How to be the Boss of the Online Boardroom
Here’s a riddle for you: How can you read a room that’s not a room?
Scratching your head? So are we, but that’s how it feels for most of us on video calls. With bad lighting and spotty internet, it can be near impossible to tell if our audience is engaged, or if what we’re saying is making sense.
It looks like these calls are here to stay, at least for the immediate future. That means communicating via video calls is more important than ever. Unfortunately, meeting online isn’t the same as meeting in person. Luckily, there are tips, tricks, and tools you can use to make participants feel more involved and engaged--almost as if they were in the room with you.
Here’s what you can keep in mind to save your next Zoom call.
Nonverbal signs of interest
Part of being a strong leader is being able to stay engaged when you’re not speaking. You want everyone in the meeting to feel heard. When you show active listening, others will be encouraged to speak and participate.
Show you’re engaged with occasional head nods or a subtle tilt of the head to show agreement or listening. However, avoid making noises of agreement, as it can pull the focus from the speaker, as well as disrupt the audio.
Fake eye contact
In-person, one of the best ways to ensure your audience is listening is by making contact with those in the room. Likewise, looking at a person when they speak reassures them that you’re listening and interested. Good eye contact can make or break a meeting.
But, on a video call, this rule goes out the window. Most of the time, we debate looking between the screen or the camera, leading to a back and forth that can look more scattered than confident.
If you want to make eye contact with attendees of your web meeting, you’ll have to fake it. Try looking at the screen when you’re listening to others speak, and looking directly into the camera when you speak. While it’s not making traditional eye contact, this natural-looking eye movement mimics in-person eye contact.
Keep the call short
At this point, none of us are strangers to the phenomena known as “Zoom fatigue.” Interaction over Zoom requires a lot of energy and attention, and it’s only natural that it leads to disengagement and exhaustion. We’re being asked to conduct almost all our meetings over video conference, and it can drain the energy in a room quickly.
One way to hold an effective meeting is keeping an eye on the clock. Don't take up any more time than you need to, and prioritize quick, but friendly communication. Ending a meeting early will leave your team wanting more, instead of tapping them out mentally.
Dress for success
A great video conference starts with what you’re wearing. If you’ll be speaking or on camera for the majority of the meeting, plan to wear something that the camera can pick up easily. Typically, that means solid neutral colors; leave the highlighter yellow t-shirt for street visibility.
Additionally, you’ll want to avoid tight, busy patterns, the camera might have a harder time picking them up, resulting in the pattern “jumping around” the screen. Wearing an outfit that doesn’t confuse the camera will make it easier for participants to watch the screen, and keep watching you.
Mind the narrow-angle
Interacting over a webcam means every participant has a smaller field of view. If you use hand gestures when you speak, remember to keep them within the camera’s view--signaling outside of the space can make participants feel like they’re missing out. Keeping everything on the camera avoids making anyone feel left out. Bonus points, smaller, controlled motions also exude an air of self-assured-ness.
Video calls may be the way of the future, but that doesn’t mean you should leave meeting etiquette in the past. It’s just as important, if not more so, to prepare for each call and consider how your body language and behavior contribute to engagement.