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Think about the last virtual meeting you were on. Do you remember the nonverbal signal you saw – and probably showed – at the end of the meeting? The nonverbal gesture most participants show when meetings are over is so common, it’s been dubbed “The Zoom Wave.” Most of us have adopted this brief wave of the hand to politely let people know we are leaving the virtual meeting. It’s not something you would expect to see at an in-person meeting, so how did “The Zoom Wave” come into play?

My theory is that we don’t have the kinds of nonverbal signals we’re used to seeing when people are ready to leave an in-person meeting, such as: people gathering their stuff, closing their laptops or starting to stand up. Those behaviors would not be natural in a virtual meeting.

Another significant factor is proximity. Even though we are seeing a close view of each other on virtual meetings, there is an awareness of being in different places. I think that’s why our brains choose to signal “I’m going now” with a wave, which is a gesture usually shown to people who are some distance away.

Since I’ve become aware of “The Zoom Wave,” I’ve noticed some interesting idiosyncrasies that I’ve developed. For example, if there are multiple people in the virtual meeting, I will also wave to say, “Hello” when I enter the virtual room. For some reason, I wave with my left hand when I enter the meeting and I wave with my right hand when I leave the meeting.

One of the advantages of virtual meetings is that we can see ourselves and observe our own nonverbal behaviors. I’m curious:

Have you noticed any differences between your nonverbals in an in-person meeting vs a virtual meeting?

What are your nonverbal gestures when you say “hello” or “goodbye” in virtual meetings?