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7 Essential skills to stand out in a Zoom meeting

 In Executive Communications, Presentation Skills, Public Speaking Don'ts, Public Speaking Tips, Storytelling, Video Conferences

Do you struggle to stand out in a Zoom meeting? Are your colleagues hogging the conversation?  Do you think twice about turning on your video because you are not camera-ready? 

90% of communication is visual. How you look on the screen–on any device–can make or break your career.

As video conferencing becomes an integral part of our daily work and social lives, challenges and obstacles are surfacing that we may not have considered before the pandemic.  Now more than ever it is important to stand out in a Zoom meeting. I’ve even created a mini Zoom camp to take a deep dive into what we need to master virtual meetings.

Video calls—on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, or Google Meet–are indeed the next best thing to being there in person. But standing out, projecting your personality, expressing your point of view, defending your ideas—is not easy.   And in the world of business, this can make the difference when your goal is to land a promotion or make a sale. 

Here are seven essential Zoom skills you need to stand out among the mosaic of people on the screen. 

1.  Turn on your video

Video calls attract more attention than voice-only interactions.  Visual and auditory cues combined make for greater retention.  That means if you show up, people will remember more of what you said.  That is because non-verbal communication such as facial expressions and body language speak volumes.  Even if you are muted, your “box” should show you at your best, your facial expressions—smiles, nods, and posture reflecting your interest and engagement with the content being shared.

2.  Know your equipment

Whether you are using the top of the line Logitech C920S, the integrated webcam on your laptop or an iPhone 6, you need to know how best to use the hardware that you have.  Learn how to get the best audio and video quality from your device.  Much of this is trial and error.  Just do not experiment when you are on the company call.  Whether you are on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, or Google Meet, invest some time watching tutorial videos and practicing what buttons to click to make your video conference software app work properly.

3.  Get camera ready

Do you have a Zoom wardrobe?  You should, even if you are only dressed from the waist up.

Not all colors and patterns display well on video calls. A lot depends on your lighting and background, but fundamentally, there are some colors that show up better than others.  Consider using solid colors instead of patterns.  Red, orange, leaf green, pink and fuchsia hold their values.  Cobalt and powder blue often display as black and grey, respectively. 

Dress as best suits your profession, company culture or occasion, but take care that what you wear is pressed, crisp looking and appropriate for your body type.  Groom and make up your face and hair. Blot or powder an oily complexion—that goes for men, too.

4.  Make your setting complement your message

Drop the gimmicky virtual background in favor of a set that speaks to who you are and what you do.   Unless you are physically in San Francisco or preparing to run a marathon across the Golden Gate bridge, do not use it as a background.  Due to overuse or misuse , virtual backgrounds are falling behind “living  sets” as the preferred studio.    Find out if your webcam and computer processor can handle a virtual background or if you need a green screen. 

Express your personality by using a location with the right lighting where you stage meaningful props or memorabilia.  You may have noticed cable news interviews with the guest standing in front of a bookcase with strategically placed titles and family photos.    

5.  Modulate your voice

In addition to checking your mic levels and surroundings for unwanted noise before a call, understand how your voice comes across.  There may be a delay or latency in the sound.  So, speak a bit more slowly than you normally would.  Enunciate clearly.  Since you are looking at the webcam lens and not at the faces of the people you are addressing, pause periodically and ask for acknowledgement.  “Is that clear?”  “Did you get that?”  Do not assume that everyone has heard you properly. 

6.  Organize your ideas beforehand

Zoom fatigue is increasingly common.  People spend countless hours on video calls, so you need to be concise and focused on what you say and share.  As you would for an in-person meeting, plan carefully and anticipate what your audience wants to know.  But expect that they will have shorter attention spans or become easily distracted.   State your points quickly and allow time for questions.

7.  Claim and manage your time

If you are running a video conference, make sure there is a clear agenda, that everyone is recognized and has time to speak.  Virtual workplace studies show men tend to hog the virtual stage and that women often feel left out.  Some platforms have a “raised hand” feature.  I recommend physically raising your hand next to your face to request the floor.  Find the right moment to interrupt the speaker with a statement like “I want to add something.”  Unless the meeting controls allow for an automatic switch to speaker view, you may talk, and the others will not know it is you.  This can be particularly tricky when the number of participants spans multiple screens. 

Bonus: Show respect for the others

The medium of virtual meetings can be impersonal.  You are but one tile in a sea of faces.  There is no pre-event reception or chit-chat as people enter the room.  The video call starts when the host grants you entry.  Consider using the waiting room features to “warm up the room.”  Use the chat feature as the office water cooler.   Whether you are running the meeting or participating, recognize each person by name.  If appropriate, give everyone time to comment or speak.  Use facial expressions to acknowledge their contributions.  And respect each participant by keeping your focus on the screen.  Do not eat while you Zoom unless it fits the occasion.  If you must step away, turn off your video momentarily so your cat will not be seen walking across your screen.

Master Communicator Mini Zoom Camp takes a deep dive into Zoom mastery.
Registrations open for August 2020.

Want to take a deep dive into Zoom mastery?  Register for my Master Communicator Mini Zoom Camp.  Wednesdays, from August 5 through 26,  90-minute interactive sessions with laser coaching and group feedback to improve your video conference impact and style.  Register here for early-bird pricing through July 31, 2020: https://mini-zoom-camp.eventbrite.com

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