Spice up video meetings with these 7 tips

Spice up dull video meetings with tips from the Deaf community and my coaching practice.
August 11, 2020
Spice up your video meetings

It’s no surprise by now that video meetings are here to stay, as working from home becomes the standard for a growing number of businesses.  Google and Facebook led the way, and the rest followed.  It’s time to spice up your video meetings. 

As we learn to communicate with just two of our five senses, we naturally compensate by either speaking too much or tuning out for lack of variety in what we see and hear in the small rectangles on our screens.

“Video meetings don’t have to be devoid of delight and vitality,” write Sabina Nawaz and Roberta J. Cordano in the Harvard Business Review.

The authors back up this claim by drawing lessons from the Deaf and hard of hearing communities who rely on visual communication every day.  Through necessity, the Deaf community has developed a broader array of communications devices than the hearing world can access.

Here are some tips for spicing up mind numbing virtual meetings, inspired by the advanced techniques deployed by the Deaf community, and observations gleaned from my private coaching practice.

1.  Follow the eyes of the participants

90% of the information our brains process is visual.  So, go to the powerhouse to connect better virtually with colleagues and teammates. Watching eyes and understanding when and where attention is being divided helps us manage the pace of meetings.

2. Make meetings shorter

The human attention span keeps shrinking and now lags behind the humble goldfish at 8 seconds.  Eye  strain and visual overload play a role in video conference fatigue.  Keeping meetings short and to the point helps hold the attention of participants.  

3. Make meetings slower

Slowing the pace of online meetings allows time for everyone to process verbal information and for messages to be received before moving on to the next speaker or topic. Pace is easier to manage if meetings are smaller and shorter.

4.  Have a clear agenda

Make the most of everyone’s time by creating and sharing an agenda.  Assign roles, such as moderator, chat room facilitator, and waiting room host, to engage others in meeting management and free you up to run the meeting more efficiently.   

5. Use breakout rooms

Break the monotony of meetings by using the breakout room feature of video platforms like Zoom.  Assign brainstorm topics or themes to discuss within a defined amount of time.  Sort participants randomly or by topic. Ask a group representative to report out highlights of the breakout. 

6.  Raise your hand if you want to speak

Zoom audio cuts out when people talk over each other.  Avoid this common occurrence by requesting  that those who want to speak raise their hands.  The facilitator can periodically announce a speaking order or post it in the chat.  By establishing a protocol and controlling for one conversation at a time, more people can participate, and feel more fully engaged.

7.  Use more of your body to emote

Many Zoom participants frame their shots from the chest up blocking the hands from gesturing naturally.  Why miss out on one of the most important non-verbal communications tools we have in the virtual world?  Set your webcam so that your head is 1/3 of the image with the other 2/3 being your top torso, ideally from the elbows up.  This gives you the screen real estate to move your hands and arms to accent your words.  

And here is bonus: use your hands.

Use your hands. Meetings move faster when your hands are visible on camera. This forces you to be more fully present rather than distracted by your mobile devices.

To read more tips like these, visit my blog: https://rosemaryravinal.com/public-speaking-blog/

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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.

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