November last year saw 1.7 million daily users of Zoom in the UK. That’s a helluva lot of online meetings!
I’m sure that like us, you were part of that number, as team catch-ups, board meetings, product reviews, training courses, presentations and so much more of our usual daily business lives went virtual. At the time of writing, we are in another lockdown, so it’s unlikely that those numbers will be dropping any time soon.
Are you making the most of every meeting?
It’s easy to feel ‘Zoomed out’ when you’ve had weeks of online discussion. The temptation to sit back and let it happen must have hit all of us at some point. Perhaps even more so than in physical gatherings, it’s important to make your presence felt during an online meeting. Communication tactics need to be adjusted for virtual get-togethers if you really want to make the most of them.
So here are our top tips for making sure you get noticed.
Forget about eye contact
We’ve all been taught that to make a point, we need to make eye contact with people when talking to them, and so it’s natural to look at the faces of our colleagues on screen.
However, when you do this, to the recipients it looks as if you are gazing away from them, especially if they are in the bottom corners of your screen. To connect with someone on screen, you need to focus on or near the camera when you speak. Look into the lens or adjust your view so the participants are located just below your camera and the other participants will feel you are looking at them. If you are using a laptop you may benefit from raising it so your camera is at eye level.
Putting your best face forward
You should aim for your head and shoulders to fill the top third of the screen. If you look as if you are sitting at the other end of the room, you will appear to be less engaged and command less attention. If you are using two screens others may end up talking to your cheek. It hopefully goes without saying that if the top of your head is chopped off, you need to adjust your position. Lastly, feel encouraged to have your video turned on, seeing one another build familiarity which is an important component for establishing and maintaining trust.
Think about the lighting
Choose somewhere with an uncluttered view so that the focus remains on you and what you are saying. Also, avoid having windows behind or to the side of you as the light will make it harder for people to see you. If you do, consider a desk lamp to even out your lighting.
Make sure you are present
Not just physically present, but mentally engaged. It’s easy to forget that others can see you checking your phone or clearly working on something else at the same time. Do this at your peril – at best you look unprofessional, at worst you may find yourself caught out by an unexpected question. Make a real effort to engage in the discussion by asking questions, clarifying points, summarising discussions – just as you would if you were in a physical meeting and turn off your notifications.
Make the best use of the chat function
The chat function is great for sharing documents or URLs that you have referred to during the meeting. And if you are the host, it’s a good idea to post the agenda in the chat window. It also offers a great opportunity to give feedback or ask questions of other speakers without interrupting their flow.
Whether you are Zooming daily, weekly or less frequently, we hope that some of these tips will help you to get more from your next online meeting with your co-workers. And we’ll look forward to a day in the not too distant future when we can all sit in the same room together again.