SUNTIVA LLC / DECEMBER 22, 2020 / BLOG
Zoom Fatigue, the new phrase coined to describe the exhaustion people are reporting after the skyrocket of virtual conferencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is most often the result of virtual engagement gone wrong. Video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom, Webex, GoToMeeting and Adobe Connect, immediately became the solution to creating connections in our work and personal lives — and the default method for overcoming the barriers of working remotely and social distancing.
Keep out of the video vortex
As indispensable as video conferencing tools are, they can’t replicate the nuances of in-person engagement and, in fact, shouldn’t be used to gauge people’s engagement in their work. The nonverbal cues our brains unconsciously rely on in face-to-face conversations aren’t present. There are the added pressures of being on camera — looking our best, looking at ourselves, appearing totally engaged, worrying about our home office space, focusing on people’s faces and the conversation. It can drain the life out of people to have to be “on” again and again, and you may find them zoning out.
To minimize the challenges, identify what you want to get out of the meeting or session and what you want people to take away. Form follows function. Reserve video conferencing for collaborative meetings you would normally have in person, face-to-face. When video isn’t absolutely necessary, other modes can be used — a phone call, conference call, email or a team collaboration tool, such as Microsoft Teams, Basecamp, Google Docs, Trello or Slack.
Use your skills and the right tool
The fundamentals and foundational practices of leading effective meetings apply to high-tech sessions, too. These tips below can help prevent Zoom Fatigue and yield high-quality virtual interaction and engagement.
- Identify and communicate the meeting’s purpose and goal
Using the decision matrix below, identify the best communication strategy for your intended purpose and goal. Remember, virtual meetings are not the answer for gauging employee engagement and availability. Virtual meetings are the way to go for real-time discussion and collaboration when there is a clear focus. Communicate clearly why this meeting/training/session is being held and the expected outcome. Especially for video conferencing, it’s essential to be hyper-vigilant about the focus of the meeting and the expected outcomes to keep people engaged.
- Set the agenda and the time
Maximize the use of your time, but don’t try to do it all in one meeting. Cramming too much into one meeting will zap energy. When necessary, use ice-breakers, transitions and wrap-ups to your advantage to encourage interaction. Think about how you want to get information shared and how you want input to be provided during the meeting — entire group, breakouts, polls, chat, follow-ups.
- Identify who needs to be there and why
Video conferencing platforms can host large numbers of attendees, but the fact is, those who will benefit the most are the ones with active roles. Determine who needs to be engaged, and why do they need to be there. Attendees should know ahead of time what is expected of them during the meeting and how they are expected to engage.
- Identify the right materials and tools for virtual use
With the all the visual and auditory aspects of a virtual session, you have to be sure your support materials don’t become additional noise. Well-designed visuals will keep a focus on the topic. Use visuals that are crisp and to the point. Avoid wordy PowerPoint slides that will cause participants to start reading and stop listening. It’s also wise to use a timer because when participants get engaged in conversation, it’s very easy to lose track of time.
- Use a producer, co-host and possibly a facilitator
It’s difficult for most people to run the technical components of a virtual meeting while running the meeting. Enlist the aid of a producer or co-host who is skilled in the tool or platform you’ll be using. It can be challenging to keep the conversation on track when you’re also participating in the discussion. That’s where a trained facilitator can help, by keeping the meeting on point and driving engagement.
- Evaluate – what is working well and what isn’t
After the meeting, review what transpired and assess what helped the meeting flow and what may have posed barriers. Ask a few people for honest feedback on how the meeting went and for suggestions for improvement.
If you need support, Suntiva is here for you.
Suntiva is very experienced at using virtual platforms since we’ve been hosting these types of meetings, trainings and engagement sessions for years. Our team understands how to create them in ways that replicate an in-person environment by promoting interaction, small group discussions, brainstorming, sharing of information, collaboration, trust-building, collegiality and more. We don’t just take something that was meant for an in-person meeting and try to deliver it remotely. We design our programs for virtual delivery from the start to maximize participation and engagement. If you’d like our help, contact us today.
Written by Carla Minor