James explains himself: Zoom

I posted this a few days ago. Just for fun, I’m going to elaborate on my four points.

1. Turn off the self-view. Stop staring at yourself…it’s useless.

The self-view — seeing yourself in the Zoom call — is a BAD feature. It makes us terribly self-conscious.

We think about how others are perceiving us, to an unhealthy degree. Do we have a double chin? Why is our lighting so bad? How does our background look?

It’s doubly funny when you start to notice others obviously fixate on themselves. Since it’s a mirror, we naturally do it.

Self-view distracts us and takes us away from the real objective, which is effective communication with others.

There is an argument for having self-view on — to see how you project yourself when you’re speaking. Do I look angry? Happy? Sad? It’s also an important visual cue at the start of the meeting that yes, your camera is on. But most of the time, it’s a distraction.

My number one Zoom feature improvement would be an option to turn the self-view off by default — or automatically turn it off X seconds into the call.

2. Keep both hands showing on camera, so that people can tell you’re listening and not multi-tasking.

This takes a lot of dedication to do but will really improve the quality of Zoom calls.

If everyone paid attention during meetings – either in Zoom or offline – meetings would finish a lot faster and no one would have to repeat themselves. “Sorry, I was multitasking, can you repeat?” is a MAJOR problem…and I’m certainly guilty of that.

The problem with Zoom is that you don’t know how attentive others are. They are staring right at you but also at their screens. Chances are, most of the time they’re working on emails and not paying attention. It’s usually clear from the glazed look they have, staring into the distance, that they aren’t listening.

Hence, the only way to signal that you’re mostly paying attention is to keep both hands raised, or on your chin, or in some position where others can see that you’re not typing something on your keyboard while putting yourself on mute.

3. Smile and nod once in awhile, so people can reasonably believe you’re not a psychopath.

Most people in meetings are multitasking. Hence, they don’t have any visual cues or responses to what is being said.

Inattentiveness demotivates the current speaker and makes them not want to further elaborate their points. It kills the vibe.

The way to navigate this is to show some sort of physical response to what is being said. Did the speaker say something convincing? Nod. Did they say something funny? Smile.

While it’s impossible to be 100% attentive — and internet latency can both delay physical responses AND prevent you from hearing the words in the first place — it’s worth trying to go the extra mile.

I think the future of video conferencing is going to be measuring and projecting the level of attention that others are paying to what is being said in meetings.

There are various ways to go about this, and maybe even a proactive “sorry, I’m multitasking right now” status for attendees is worth attempting.

4. Allow your pets to jump into the frame, for that extra homey feeling.

Tongue-in-cheek, but this has certainly happened to me on occasion 🙂

The point is — we’re spontaneous by nature. Don’t sweat it if something unexpected happens — bad internet connection, pet jumping into view, crying child.

Just embrace uncertainty, understand that perfect photogenic Zoom background and speech is an illusion, and move on.

What are your Zoom tips? Let me know!


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