Whether you’re working remotely or just trying to stay connected with friends and family in our new homebound COVID-19 world, chances are you’ve been on Zoom or another video conferencing platform in the past few weeks. A lot.
You’ve probably seen some things you can’t un-see and done a few things that haven’t made you look your best. It’s ok, we’ve all been there and at least you’re not the lady who went viral because she took her Zoom call into the bathroom! (Or if you are, don’t do that again, Jennifer!)
If you’re new to the video conferencing world, know that it is possible to have productive meetings or even meet new people and network through video. Like any other successful interaction, make it your priority to know who you’re talking to, find out what they care about and stay focused on how you can best serve their needs with the information you have to share. Accomplishing your goals in this situation depends on using your communication skills a little differently than you would in person.
First, realize that a virtual meeting is its own unique situation – not just a high-tech version of an in-person meeting – and has to be treated as such. Conversations don’t happen as naturally on these platforms, because our normal back-and-forth exchange is challenging with the noise cancellation feature that kicks in if people overlap when speaking. Interruptions mean no one can hear anything either person is saying. It’s just plain awkward and could even be seen as rude. If you’re running a meeting, be more active in your role as moderator… set ground rules for contributing and interacting, send out an agenda ahead of time and stick to it.
Plan ahead so that you’re ready to convey the message you want to deliver in the most succinct, direct way possible. Say the most important things first, be brief with each point and resist the temptation to say everything you know. Be prepared for questions and jot down notes while others are speaking so you can share your comments or ask questions when appropriate. Listening well and waiting for the right moment to speak are the keys to making the best impact.
Once you know what you want to say, set yourself up to say it well. Here are a few things to help you rock your next virtual meetup:
- Find your light: Set up in a well-lit area with the light mainly on your face, so people can see you and your expressions clearly. Make sure any windows are in front of you… if they’re in the background, you’ll look like a silhouette.
- Create a set: Check your background to make sure there is nothing distracting and let others in your home know when you’re live so they don’t wander in unaware. Or in a state of undress. In Zoom, you can also create virtual backdrops for privacy with templates from services like Canva.
- Hit the right angle: Know where your camera is on your laptop or phone and raise it to eye level. I put my laptop on a box or use a mount for my phone or tablet. And remember to look at the camera when you’re speaking – not the display. People pay attention when you’re looking at them… looking into the camera is like looking into their eyes. Besides, the last thing you want is a view up your nose – nobody looks good from that angle.
- Be heard: Pick a quiet place if possible or use a headset with a microphone to reduce background noise (like AirPods or a gaming headset). It will keep distractions down and the focus on you.
- Run a test: Log on early or try out the platform beforehand if you’re unfamiliar with it. Understanding its functionality and using it with ease will ensure that you pop up on time and avoid any frustration or interruption during the meeting.
And most of all, go easy on yourself and others… do your best to be your best, but understand that few people are operating optimally right now and we all could use some patience and grace.