If you’ve ever said to yourself this physical meeting could have been a conference call or a Zoom/Skype session… well here we are! Any and all meetings are practically zoom meetings now. Zoom has reported due to COVID19 they went from an average of 10 million meetings monthly to 200 million zoom sessions in the month of March! Crazy!
But we are also in crazy times…
It has been around even before the current COVID-19 crisis. Based on a 2018 U. S. Census report, over 8 million workers are remote workers before the COVID Stay at Home order. The number of course has expectedly increased since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. More businesses and organizations are transitioning into work-from-home arrangements. Video conferences are fast replacing physical engagements in all regards – stand up meetings, conferences, meetups, brainstorming sessions, and even happy hours.
But this transition came with a ton of challenges. Physical communications rely on certain communication tactics and norms; some of these are not applicable in video meetings. Perhaps, this is why experts suggest that virtual meetings be considered in a completely separate context.
Let’s be honest! Staying focused on a virtual meeting is hard AF! Most of us are passive in our communication and in meetings. Keeping your point and presence at a 100 in virtual meetings requires certain video conference-friendly tactics, including excellent engagement as well as removing all, preconceived thoughts about this communication system.
Ready to elevate your presence in virtual settings? Start by implementing the following recommendations.
1. The right tools help you sound like a pro
Video conferencing requires a louder-than-usual voice. Why? It assures excellent audibility and asserts authority, confidence, and clarity. This principle is also valid for actual conferences. Avoid speaking at a conversational volume, even when you are using an external microphone. Instead, keep your voice strong and clear. It is also a definite way of maintaining the ideal speech speed without any form of mumbling. Throw on your pods or any head phones with a mic to easily sound clear and professional.
2. Master the Chat and look like a boss!
The primary function of the chat window is to hold discussions. Link every shared document or article you mention or refer to the chat. If you are the presenter, use chat as a great tool to communicate with your colleagues or audience the breakdown, summary, or commentary for the meeting or your presentation. You may also send in meeting agenda if you are the convener.
If you have questions or supporting statements for speakers, drop them in the chat. If maximized correctly, the chat window can boost your presence in virtual meetings. It can also help to portray your ideas clearly and highlight your attention and presence.
3. Focus on yourself.
Lets face it most people spend their time looking at themselves when on a virtual session. Some how we’ve been sold the idea that driving home your point is easier when you maintain eye contact is valid. You are on a laptop screen and not in person. If you follow this, you may end up fixing your gaze on your colleagues – which will be wrong anyway. (This is one of those communication norm adjustments I mentioned earlier.)
The only way to maintain eye contact in video conferences is to focus on your camera. I like to position the box on the screen showing may face right under my camera so that it also looks like I’m looking directly into the camera.
While fixing your gaze on a cold black circle may appear weird at first, it gets better with time. Perhaps, understanding that it is the only way to drive home your points with 100% confidence will help you to maintain this position throughout the meeting.
4. Don’t jack the conversation
This not only goes for talking too much but also being too distracting with all the stuff you should not be doing.
Unlike traditional meetings, chances are high that you will get carried away in a virtual meeting. You will be muted at some points; this silence coupled with the rather homely environment makes it difficult to stay mindful of your presence.
Avoid all forms of distraction, including posting on IG, checking email and external casual communications. Multitasking will steal your attention away and increase your chances of getting caught unprepared. Always maintain 100% attention, even when your full engagement is not compulsory. So, keep your phones away, close other windows, and always bear it in mind that you are ‘live.’
You should also pay attention to the length and frequency of your contributions. You do not want to make unnecessary or irrelevant comments or contributions. Try as much not to interrupt other speakers.
The bottom line here is that you should not feel at home, despite being at home. Feel at work and be alert!
5. Clean up your background!
Your background is another important aspect of framing. Avoid cluttered rooms – it portrays you as a disorganized individual. Keep away all distracting elements. A simple and clean background is always perfect for the job and also a place that is well lit. Position yourself by a window with natural light usually does the trick. This also helps you look more alert and polished. Many people are using background covers on zoom, you can also get a custom on designed on fiverr or do it yourself on canva.com.
Getting this right requires proper preparation. Ensure that you have everything sorted, and check to confirm before the meeting time.
Also, while we are talking about what shows up on the camera, also check how your body shows up in the frame. The frame here means your positioning during the video conferencing. You tend to engage less when you are far away. Most of your screen area should be covered by your head and the top of your shoulders. Adjust your camera until you have a perfect positioning – where you are not too close or too far. I like putting my laptop on some sort of platform, standing desk or a pile of books, just to keep my camera at eye level. Ps. this also helps avoid the dreaded double chin in the camera.
6. Avoid distractions.
Live or physical meetings do not come with such pitfalls as unnecessary background noise, pet and children disturbances, or inadvertently talking while on mute. However, all of these are associated with virtual meetings. You want to be known for doing things right. So, you must get a hang of your virtual and physical environments.
The first and most important rule is to stay on mute whenever you are not contributing. This keeps out such ambient noises like your breaths, the sounds from tapping your keyboard, the ticking of the wall clock, or working appliances in the house.
Always know when to unmute, and unmute before talking. If you think your activities (during the meeting) may distract your colleagues, feel free to turn off your camera. Activities like eating, chewing, or moving around fall under this category.
Do not beat yourself up over unplanned interruptions or distractions by your inquisitive children or pets; hardly will anyone in the meeting take an offense. This becomes a big deal only when you have a major presentation. In this case, apply every realistic measure to keep them away from your screen. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve bribed both of my kids just to get through my zoom calls. They ironically always get bored and curious when its time for me to hop on video.
You will have to choose between presenting and parenting. And if you are working from home, the former takes precedence, at least for the duration of your conferences. Your colleagues need your full attention, the same way you need theirs.
Finally, video conferencing is not rocket science, but it goes beyond just having a conference over video. More importantly, you must find ways to integrate your habits, unique style, and perspectives, so that you get the best out of it.