No-excuse guide to hold attention during Zoom meetings

Zoom fatigue is not the problem. The problem is that the meeting leader has failed to do what is necessary to get and hold attention during Zoom Meetings
March 1, 2021

The most common question in my inbox these days is how to grab and hold the attention of meeting participants.  More often, the question is phrased: “How do I overcome Zoom fatigue in my organization?” 

My answer is: platform fatigue is not the problem.  The problem is that the meeting leader has failed to do what is necessary to get and keep people interested online. It may be that the meeting agenda was designed for pre-pandemic physical meetings and is no longer relevant in virtual settings.  Or it could be that the person running the meeting lacks proficiency running video conferences in the new normal. 

With attention at a premium these days, the trick is to create and deliver information that people do not want to miss and engage them in a process of co-creation, where everyone has a hand in the outcome.”

Rosemary Ravinal

The argument that our eyeballs are fried after back-to-back Zoom meetings does not hold water.

That is because the usual video call distractions have to do with multitasking on other screens.  You may be looking at your phone, checking email, or dropping in on a Slack conversation.  Just consider:  how many hours a week do you spend watching cable news, streaming movies on Netflix or reading digital editions of your local newspapers?

The trick to overcoming Zoom fatigue is not less screen time, but more quality interactions and more reasons for participants to pay attention.  

A good online meeting starts with a virtual mindset and the expectation that participants’ attention could be diverted at any moment.   With attention at a premium these days, the trick is to create and deliver information that people do not want to miss and engage them in a process of co-creation, where everyone has a hand in the outcome.

5 Ways to Hold Attention on Zoom Meetings

Here are the 5 things you can put into practice to hold attention and have better meetings.

1.  Be verbally and visually interesting.   

How you look, sound, and behave on the small screen sets the tone for the meeting.  Take stock of your virtual meeting ASSETs: your appearance, the staging and styling of your physical set or virtual background, the energy you convey with your voice and body language, and your competence with the technology and meeting software.  Make sure you check off all four areas and show up as your best.

2.   Rethink the way you design and structure a meeting.

Do not try to adapt in-person meeting agendas to online.  Start from scratch and think virtual.  Make meetings shorter, 30-45 minutes is ideal to keep it interesting.  Consider what part of the agenda could be achieved offline so that the online portion is more meaningful. Go light on the PowerPoint and share your screen intermittently.  Use sound effects and music to break up the agenda and build surprise and excitement.

3.  Give people a reason to participate.

Shift the energy of the audience from passive to active.  Require that all videos be turned on.  Assign roles that give people a hand in the meeting’s success.  Co-host and co-presenter, tech director, waiting room host, breakout facilitator, chat room moderator, and transcription coordinator are just some of the roles that will give more people a stake in the outcome.   Invite dialog at intervals and start conversations that could be continued offline.

4.  Deploy all the tools available on the platform. 

The Q+A and chat features, if used wisely throughout a meeting, can be powerful ways to give everyone a voice.  Activate the non-verbal communication feature on Zoom to gather yes-no sentiments in seconds. Experiment with playful filters and themed backgrounds. Turn polls into quizzes, trivia games, or and devices to sample opinions and take the pulse of the audience. Use breakout rooms to interrupt the isolation of the virtual environment and create more intimacy among participants.

5.  Leave them with something of value. 

The old sales adage: “WIIFM, what’s in it for me,” is alive and well in video meetings.  You can structure the program so that everyone takes away something they did not have before.  Less is more in the virtual meeting environment.  Our brains favor visual data at 90 percent versus auditory at 10 percent. Video is visual, so make your visual content compelling and memorable.

These techniques will help you break free of static, one-way meetings that can be exhausting.   As you put them into practice you will discover your own methods for designing engaging, fun, inspiring and transformational virtual workshops, meetings, and trainings.

If you want to check your Zoom meeting IQ, take my ZoomScore™ quiz and see how you rate on the essential elements of a professional video presence.

Rosemary Ravinal

I teach business leaders how to shine on video calls and have more productive virtual engagement. As Founder/Chief Trainer at RMR Communications Consulting, I also help executives master the art of public speaking, inspiring presentations, and authoritative media interviews online and in person. My company’s services are available in English and Spanish in South Florida and elsewhere.

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Let me help you speak, engage, and persuade like a pro in person and online in English and Spanish.

Your success in the new normal of work depends on how well you navigate virtual and in-person communication.

Your success in the new normal of work depends on how well you navigate virtual and in-person communication.

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