Tired and frustrated by video conference calls? There’s a name for that: Zoom fatigue.
Video calls are uniquely stressful, even when they’re enjoyable. We’re in front of people, but not really with people, and our brains struggle to appropriately receive and send social signals. Not all of us are as quick to adapt and learn the technology. We may be stuck in poorly-led meetings with no clear objective and little effective facilitation.
All of this, when we’re already stressed about job insecurity, disrupted work patterns, income loss, and our or others’ health in a pandemic.
When lockdown hit the US in March, my team and I found ourselves using Zoom more and more to connect with leadership development and executive coaching clients. We began hosting some Zoom webinars and quickly realized that a lot of people were simply unaware of how to use Zoom effectively. Nobody had ever shown them how to use Zoom’s interaction tools, or how changing a few simple settings could have a big impact. I ended up creating an entire online course called Using Zoom Effectively that trains people how to get the most out of Zoom.
Regardless of what platform you or your company uses, there are simple ways to make video calls less stressful. I believe that educators, counselors, consultants, coaches, trainers, and leaders can connect with people, help them interact, teach, and lead effectively—without needing to be in the same room as the people you’re working with.
Here are some tips to give you a better experience and kick Zoom fatigue to the curb:
- Minor audio and video tweaks can go a long way. You don’t need expensive equipment or a world-class home office setup to significantly improve your video conference presence. Here are a few suggestions:
- Position your brightest light source so that it’s shining on your face and not shining from behind you. That way your screen won’t wash out and people can easily see you.
- Try to get your camera at eye level. When I’m on a video call, I put my laptop on top of a small stack of books and use a Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad. This will help you avoid the scrunched-up-chin look.
- Use headphones with a built-in microphone. If you use your phone or laptop’s build-in speakers and microphone, sound will jump from the speakers right back into the mic, creating awful feedback. If you only have normal headphones, check your software settings to route sound through your headphones while using your onboard mic. It will make a big difference.
- Set aside thirty minutes, start a new meeting, and familiarize yourself with all the controls: mute / unmute, screen sharing, where to find and moderate chat, and how to test your audio and video.
- Find ways to make big meetings smaller. Zoom has a feature called “breakout rooms” that allows the host to put participants into smaller virtual rooms of 2 or more people. It can feel stifling to try and get a word in when there are twelve people talking at once. Break up the meeting’s flow by asking an open-ended question, giving people a minute to think silently, and then putting people in random pairs to talk about their ideas. The conversation will flow much more easily once everybody’s back in the meeting.
- Plan for interaction. In addition to breakout rooms, Zoom has chat (group chat and private chat), polling, screen sharing, white boards, and nonverbal reactions. With a little planning, it’s possible to make everybody’s experience a little more interesting by changing up how we interact. Try to avoid getting stuck in the pattern of one person asking the whole group questions—or, what’s worse, one person simply going through a slideshow and asking “Any questions?” at the end of a fifty-minute presentation. Research shows that adult learners need dialogue, questions, reflection time, and various ways to interact with an idea for the concepts to really stick.
Video conferencing gives us the ability to work from anywhere, with anyone, anywhere. With practice, we can reframe this current challenge as an opportunity to learn new ways to connect with people. If you want the full deep dive, check out our online course, but these simple tips should help you have a better experience.