Physicalize Your Online Presence

Are you done with Zoom? Tapped out meeting remotely? Ready for 2020 to be over? We can all relate.

Step Into My Office

I’ve been using Zoom as my online meeting platform for at least a couple of years now. Before 2020, clients and colleagues would use the audio option much more frequently than video. But in March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, people in my virtual world started sharing their video and offering a gentle invitation into their personal space. The beginnings of meetings were less cursory than in the pre-COVID era and folks spent more time sharing some of their challenges and gratitudes too.

Zoom Fatigue

But I’ve noticed another shift in the way people are presenting themselves now in online meetings, and maybe you have too. For a start, there are more curated backgrounds, designed to maintain some sense of privacy or boundary between personal and professional life. There’s a weariness in people’s presence and a palpable sense of energy depletion.

And the circulation is increasing of Zoom bloopers and fails. I’m sure you’ve experienced those too and if not, you’ll have seen them on the wonderweb. I was recently in a meeting where one of the attendees wrote something derogatory in the chat about another participant and broadcast it to everyone in the meeting. Oops…

For all the actual, widely publicized bloopers out there, my personal favorite is still Olive and Mabel: The Company Meeting.

We might be somewhat tired of living life online but virtual is here to stay. So we are going to have to figure out how to maintain an energetic presence on Zoom whilst also preserving our energy.

Physicalize Your Presence

Eleanor Handley, a communications expert in New York, notes that communication requires movement and a degree of physicality that we take for granted in daily life. We literally imprint information with our bodies. For instance, in a physical work environment, as we move through different spaces and scenarios (from one office to another, from work-desk to coffee room) and talk to different people in those spaces, we not only break up the day with movement but process and store social and emotional information in what Handley calls our mental filing cabinets. When we are not moving from one physical space to another—in the work-from-home alongside partners, roommates, children—that information is not being efficiently processed.

Handley offers 3 tips for optimizing your online communication and reducing the mental and emotional stress of virtual overwhelm.

1. Use Your Body to Emphasize What You Want to Say

Consider standing when you are in an online meeting. When you stand to speak, you gesticulate more and so move the body—an important consideration when we are all sitting for even longer than in our pre-COVID worlds. You also use your breath more efficiently when you stand versus when you sit. This combination of subtle movement and breath efficiency can help you more effectively make the points you want to say. I stand a LOT in my office, especially when I am interviewing folks for qualitative research projects. Standing helps me stay grounded and alert, practice active listening, and vocalize clearly.

2. Use Voice Only

Not all meetings need to be online. In an online video environment, it’s easy to become distracted by the myriad visual cues (the multiple boxed heads, the virtual screens, the dogs/cats/children in the background). This can be exhausting in itself and make it really challenging to listen and contribute to discussion in a meaningful way. No wonder we feel overloaded. Sometimes audio is better than being on video, depending on the goals of the meeting. Using voice only meeting options or the phone (remember the phone?) can increase your attentiveness and ability to listen actively (see #1).

3. Practice Out Loud

Whether you are making a phone call or participating in a video meeting, if you have key points you need to make or want to contribute, practice saying them out loud first. Handley calls the ear an incredible editor and notes that practicing out loud is a great way to build muscle memory and imprint information. It’s also a terrific way to test how succinct your communication style is. In an online context, succinct is sweet.

You can hear more of Handley’s tips here in her conversation with Ilise Benun on the Marketing Mentor podcast.