We’ve all been getting used to Zoom (other comms solutions are available) over the last few months. It has its advantages and disadvantages, but one thing I’ve noticed is that some people naturally perform better on it than others.
Obviously, in virtual communication we can’t see all the normal cues and body-language ticks we get from face-to-face meetings, while multiple faces cramming together on a computer screen can make it difficult to conduct a relaxed conversation. When you can’t pick up the non-oral/verbal clues we normally get in a meeting, listening is difficult. I have had a quick Google and found a lot of articles which deal with how to improve your performance in Zoom meetings/chats. Essentially, they boil down to three things, viz,
Prepare to think (and vice versa)
There are two, mutually important cliches which apply here. Firstly, the significance of the old adage “fail to prepare and prepare to fail” ought to be obvious. Not only do you need to do your homework, so you can contribute to the conversation and, where necessary, take the lead, but it’s important to think about the homework the others will have done (or should have done) so you can anticipate questions and provide solutions to issues raised.
Secondly, the ability to “think on your feet” has always been vital in any meeting or presentation. If you’ve prepared properly then it’s so much easier. And of course, the key way in which people think on their feet is by responding to what has been said or inferred, often by body language as much as any oral comment. Which brings me to…
Not just theirs, but yours too! Convey attentiveness. People like to feel someone is really interested in them so make sure your body language demonstrates this, especially if there are several people on the same call. As you would in a ‘normal’ meeting, align yourself physically with the person speaking, making sure that your eye contact is obvious but not obtrusive. Again, as in a face-to-face meeting, if you are looking away from/at an angle to the person with whom you are speaking this could be interpreted as meaning that you are not interested. And this, in turn, leads me on to the third key element of online meetings/conversations…
Emotional disconnection is unsettling in any context but in an online forum it’s particularly easy to make your audience/colleagues feel isolated or ignored. Show them that not only have you heard what they have said, but that you have understood how they are feeling. It is so easy: all you have to do is use the words, “how are you feeling about…?” Touch their hearts and show that not only do you understand their problems but that you can empathise with them too. And at the end of your session, don’t forget to thank them for taking part. It may seem such an obvious thing to do, but many people simply forget to do it.
Alison Blake, Peace Recruitment