Zoom – love it, hate it, or tolerate it because you have no other choice, it is clear that the video meeting isn’t going away any time soon. Zoom, and similar platforms, has brought the videoconference to everyone’s laptop and cellphone. Much like the videoconference, it isn’t as effective as face-to-face meetings, and a lot of non-verbal communication is lost in the process, but it is another tool in our toolbox.
Over the past 16 months, there have been articles and workshops about the various aspects of the video-call “experience”… How to dress for the call, light your space, set an appropriate background, and all manner of things that we never thought about before because all of our meetings and encounters occurred for the most part, in ‘public’ spaces, and the rules of engagement were pretty clear. The latest iteration of meetings brings them into our bedrooms, kitchens, basements, cars, parks, etc.
The personal nature of these venues oftentimes lulls us into a sense of ‘casualness’ as we prepare for and participate in video meetings. It is important not to let the ‘casualness’ of the venue encroach upon our approach to, and behavior in, a video meeting. A more ‘casual’ approach to a video meeting can undermine your professional reputation.
Be Prepared for the Meeting
Do you know individuals who show up at meetings and have no clue why they are there or what they are supposed to be doing? Yes, me too. If you are going to invest the time in attending a meeting, it’s important to do your homework and learn as much as possible about the host and attendees, the format of the meeting, and what is expected of the participants. Don’t “arrive” late. Be on time, in fact, try to be early. Afterall, you can’t blame your being late on traffic.
Sitting in a Zoom meeting means staying focused when what is happening in your physical environment might be conspiring against you. Distractions abound, and the lack of someone actually sitting with you, or near you gives you a false sense of isolation. Yes, the other people on the video call CAN see that you are looking at your phone, or that your gaze IS focused elsewhere, or that you ARE talking to someone else in the room (or the next room). Pets, children, adults, etc. may be doing their thing in the same room or in the next room, or nearby. When your focus is on them, it is very apparent to the other participants in the video call. Staying on-point and engaged in your meeting sometimes requires herculean focus and it’s tough, but it’s mandatory. Losing track of the conversation, continually asking people to repeat themselves, and providing vague responses because you didn’t hear the full question would never be acceptable in an in-person meeting, and this lack of focus isn’t acceptable in a video meeting either. You have to work harder to stay focused when you are in a video meeting and yes, Zoom fatigue is real.
Follow-up and follow-through
Just because video meetings are so “convenient,” doesn’t mean that follow-up and follow-through aren’t required. I’ve been on networking calls where participants post their contact information in the chat and yet don’t respond to outreach emails and calls. Unless you think that business can be consummated right then and there on the call, it’s important to see the video call as one step in the process and not the result. (Sounds like an in-person meeting, doesn’t it?!)
The gist of it is that video calls are one way we can do business. Fine-tuning our behaviors can help make them more productive.