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Zoning Out From Zoom? A Few Tips to Keep Everyone’s Attention

I admit I have Zoom fatigue. In the first few weeks of working remote, it was fun but a little scary since I could watch myself speak. I thought, “Ugh do I really look like that? I’m turning off my camera.” Then, I got better at adjusting the light and angle of my camera lens so I could look a little better than that.Now after ten weeks in lockdown, it doesn’t matter. The whole thing is exhausting.

The blips, the cutting out, then cutting back in, when one person or another tries to speak. And the awkward delayed-silence when everyone is trying to be polite and let someone else speak. No one speaks, and we stare at each other in the little boxes.

Oh right! I forgot that there was a business objective to this meeting. Sorry. I got distracted by myself and with everyone all at the same. Business in the time of Corona.

Hopefully, we are getting back to business-as-usual and have acquired some new tips and tricks to making these remote meetings effective and productive. Here are few that I’ve learned.

Front face lighting: The lighting should come from behind your computer to brighten up your lovely face. If possible, place your laptop or PC monitor in front of a window, so you are facing the window while you are looking at your screen. Sunlight is the most flattering. Otherwise, put a lamp angled at your face. Lighting coming from behind your head makes for a dark silhouette which is a little ghostly. We don’t want to spook our colleagues. Look to the light.

Wardrobe: I’m going to make the assumption that everyone who reads this blog is smart enough to wear a decent top and not stand up in their boxers.

So let’s move on to the substance of the meeting, which is supposed to be for making smart decisions and moving projects forward.

Conversation: The purpose of a meeting is to get the ideas from your best and brightest colleagues but talking through a remote meeting can be difficult, especially with the delays and pixelated video. It’s easy to fall into the background. If you are hosting a meeting, make a point of calling on everyone at various points. Make sure everyone contributes, and if someone has been silent for a while, ask them a question. Bring everyone into the conversation.

Content: One big advantage of remote meetings is that you are freed from the confines of a linear slide show. By all means, prepare a deck to get the conversation started and keep the meeting on point. But you also have access all of the other great content: videos, infographics, contracts, case studies, old timelines that you and your team can reference. It’s right at your fingertips, either saved on your local drive or on your network. You can literally work with your team as you would on your own, referencing docs and files as you need them. You can present these documents as conversation dictates. The presentation follows the conversation, and everyone becomes better educated as a result.

Story: Business can be boring with its reliance on hard data, charts, timelines, bullet points and other migraine-inducing formats. Frame the information in a story with a beginning, middle and end. Or maybe a problem, solution and resolution. But most of all, include the human element, the emotion, what it means to everyone on that remote call, and to your partners and customers who are the ultimate target for your efforts. Stories are for and about people.

Meetings are for and about people. We sometimes forget that as we blithely stare at our computer screen, which is also filled with emails, Slack messages and a million other distractions. Therefore, it is important to take those extra steps to add a little extra humanity and the personal connection into your remote meetings. Working remote, especially in a COVID world, can be lonely. Remote meetings are an excellent opportunity to counter that isolation and be productive – especially since it looks like these remote meetings are becoming the new normal way of doing business.