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Re-write: Zoom In!

One favorite line in the "Wayne's World" Saturday Night Live sketches and their movies is, "Unnecessary Zoom!" Today, that phrase takes on a new meaning if you have had your life enhanced (and consumed) by video-conferences.

Two weeks ago I met Abe Smith, Head of International for Zoom. I met Abe–how else?–on Zoom. I really enjoyed our meeting and love his mission: "We're in the business of connecting businesses through video and delivering happiness."

I mentioned that I'm writing a book for distributed teams. When I said I'd be including a section on helping people use Zoom, he said, "You don't really need extensive training to use Zoom." He added that it's super-intuitive. That's one of the reasons Zoom's founder, Eric Yuan, left Cisco/WebEx–he wanted an easier platform, and one that was as stable or better than FaceTime.

Abe's right. Zoom's easy to set up and easy to use, but it's not about the technology, it's about the people communicating (or miscommunicating) on Zoom and other platforms.

I've received complaints due to the lack of skills people are "demonstrating" on video conferences. These include: lack of preparation; lack of understanding how and when to mute; rushing through poorly created slides; and a whole host of other issues that all can be summed up under one umbrella: "Lack of professional communication skills." We touched last time on why being clear with your communication goals is crucial, and there are several more considerations.

First, there's culture. "I'm Japanese so I'm shy to show my face." If you've agreed to reduce bandwidth by shutting off your video, that's one thing; but if you're going to be speaking to the group, and the meeting is called a "video conference," then it's best to turn on your camera. And position it to show not your nostrils, or the top of your head, or a ceiling fan. Use good lighting. Cut down on echo by using a headset.

Some other complaints I'll share so no one will be complaining about you doing them: Lack of building rapport; delivering a presentation and failing to put it into Presentation Mode; speakers and participants not asking questions or looking into their cameras; and one that particularly bothers some: the frantic head-nodding and double-hand waving at the end of the call, as if participants are sending loved ones off on a month's long cruise.

Video etiquette is still in its early stages. Still, you can improve performance by keeping your audience in mind: Speak clearly, and briefly; ask questions; paraphrase; summarize. Ask someone to take notes during the meeting, then post them. If you finish in less time than the meeting has been planned for, end it! And survey for feedback in order to improve the next meeting.

A lot of missteps people are making are the same ones we've seen and heard when it comes to presenting yourself at any kind of meeting. Issues with slides, clarity, and engagement. And it's harder to keep paying attention while sitting in front of a screen. So let's ramp up our professional communication skills and apply them to video conferences, and add in some necessary new tech skills too.

If we do, then in addition to the necessary Zooms, we'll be able to shout with Garth and Wayne: "Party on! Excellent!"

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