How To Have Effective Zoom Meetings (and Make Them Less Boring!)

*Forwarded from Feedly*

How To Have Effective Zoom Meetings (and Make Them Less Boring!)

Written by: RSM Discovery, Contributor

Online meetings have become a necessary evil. While some people don’t seem to mind working from home on a purely virtual basis, many of us certainly miss the face-to-face interactions and are keen for working life to get back to normal. But even after the COVID-19 crisis, it’s likely the future of work will be a hybrid of traditional and virtual practices, meaning it is likely that we’ll still be engaging in yet more online meetings after the crisis has passed.

Zoom meeting


Whilst the purpose of the video call is to close the physical gap between people and boost social interaction, for many, the endless Zoom meetings, virtual team-building events and video conferences are becoming tiresome, exhausting and draining, rather than shaking us out of our solitude and filling us with energy (although there certainly are exceptions).

So, what’s going wrong? What are some of the causes that make these online meetings so exhausting?

The Missed Cues

One key problem is that we’re no longer able to effectively read body language. We, as Presence practitioner experts, have been teaching Presence offline (face-to-face) for years, and can detect in mere seconds which participants are engaged, enthused, resistant, tired, confused etc. However, as we’ve been teaching online for at least a year now, even we have noticed how hard it is to read non-verbal cues through a screen/video link. It is even harder for managers whose expertise lie in running their organizations and teams, and not in analysing body language. We miss so much vital information in online meetings, that we readily have available when meeting people face-to-face, that we are unable to recognize when to change our approach to better engage others or respond effectively to those we are conversing with. This can be confusing and exhausting for all involved.

The Mirror: Imagine having a meeting or giving a presentation and those you’re communicating with are holding a huge mirror next to them where you can see yourself on full display? How odd and disconcerting would that be?! Well, that is exactly what is happening in our online meetings. We can always see ourselves, however small the screen may be, and it’s unnatural and unsettling – not to mention highly distracting.

The Brady Bunch grid: Online meetings have another unnatural aspect in that we’re forced to stare directly at each other’s faces for the entire duration of the meeting, and see a grid of our colleagues/other speakers staring at us too. Not only is this discomforting but the requirement to remain to be seen as engaged, focused and undistracted at all times is also exhausting.

Multitasking: We find this, perhaps, the hardest part of online communication; the temptation to look at, and respond to the many online notifications popping up in front of our faces. Those delightful plings and chimes that accompany a new text, email or twitter alert cry for our attention, and most of us are only too willing to give it its due, quickly looking away from the camera to a second screen or a separate web page opened furtively in the corners of our screens. Once that happens it’s all too easy to lose the thread of the discussion going on around you. As the speaker leading the meeting it can be particularly disconcerting. Unless the light suddenly changes or we see furtive glances from participants, we have no idea what they’re doing or looking at, and if they’re really paying attention to the presentation we’re giving. 

So, what exactly can you do to make your virtual meetings more effective and engaging? What are some easy to apply methods to infuse yourself and others with some much-needed energy and focus for yet another video call? In our new book Leading with Presence: Fundamental Tools and Insights for Impactful, Engaging Leadership, besides extensively focusing on Presence, the book also identifies a number of ways in which you can help to prevent the dreaded Zoom fatigue and re-energize your online meetings. Here we outline five practical solutions: 

  1. Don’t slump

Try to have alignment while you’re sitting in front of your laptop. As we’re all sitting at makeshift desks and dining tables these days, the tendency is for many to slump and, as a result, we have terrible posture while working online. The effects are debilitating not only for yourself, but also for others. Your breathing suffers from a slumped posture, and so does your voice, but also, others will read your posture as being non-engaged, non-committed, non-motivated etc. It certainly won’t help when you’re trying to rally your team or convince an important stakeholder. Think – when presenting in person you wouldn’t do so whilst casually seated. Sit up, align yourself, keep your neck long and relaxed and speak with purpose.

  1. Look into the camera

Want to make someone feel that you’re really talking to them? Then we recommend looking into the camera, and not at the screen. While this can be a little off-putting for you and take a while to master, the effects are significant. We have yet to find a real way to emulate eye-contact in the virtual realm besides looking into the camera. While you will lose some information at times because you’re not constantly watching the reaction of your audience, you will benefit from forming a much stronger connection with those you’re speaking to. And please, if you have two screens, don’t look sideways at the other screen for the entire meeting; it’s very unnerving for the others! 

  1. Put your camera at eye level

No one likes looking up your nose, or wants to feel that you’re looking down at them, but we see this happen all too often. As well as being visually unflattering, it hinders your ability to communicate effectively, and lessens both your Presence and your connection with those you’re trying to communicate with online.

  1. Try to animate your face and body

As we all tend to have that concentrated face while working online (that tends to look very expressionless), and we are looking at headshots of each other, the most prominent tools you have to express yourself besides your words, are your voice, your facial expressions and gestures – so use them to your advantage! You’ll have to make your gestures a bit higher than you normally would to have them come into view of the camera (and it may feel a little silly ay first) but doing this is a really effective way of better communicating your message and keeping the attention of those you’re speaking with.

  1. Use your voice optimally.

We often forget just how powerful our voices can be, and how influential they are when delivering a message. When you’re reading your child a bedtime story or regaling your friends with the tale of an adventure you’ve had, you typically use elements such as emphasis, tempo, your register and vocal coloring but, in the office setting and especially online, we somehow lose this awareness and do not use these potent vocal tools. So, when speaking online, be sure to use enough vocal variety. For example, slow your speaking tempo down when giving new information, use the lower register of your voice to convey importance (when we’re nervous or tired we often tend to jump into our higher registers – lower tones are often much more convincing). Doing this can greatly enhance your message, especially online and certainly when the cameras are turned off. 

We don’t know what the rest of this year will have in store for all of us, and while we hope we can freely meet up with each other and get back to some semblance of normalcy, working remotely and online is here to stay. Thinking about ways how to make your meetings and presentations more active, engaging and energetic is therefore of vital importance. So, when you’ve had your umpteenth meeting of the day and have trouble focusing and keeping the energy going; sit upright, align yourself, take some nice deep breaths and use facial expressions, gestures, and the power of your voice and you’ll find that you’ll be conducting a very different meeting!


About the authors 

Antonie T. Knoppers is a trainer, coach, facilitator, guest speaker and actor. He is an adjunct faculty member at the Rotterdam School of Management and a guest faculty member at Nyenrode University and the University of Maastricht.

Milly Obdeijn is a trainer and somatic coach with a performance and teaching background in dance. She is an adjunct faculty member at the Rotterdam School of Management.

Steffen R. Giessner is Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Change at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University.

The book; “Leading with Presence: Fundamental Tools and Insights for Impactful, Engaging Leadership” is published by Emerald Publishing, and available to buy from 1st March 2021:

EmeraldinsightEmerald: Title Detail: Leading with Presence by Antonie T. Knoppers

via Forbes – Leadership “”

March 4, 2021 at 06:00AM

Posted in

Dr. Sharon Lamm-Hartman