Welcome to the Age of Zoom! It’s likely your day now includes at least one – if not back-to-back – video calls. The use of Zoom has increased more than any other brand during the pandemic. In this new way of doing business, the ability to make a virtual impression and build relationships through a screen is an increasingly valuable art and a skill to be cultivated.
Video conferencing is here to stay as most insurers plan to continue offering flexible work options, even as employees return to physical office locations. It’s important for all professionals to be strategic and intentional about how they present themselves on the virtual stage. As you work to effectively portray your four-dimensional self in 2D, there are a number of best practices to keep in mind.
Look the part.
While clutter, pets and background noise may have been acceptable early in the pandemic, these distractions should be minimized as much as possible. Take a fresh look at what others see when you are on screen and the conclusions they may draw before you even speak. Are your bookshelves tidy or overflowing? Is there a way to make your background less busy? Similarly, make sure your clothing and makeup positively reflect your brand and match the meeting’s formality. A jacket, a piece of jewelry or a scarf can punctuate your look and differentiate you.
Be clearly seen and heard.
In addition to what can be tangibly observed, evaluate your lighting. Generally, shadows are best avoided if light sources are behind the camera, illuminating you from the front. If needed, raise your camera to eye level to create a sense of eye contact.
If you are using a video conferencing platform you’re unfamiliar with or have an important meeting or interview scheduled, make sure to test your audio and video quality prior to the meeting. Last-minute hiccups can cause you to join late or derail the conversation as you try to troubleshoot. Logging in early affords the time to make sure everything is working as expected and avoids last minute surprises.
Make your participation count.
Now that you’re ready from an appearance and logistical standpoint, it’s important to effectively participate and make an impact. Remain aware of the other attendees and how you are balancing your own participation. If you are generally outgoing, are you making sure others have an opportunity to speak? Proactively invite individuals into the conversation and pay attention to those who may be less inclined to speak up. On the other hand, if you are more reserved or have difficulty getting a word in, make sure you are armed with a variety of strategies. This may mean raising your literal or virtual hand, typing into the chat function that you have something to add, or simply unmuting yourself.
When you do speak, look directly into the camera, be clear and direct, and allow for pauses after important points. Work to further the conversation toward a common end goal and be gracious for others’ insights and participation. Use hand gestures when appropriate, while being intentional and considering how they will come across to other participants. Your real thumbs up or hands clapping is always a welcomed visual. Keep your hands close to your body to avoid them going off screen or coming across as too large.
And, remember that even when you’re not speaking, you typically still appear on others’ screens. Demonstrate active listening by smiling and nodding when appropriate, focusing on the speaker, and refraining from multitasking. When others are finished, compliment their ideas or ask clarifying questions to help move the conversation forward. If you are running the meeting, aim to start and end on time, or even early, to be respectful of all participants’ schedules and give them the gift of time.
Professionals are adapting to many changes as the business atmosphere evolves. Proper Zoom etiquette is a differentiator and will be met with favorable reviews. By taking a fresh look at how you participate in meetings, being aware of others and polishing your professional appearance, you’ll be as effective as possible on screen, while controlling your own impact and success.