I want to make a Zoom meeting drinking game. Every time you see one of the mistakes from my last video, you get to take a drink.
Looking up someone’s nose? Drink. Can see their ceiling fan, but not their face? Drink. Can count the pimples on their nose because they are so close to the camera? Drink.
Unfortunately, if I actually played this game, I’d be drunk 5 minutes into every meeting. You don’t want to be that guy – or gal – on the web call.
But those tips aren’t the only help I’ve got for you.
I have had a number of people tell me how much my “How to Look Good On Webcam” video distinctions helped them. So I decided to do another video with even more distinctions related to our new world of online meetings.
First and foremost is to treat the meeting like a “real world” in-person event. I got this distinction from an excellent tips video from Toastmasters International.
Lots of the problems we see would disappear if people just started thinking this way.
The first and obvious distinction is to dress as you would for the in-person meeting.
I don’t mean you have to wear a suit to every web call. Antonio Centeno did an excellent video about the psychology of dress and how it affects your work. Again link in the description. There he pointed out that “dressed up” means different things to different people and contexts.
He was talking about the psychological impact on you of dressing better. I’m talking more about the social impact of your appearance on the people on your call.
But like Antonio’s point, what “dressed up” means differs by the organization. I spent a couple of decades in the tech world and people wore t-shirts and shorts to work all the time. But if you work in a bank, that’s probably not what you wear to meetings.
Another aspect of creating an online meeting like a real-world one is excusing yourself. Newbies have a tendency to think no one is paying attention to them and will just turn off their video if they need to go to the bathroom or blow their nose.
The first problem with this is just because your video is off doesn’t mean your audio is. I know at least one person who turned off the video and then went to the bathroom. All the while broadcasting all their sound effects to the meeting.
Just like in a real meeting, you want to tell people you are going A F K, or Away From Keyboard. Because people assume you are still there and still listening.
Now you may be thinking, “Ron if I’m on a call with 50 people, I don’t need to tell them I need to leave the room.”
That’s true, just like if you were in an in-person meeting with 50 people you wouldn’t announce to the whole room you needed to pee. Use the same judgment on a conference call.
Before going to the next tip to looking better on-screen, let me give you a distinction about the world we live in.
This isn’t specific to remote working, nor just to the quarantine. Do you sing in the shower? Dance in your living room when no one is around? Feel comfortable walking around your house in your underwear?
Of course, you do, that’s how the home is supposed to make you feel.
Now if I asked to you sing at work? Or dance on stage for hundreds or thousands of people? For most of us, the answer would be a terrifying negative.
The problem is now we can be surrounded by the feeling context of our home, and still be in front of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people.
You see this manifest on social media when people post things from their bathroom that you know they wouldn’t do in public.
It is because we don’t think the same way in private we do in public, but those two things now overlap like they never have before.
We can no longer judge where is private by how many people are there.
What I’m talking about here is what goes on in our heads and our feelings. We can be in private, feel safe, comfortable, or sexy but in reality be in public.
We may know rationally that people are watching, or will be able to watch, but the feelings our head uses to judge if we should do something are actually based on a private context.
We all need to work on making that context switch up here a part of our process.
Enough heavy stuff. Let’s talk about googly eyes.
Tip number two is to look at your camera and not your screen.
Especially when you are talking. Even a little one side is obvious to people.
A trick some people do is stick googly eyes on their webcam. Then it actually has eyes to look at.
There are a couple of reasons you look at your screen. One is to look at the audience, and the other is to look at yourself.
Let’s talk about looking at ourselves first.
Let’s admit it, we all do it. We’re at least as concerned about how we look at how everyone else on the call looks. But it isn’t all narcissism. we need to look some. It helps us make sure we are in the right place on other people’s screens.
I recently heard a new term from Video Streaming Pros. The confidence monitor.
It is a screen they mount next to the camera that shows what is going out on the stream. Their tip was to mount it under the camera, because their research shows that looking down is less distracting than looking left, right, or up.
The next tip is to Use chat correctly.
One big way online meetings are different is they have chat. Chat is a text side channel that can be used during the meeting. This can be really powerful if used correctly. Its advantages may make you wish you had it in the face to face meetings.
Here are three great uses for a chat:
- It allows people to ask questions without interrupting the speaker.
- It is a great place to put URLs and related information rather than expecting people to write stuff down.
- It is a more permanent record of these things that can be saved and looked at later. Kind of like group notes.
But it can be used wrongly. Here are a few things not to do.
- Don’t use it too much. Flooding the chat with long comments or lots of semi-related URLs makes it useless.
- Don’t send messages to an individual when you meant to send them to everyone and vice versa. Make sure you understand where your chat message is actually going. Many of these chat programs allow you to sent messages to “everyone” and also send a message to just one person. Make sure you have the right one selected when you hit send.
- Don’t put all your focus on the chat and lose track of the meeting. If you are the speaker, break to check the chat periodically and don’t try to keep up while speaking. If you are in an audience, don’t watch the chat all the time and lose track of what the speaker is doing.
The next Tip is for when you are the speaker to a group.
You know you can stand up. We tended to default to our technology’s default.
Since many people are using a laptop, they default to putting it on their laps while stilling in a chair.
But as we mentioned in the previous video, you can and probably should put it on a table and get the camera to eye level.
Well, the same goes for you. You don’t have to default to sitting down.
If you are giving a talk to a group, you can stand up like you would in person. Just adjust your camera angle and make sure your sound works.
If you are giving a speech to a group on a webcam, here’s another tip for you.
Ask for audience feedback in a way that works in thumbnail and on mute.
Say in a real-world meeting you’d ask something like “Everyone who’s done that say aye”.
Well, that isn’t going to work on a Zoom call where everyone is muted. Instead, pick something easy for people to do that will show up on your and everyone else’s thumbnail view.
For instance, you could say, “Everyone who’s done that wave at the camera.”
If you want people to say something that would be shared with the group, have them do it in chat instead. For instance, “Everyone types their favorite flavor of ice cream in the chat.”
This gets that audience engagement of an in-person meeting in a way that works for virtual meetings.
- Treat virtual meetings like in-person ones.
- When speaking look at the camera and not your screen.
- Use chat appropriately.
- You can stand up when speaking.
- Ask for audience feedback in a way that works in thumbnail and on mute.
Question of the Day: What are your tips for Zoom meetings?