Founder of The Engaging Educator, Jen Brown, explains how to communicate effectively in Zoom meetings.
Tired of looking at yourself on Zoom yet?
I sure am. Zoom fatigue is real, and I’m anxiously awaiting all of the articles and studies that discuss how difficult it is to not only communicate over video constantly, or how exhausting it is to project your meaning without our usual dependence on full-body language, or the challenges that come up when you are facilitating on video and “miss” the energy feedback that occurs when people share space.
For the time being, my job has pivoted to not only communicating over Zoom myself but also helping clients and students effectively share information, teach and connect in this new normal. Our first few months focused on reacting to the move to video – it’s time to respond.
Focus on your Audience
It always starts here – whether you are in person or on video. Take a moment before you connect to think about who they are. Here are a few questions as a diagnostic:
What do they already know, and what are you offering them?
What is your relationship like?
What might their life be like right now?
Are you all at home, all connecting live, all riddled with distractions in life?
What do you want out of this moment, and what do they want?
What action are you all taking after the connection?
By zooming in on your specific audience, you can tailor the information and conversation to what needs to be there. Remember, we are all figuring out how we connect best with this medium! The clearer you are, the more effective you’ll be – and the more connected to their time and attention span.
Use The Shot
If people can’t see you clearly, they aren’t going to connect with you. Quick video presentation skills run down:
First, make sure you’re well lit. If there is a window in your room, make sure the window is in front of you, not behind you. Next, locate your camera and have it at eye level. This can be accomplished with a fancy stack of books under your computer. When you are talking, feel free to use the camera as “eyes” and make eye contact with it – this allows you to “make eye contact” with your audience. One client taped eyeballs by their camera and I can safely say, it works. Eye contact is where we get trust between the speaker and the audience!
If you make a lot of gestures, give yourself space to be yourself. It might be pushing the computer or your chair back to widen your frame. Remember, we’re losing a lot of our meaning by sitting in our Brady Bunch squares – over half usually comes from body language! Allow yourself the space to make your natural gestures. Turn on the camera and practice, making sure you feel comfortable using your normal gestures.
Finally, keep in mind that too close feels aggressive. Make sure you have ample space around your head in your shot so it feels more like a conversation, and less like an accidental camera flip for a selfie.
Assertive Communication Still Wins
Just because we’re on video doesn’t mean we can become passive communicators. Focus on your assertive communication skills by checking in: do you know what you want in this conversation? Do you know how you feel? Are you expressing it?
If you’re falling victim to the lag overlap in conversations that feel like interruptions, or you realize your question keeps getting missed, use the assertive technique of repetition: you’re not adding emotion or irritation, you’re clearly saying, “My question is: [your question.]” Sometimes conversations can get even more off track in a video medium because we miss those body language cues of “I have something to say.” Feel free to be overly transparent in moments of confusion. Statements like, “I think we are getting off track” or “I see that [this person] has something to add” or “I’d like to go back to a point we missed” use transparency and the assertive “I” that is clear and direct.
As always, be sure you are building in reflective practice. If a communication strategy worked, note it, and repeat it! If one felt awful, note it and find out why. Keep building your toolbox of communication.