We’re spending more time on Zoom than we could have imagined. It’s not only a new format for many of us, but it’s a whole new animal — one that’s difficult for some to tame.
In this episode are seven easy-to-implement tips that will make you as professional in a virtual meeting as you are in a face-to-face meeting. Topics include:
Welcome to the Speaker Station, where we generally discuss how you can be more effective when speaking on stage, presenting in meetings, or selling to prospects. I’m your host, Peter George.
In this episode, you’re going to hear several tips that you can implement immediately that will help you more effectively use video conference call platforms such as Zoom. In doing so, you’ll demonstrate your level of professionalism just as you would in a person-to-person meeting.
Before we get into it, however, I want to bring to your attention that if you are feeling a little burnt out from Zoom, or self conscious, or feel that you’re under pressure because you’re always “on” while attending one of these meetings, you’re not alone. I’ve heard from many business associates that they feel under pressure with this particular burnout. It actually is receiving a few different names. One is zoomitis. Another is zoom burnout. So if you are experiencing this, you’re not alone. These ideas hopefully will alleviate some of that.
First one, arrive early. Many of us are figuring, well, my meetings at 1pm, I can pop on at 12:59, and I’m still early. Well, maybe 99% of the time, that’s fine. But what about that one time when you have to reboot your computer? What if there’s just a little snafu in the platform at that moment, and it takes longer than expected? Your credibility is at stake, whether it’s in person or virtual, be there early.
Once you’re there, sooner or later, you’re probably going to have to speak and when you speak, you want to be clear so people can understand you without straining. Now, most of us, maybe we have to rely on the microphone in our computers. Unfortunately, they’re not all that good. So if you have the capability, use an external microphone. It might be with a headset with the boom mic. It might be the earpods that came with your phone. They work on some computers, not on others. But if you can devise a way to use a different external mic, a better mic, the others will appreciate it. If you must rely on the mic built into your computer, speak clearly and slower than you might normally.
And when it comes to sound, whether wanted sound or unwanted sound, the mute button is your friend. Keep yourself muted. You never know when the dogs going to bark or kids are going to come up to you. And if that happens and you’re not muted, it’s not a big deal, but It does interrupt the flow of this person speaking. Get in the habit of muting yourself from the moment you’re on there, if you’re not already pre-muted. Unmute yourself a second or two before you’re going to speak. And then as soon as you’re done speaking, mute yourself again. The others will appreciate it.
Of course, it’s not just what people can hear. It’s what they can see. So you have to be very aware of what’s behind you. Is it a plain wall? Fine. A wall with mementos and photographs and the like? Perfect. Your library in your office? Excellent. A sink full of dirty dishes. Maybe not so much. Someone getting out of the shower and running across the bedroom? No, definitely not. (But it has happened.) Keep in mind what others are seeing.
Now let’s talk about how you appear on screen in the meeting. First of all, we know how important eye contact is when communicating with others. The first step in achieving this is making sure that the camera on your computer is at eye level. If you’re working on a desktop, raise or lower your chair to get to the point where your eyes are in line with the camera. If you’re using a laptop, the same, but of course now you can either raise or lower the laptop itself. One of the things you don’t want to do with a laptop is what many of us are doing, just plopping it down on a desk or table, tilting the screen back, and have it shooting up in us. Get that camera at eye level.
Now once you have it at eye level, how far away from the camera are you going to be? Some people are too close, so their head fills the frame top to bottom. Other sit so far back that their head is just oh, I don’t know. 10% of the entire screen. What you want to do is get a comfortable distance, but comfortable visually to others. Think of a broadcast — a news broadcast on television. You often see a bust shot — their chest, shoulders, and head. That’s what you want to do.
Once you’ve accomplished all this, it’s back to a peculiar thing when it comes to video conferencing. When I talked about eye contact … many of us look at the person we’re speaking to. right? We’re looking into their eyes. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, no. When you’re looking at the screen, you’re not visually looking into their eyes. You have to be looking at the camera. So here’s a few ideas when it comes to this.
When someone else is speaking in general — speaking to an entire group, you can look at them. It’s the most comfortable thing to do. When someone else is speaking to you directly, look at your camera. On their end, they will see you looking at them, making eye contact. If you’re looking down at the screen at them, your head will be tilted down, your eyes will be tilted down, and it won’t look like you’re making contact.
Anytime you are speaking, look into the camera. Again, it’s not the easiest thing to do, but you have to get used to it because making eye contact is key in person and on video.
To recap: arrive early, use an external mic if possible, mute yourself when you’re not speaking, be aware of what others are seeing behind you, have your camera at eye level, frame yourself correctly and proportionally on the screen, and make consistent eye contact with others.
Implement these ideas at your next zoom meeting, and you’ll be as professional in a virtual meeting as you are in a face-to-face meeting.
Until my next episode, please rate review and subscribe to the Speaker Station wherever you listen to your favorite podcast. Until then, be happy and healthy my friend!