Video conferencing has replaced the face-to-face social encounters we are all sorely missing these days. Happy hours, birthday parties, classrooms, business meetings, psychotherapy appointments, Mah Jong games, Passover Seders and fitness classes have all moved online so people can feel some sort of “BC” (Before Covid) normalcy. Zoom interactions are our new reality.
Attitude is everything in life, even in a virtual environment, which is why it is so important to work on your Zoomitude. Many people have a negative attitude towards Zoom meetings or gatherings, avoiding them for various reasons. Faces arranged in a grid on a screen is weirdly reminiscent of the game show “Hollywood Squares.” People often feel self-conscious, not only about how they look, but about using the technology. It can be difficult to master the audio and video controls, figure out the chat room or even worse, the Share Screen functionality. On top of all that, there is the challenge of uneven internet connectivity. Distortions and delays inherent in video communication can make people overly anxious. As a result, even people who enjoyed in-person conversations in “BC” times can become reticent to speak up on Zoom calls or participate in breakout groups.
This is where having a great Zoomitude makes all the difference. For now, Zoom and other online meeting apps are as good as it gets, so we might as well learn how to use them to communicate effectively. Just don’t forget that patience is a virtue when it comes to learning the ins and outs of new technologies. As you become more familiar with the tech, your Zoomitude will grow by leaps and bounds!
One great way to build up your Zoomitude is to make a little extra effort to look and sound your best. First, make sure your face is well lit, the setting is quiet and the room visually decluttered. For the most flattering view, your camera should be about eye level. The good news is that there are tips for women’s hair and makeup easily found online. Remember that microphones exaggerate distractions from barking dogs and jangly jewelry.
Given all the different variables that can complicate virtual communication, it’s wise to give a bit of thought as to what you want to say in advance. Here are some tips for effective communication that will improve your Zoomitude:
- If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else. Sometimes, it’s fine to just make a call or send an email, but if your group has to make a decision that needs discussion, make sure everyone has all the necessary information in advance. And have someone skilled in facilitation to ensure everyone has had a chance to speak, that a decision is made, and the rationale is summarized.
- Brevity is the soul of wit. I’ve found that 30 or 60 minutes of a “check in” is often all that’s needed to maintain the human connection. Visuals allow for a certain shorthand because we’re all seeing the same thing. Maybe have a participant use the share screen functionality to display a favorite cartoon or video during a Zoom call. People can react to it, share a relevant anecdote, and voila! Times up!
- Human beings are social creatures. Zoom social gatherings can keep us connected. We each have special people who lift us up, whether friends, family, or both. Let’s agree that we’ve missed those in person get-togethers for holidays and special occasions, book clubs, political events, bridge and yoga classes. The time spent on Zoom can make up for lost time, deepening or establishing relationships. Share the lessons you have personally learned from sheltering in place. Establish a regular meet up time with friends for a “Wine with Whining!” When you each feel free enough to share memorable anecdotes and even worries and complaints, you’ll gain a sense that you’re not alone.
- Need to break up or make up? Avoid having a negative, difficult, or emotional conversation on Zoom, especially during the holidays. Conversations like that are best done privately and not in a group video situation. Sometimes tensions can work themselves out magically during a “time-out.”
The irony is that, despite its challenges, mastering Zoom technology can benefit us in the long run. It forces us to communicate more clearly and learn new skills. Once we all can meet together in person again, we’ll appreciate all the non-verbal nuances of conversations we previously took for granted: gestures, touch, and the twinkle in your friend’s eye. Until then, don’t be afraid to master your Zoomitude in order to stay connected with others.