How to Make Videoconferencing Work For You

By Brandon Vogel

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You do not have to like videoconferencing but understanding why you don’t can improve your experience.

Carol Schiro Greenwald, PhD, admitted on a recent CLE webinar that she can’t decide whether she loves or hates videoconferencing but she explained how to make the experience better and more fun for attorneys.

Human beings think we are smart and savvy, said Greenwald, but our brains do not. “We need people. We need person-to-person contact to counter stress and anxiety.  If there was ever a time for stress and anxiety, it is now, right?” she said.

Avoiding ‘Zoom Fatigue’

During in-person meetings, Greenwald noted that we pick up implicit, non-verbal communications. You get subtle signals that your co-worker may not agree with your ideas or another co-worker does not want to contribute. “You know when and when not to talk,” she said.

In-person meetings increase collegiality and enthusiasm. In videoconferences, we lose 90% of visual cues that make in-person meetings easy to be in and to follow along.

This creates ‘Zoom Fatigue.’ Greenwald explained that your brain is trying to find the same signals that you are used to in person. People might drink more alcohol on Zoom Happy Hours than in person.

Zoom’s “Gallery View” can overwhelm people with too many faces and not enough visible bodies. Seeing your own face is particularly difficult because we are not used to seeing our own faces.

The lack of social cues lead to conversation chaos and social miscommunication. We convey our feelings less honestly than in-person, said Greenwald.

Without a proper focus, we tend to multitask. “We think that because we are watching on the screen, we are being passive,” she said. “Because you are not paying attention, you are distracting other people and it cancels out your professional image.”

Attendees risk missing an important part of the meeting while multi-masking. She advised attendees to turn off other programs while on a videoconference to avoid distractions.

With people now using videoconferencing for work and personal use, it becomes harder to say no, so it is not uncommon to have multiple videoconferences day and night.

“If you remember nothing else, remember this: everything communicates,” said Greenwald. “Everything about you communicates, 93% of communication is non-verbal.”

She explained that 55% is body language; tone of voice is second most important at 38%. Just 7% are words. “If there is a disconnect between your body language and your words, your body language always wins.”

Once you learn to pay attention to body language, you will have more self-awareness and self-control of how you act in meetings, Greenwald said. This helps attendees see you as a leader.  Have good posture, sit against the back of the chair, but lean forward when communicating online and in-person, she advised.

Dressed for success

Zoom meetings for work are still work, Greenwald reminded attendees. When you get dressed for work, the actions of getting dressed tell your brain that you are preparing for work. Recent studies have suggested that work done in pajamas isn’t as good, according to Greenwald.

Being mindful of your area can improve your experience too. Having a cluttered area with personal items on full display can hurt your credibility. Sitting in front of a bookshelf with law books can improve your credibility.

The increasingly-popular Zoom virtual backgrounds should be used only if you have a green screen, Greenwald said. Otherwise, the speaker’s head moves as the background moves. Have lighting in front of your face, not behind, she recommended.

Your body language determines a person’s three-second judgment about you. It used to be eight seconds but the Internet and social media have sped up the process, Greenwald said. Your smiles and eyes, as well as proximity and feet position, are the most important body language signals.

“Body language is a key component of image,” she said. “Image is a powerful component of your brand. Make meetings more emotionally helpful through body language and by being prepared.”

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