
According to comms expert Dr Louise Mahler, its close cousin, resting b*tch face is “a real expression”.
“One half of the mouth is pulled tight, and the eyes are half closed,” she says.
If you’re having trouble picturing it, think of it as a cross between sour milk, and a look of total and utter boredom conveyed while an individual is partaking in a presentation.
If you think about the last few years of work from home, and now with most agencies adopting a hybrid model, it’s not all that surprising that “Resting Pitch Face” is going a bit viral; not the kind your social team keeps chasing. We have to remember that an entire generation of junior execs have come up learning the art of pitch theatre almost exclusively online. And what’s more, they’ve been taught by seniors who, while knowing how to command a room IRL, have failed rather miserably when it comes to knowing the art of pitching from a screen, let alone how to actively listen.
As we were rushing out to buy ring lights, what we should have been doing was brushing up on our digital delivery.
“[On a screen] you have limited use of your arms, and your head and chest are magnified which means facial expressions are amplified; you even have to speak 17 per cent louder on a virtual call than face to face,” says Dr Mahler.
“We don’t use our hands, and we just look angry,” she adds.
What’s more, vocal mannerisms become more annoying and too often we’re guilty of not ensuring our eyes are at camera level.
“People don’t know the rules of television, so they get all of that wrong — they lose their gravitas,” says Mahler, the author of Resonate.
Sounds like a case of RPF to me.
While dazzling current and future clients with a ripper Duchenne Smile (the most widely recognised sign of happiness which can play a part in reciprocating someone else’s positive emotion) throughout an entire proposal probably isn’t appropriate, there are things we can and should be doing to show a positive response and that we are actively engaged.
“You want a neutral position in the face and a smile that sends the right message. The mouth should go sideways and the muscles underneath the eyes lift — Kate Middleton has it to magnificence.”
While we all know that person who is a perfect presenter, for most of us, none of this comes naturally, rather it takes practice.
Yes, going it on Google Meets, Zoom or Teams may be less intimidating than standing up in a room full of people, and let’s be honest, often it’s unavoidable due to scheduling and team locations, there’s a lot to be gained by getting back to basics with some real-life human connection. Many of us, especially us PR folk, are a bit too used to being the ones behind the camera dishing out advice, rather than taking it on board in front of it.
As the world hurtles towards its digital destiny, there is no doubt that virtual meetings are here to stay. This is precisely why learning to master this medium while becoming more aware of how we engage with it, has never been more paramount.
So, gather your team, bring in some experts and do some training together — I’m talking about emotional intelligence, public speaking, confidence and active listening. Trust me. Your colleagues, future clients and in turn your bottom line, will thank you for it.
Remember, a picture (aka your face) says 1,000 words.
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