Zooom if you want to…..zoom around the world! For some reason, every time I hear the phrase, “Zoom” my head puts it to the music of the 1989 B-52’s song, Roam. That’s completely irrelevant except to say that “Zooming” has officially become as much of a verb as “Google” by providing an avenue for people around the world to keep on meeting and conducting business.
We can’t honestly say “business as usual” because – let’s face it, it’s anything but usual. Many of us are now working from home, which would be fine, except that many of our kids are right there beside us, schooling from home, which adds some complication to our days. On top of that, there’s just a different tone in the world, in our atmospheres, which affects everyone. Things are just “off.”
We find ourselves attempting to maintain a sense of normalcy, like getting out of bed at a decent hour in spite of the hours of Netflix binging we accidentally couldn’t stop until the wee hours. Then scraping together meals for our kids and making sure they’re on top of their assignments while checking our phones to make sure we haven’t missed a critical email or meeting update. And when, God-forbid, a call does come in, the hilarious efforts we make to sound professional while still wearing our comfy pants and bed-head, hands frantically shooing our screeching offspring into a different room so it sounds less like we’re in the middle of the Chick-Fil-A play area and more like in the “zone of serious business.”
But since this whole Pandemic has shifted our “normal” into something new, we might as well make lemonade with those lemons. Every cloud has a silver lining… and all that. I confess, I actually love the forced solitude and isolation. If you can call it isolation when you’re surrounded by 6 kids, a dog, a cat, and your husband is working from the 3rd floor guest room. Anytime I’m told NOT to go out, I can get behind that. Loading and unloading 6 kids (including an infant) in and out of a car multiple times is basically herding “feral” cats times 10.
Back to that lemonade-making. In spite of the literal masks we wear while out, the gloves we put on to handle produce at the grocery store, the 6-foot berth we give each other (please pay attention to all floor markings), we find in the midst of this distancing that we are able to maintain a sense of connection through Zoom meetings. In fact, the real question may be – What CAN’T you Zoom? My kids have made piano lessons, cello lessons, youth group, etc. work over Zoom, not to mention work meetings, doctor appointments and consultations. Company staff meetings are possible over Zoom…client meetings….It’s a Zoom world.
So, is this all just intuitive? These Zoom meetings? You just hop on the call and Bob’s-Your-Uncle, we’re back in business? Maybe. However, do you use video when you’ve literally rolled out of bed 3 minutes before the call commences with your hair sticking up in 90 different directions? And let’s face it, no one’s hair is looking its best these days with hair salons shut down. Your cute pixie just became a mullet and where did those sideburns come from? Everyone’s roots, grey hairs and split ends are shining loud and proud. So, do you slap on a cap and slump in front of your screen or just go audio on this one?
Here are some pointers for becoming “Zoom-Saavy:”
- Be on time. Do yourself a favor and stop hitting Snooze on your phone. There’s nothing worse than making small talk over Zoom waiting for all the parties to log in.
- Audio or Video? This may depend on factors beyond your control, or you may just really feel uncomfortable interacting with a screen and prefer to participate behind a screen. Depending upon your level of interaction or participation on the call, an audio presence may be wholly appropriate. As an adult, you can certainly decide for yourself. Just bear in mind that your presence is often more impactful when people can see you.
- Pay attention to your setting. Setting includes background and lighting. Curbed.com is offering images of curated designer homes as downloads to use as Zoom backgrounds. While that seems a bit extreme to me, some basic concepts can be helpful here. Pick a background that isn’t too busy and distracting. Don’t let your piles of laundry in the background show up on your screen. Utilize natural light, but don’t put your back to a window and don’t put yourself in shadow. If you’re worried about not looking your best, Zoom has a feature called “Touch Up My Appearance” that’s not quite a filter, but a softener. In “Video Settings” just click “Touch Up My Appearance.”
- Camera Angle. The positioning of your phone or laptop makes more of a difference to your appearance than whether your hair is fixed or you’re wearing makeup. A camera angle pointing up at your chin is not going to be a good look. Set your camera or laptop so that it’s meeting you at eye level and perhaps sit back a bit. Just don’t get so far back that you become a speck in your background. And pay attention to what’s on your screen – try to get less of your ceiling fan and more of you, the person. After all, it’s your eyes that are windows to your soul, not your nostrils.
- Pay attention to your hands. As we have been told numerous times in the COVID-19 world we are living in, we all have a habit of unconsciously touching our mouth, eyebrows, glasses or face. If you are talking, this is very distracting to other participants. Place your hands in your lap or folded on a table in front of you and use them strategically for consciously gesturing or making a point.
- Lighting. As we previously mentioned, don’t back up to a window no matter how much you love sunlight. Equally as important is not to hide all or half your face in a shadow. Place the best light source behind your phone or laptop so that your face is comfortably illuminated.
- Master the Mute. If you’re not speaking, mute yourself. But don’t forget to un-mute when you talk! No one likes to have a mime on Zoom.
- Eye Contact. While this is not a factor when a room full of individuals is on one screen, for individuals Zooming in, don’t be weirded out that you’re talking to a computer. Know where your camera is and look at it, in order to make eye contact with your audience.
- Practice. Nothing can take the place of practice to make you feel comfortable and confident while on Zoom meetings.
Hopefully, these are some practical pointers that can make your virtual meetings more effective. Even if we find ourselves released from our “shelter at home” orders and social distancing measures in the next few weeks or months, there’s no guarantee we won’t find ourselves dealing with a similar situation in the future and it’s good to know we have a communication medium that we understand and can feel comfortable using. Plus, these Zoom interactions with other humans give you a chance to smile with your whole face – not just your eyes while wearing your homemade mask!