PRESENTING YOUR BEST SELF ON ZOOM, SKYPE AND VIDEO CONFERENCE
MEETING PROTOCOL DURING COVID-19
A naked woman is the last thing you expect to see when you dial in for a Zoom video conference. But this is a true story…
Now working from home, company Z’s sales team has scheduled an important pitch meeting via Zoom video conference. Some of the key participants are meeting for the first time and are unfamiliar with virtual meeting protocol and the technical aspects.
Ten minutes into the meeting, the prospective client unexpectedly stands up and begins to undress. The meeting host is flustered. Can everyone see this? Does she see herself in the tiny little box on the screen? Yikes. Now she’s pulling off her top. Everyone else is frozen, still on mute. It’s happening so fast. What to say without mortifying her?
The woman unhooks her bra, still listening intently and completely oblivious. Seconds before the full reveal, the moderator ends the call, plunging the screen into darkness and… sort of saving the day. And hopefully the account.
Meetings, job and media interviews, board meetings, performance reviews, new business pitches and presentations are all migrating to the internet, until we can beat COVID-19 into submission.
Now more than ever, with people working from home and “social distancing” in full force, you need to be prepared to present your best self through a small screen.
But the rules of engagement are slightly different online. And you might need to establish your own rules for meeting online.
How can you avoid being a version of the topless woman? Are you ready to overcome triple chin perspective, darting eyes, bent-neck syndrome, over-exposed screen, filler words, bored face, bad sound quality and “flying-bird hands?” (Yes, that’s a thing.)
None of this is rocket science, but as someone who teaches clients how to present themselves in various communications situations, here are a few quick pointers to keep in mind when doing business over Skype, Zoom or any video conference platform.
BEFORE THE MEETING STARTS:
HEAD ROOM – Don’t be a tiny head on a big screen! Before you go live, ensure you have the LEAST amount of space around your head and check your camera angles. Own as much of the screen as you can without cutting off the top of your head. And be sure to test the audio connection and camera angle.
LIGHTING – Consistent, bright lighting is key. Make sure you aren’t backlit. Overhead lights are helpful as are desk lamps on either side to make sure your eyes don’t become black holes. If you have a window in front of you, that can also work well.
BACKGROUND – We want to focus on what you’re saying, not where you are sitting. Plain walls and less distraction behind you are best, so don’t worry about your flower arrangement and make sure your towel-clad boyfriend isn’t in view as he walks out of the bathroom! If you’re set up properly, we shouldn’t be able to see much of anything in the background. White walls are perfect!
SOUND QUALITY – Given the choice between a better picture and better sound quality– sound wins every time. For meetings, hearing you is usually more important than seeing you. Carpeted rooms help muffle noises and head phones or earbuds amplify and focus your voice.
EYE CONTACT – Elevate your laptop on books or a stand to bring it to eye level (and minimize triple chin). Look directly at the camera on your laptop or iPad. Even if you are not “on,” or speaking at that moment, behave as if we can see you at all times and don’t look away for long periods of time. Resist the urge to multi-task. It’s obvious when people check their phone or read emails on the screen during a video call. And don’t even think about creating a video loop of yourself listening! Stay engaged, you can’t fool us.
SEATING CHOICE – Don’t choose a chair that swivels. When you move, you look fidgety, distracted or bored. Minimize use of hand gestures when you speak and ensure that bits of fingers or whole hands don’t fly in and out of the tight screen like scared birds.
HOT MIC – Once you connect to the meeting, think of your microphone and camera as always on. Avoid making stray or private comments before people join. Keep yourself on mute and only go off mute when you’re speaking. We don’t need to hear the toilet flush.
BODY LANGUAGE – Your body language sends critical non-verbal cues that shape your credibility and likeability. With a video conference, the box is very tight. You are trying to project tone, message, emotion or conviction largely through facial expressions.
- Straight Head – When speaking, hold your head straight and avoid cocking it to the side. You can tilt it back slightly, but too much is arrogant. Don’t be a bobblehead either.
- Nervous Gestures – Avoid gestures that suggest anxiety or excess energy. Lifting or flipping hair, touching your collar, over smiling, licking lips or other repetitive movements can distract from your message. Know what your gestures are and try to scrub them.
- Pauses are Powerful – The faster you talk, the less authoritative you appear to your audience. Speak slowly and use the power of the pause for extra gravitas and control. Effective pauses allow you to gather your thoughts and sound much more intelligent than filler words like “um” and “uh.”
You can still do your business, even though it isn’t business as usual…
THOUGHTS ON PROTOCOL
- Acknowledge that everyone is stressed right now, no one is exempt. These are extra-ordinary circumstances. Working from home we will hear doorbells and dogs, kids being home-schooled. They can provide much-needed moments of humor.
- Depending on your business and corporate culture, you might tell your team to treat internal and external meetings differently. Internal can be informal. External facing might require people dress more professionally ( at least from the waist up.) Dressing for the part puts your head in the game.
- Keep meetings short. If possible, hand time back to people. If you have an hour scheduled, tell them up front you are going to try to do this in 30 minutes, since everyone is stressed.
- Use those first few minutes while everyone is getting on the call to connect people in this isolating time. Spend a few minutes around the virtual “water cooler” before you jump right in.
- If you are going to turn off your video camera and just use audio, tell the participants before the meeting begins. Otherwise we will see your face disappear and wonder why. Audio only is not appropriate in small meetings. It is acceptable for large meetings and/or if you are mostly there just to listen in.
- Don’t be a “listening lurker.” Most video conference platforms alert the group when someone joins or drops off. Your movements are being tracked and reported to all.
INTERVIEWS & PRESENTATIONS – YOU ARE IN CONTROL:
The most important thing about any interview or speaking situation is to recognize that YOU HAVE CONTROL.
Think of it like driving a car. You have the ability to take the audience/meeting where YOU want to go.
- Internalize your key message points
- Develop a concise and simple way to deliver them
- Have some illustrative examples or anecdotes
- Use a mirror or tape yourself with your cell phone to critique your delivery.
- Practice makes perfect and we all know this one….failing to prepare is preparing to fail!
For more information and tips about media and speaking training, contact me at leewoodruff.com/executive-media-and-presentation-training
Lee Woodruff Speaker-Author-Executive Media Trainer