Everyone I know has had plenty of Zoom or Teams experiences over the past year, but does it affect your negotiation outcomes?

I have taught several negotiation classes via Zoom, and had a couple of live negotiations myself and I think there is a difference in the communication used via zoom versus in person.  Communication is such a core aspect to a good negotiation that its possible we need to adapt slightly when we are working remotely.

I’ve come up with a list of five things we need to do better when negotiating via computer portal, if you have any others, I’d love to get your feedback.

  • Setting: I think it’s crucial to keep your visual setting as clear as possible, with good lighting, a good camera position and clear sound.  If they can’t hear or see you properly it only irritates or causes problems with understanding.  Anything that is a distraction from what you are talking about can cause problems so it is worth a little preparation time.   Investing in a special lamp is a good option for lighting, as it helps to keep you visually clear in whatever setting.  Spend some time getting your camera at the right level – I’ve found a box or pile of heavy books can help adjust your laptop to the correct height.  And lastly sound, if you have any problems with sound in your home invest in a good headset.  It helps you to hear them and them to hear you without distractions in the background.
  • No Interrupting: although this is good advice in any setting, it’s even more important over the internet.  If you are giving information and the other person interrupts it can take a few seconds to notice and you end up talking over each other.  Try to wait until they are finished, it helps reduce annoyance and missing information.
  • Have a clear agenda: try to make a joint list of things to discuss before the live meeting, it will help you both to work through and make sure everything is covered before the session is ended.
  • Body Language: this is one thing that frustrates me the most with online negotiations, it is so much harder to read people. In person you have plenty of visual clues as to how things are going, but that is much harder to read online.  For a start, you usually only see their face, not their body, so much can be hidden.  You need to be much more aware of what they are telling you with the limited information.  Can you watch them more carefully, understand the smaller nuances or interest (a raised eyebrow perhaps, or a more relaxed facial expression) or disinterest (looking around instead of directly at you etc)?  Also be more aware of your expressions and what they are telling the other negotiator.
  • Lastly, be time aware: don’t be pushed into making a quick decision as your session comes to an end. Set up a new one for when you have had time to think.