Recently, I purchased a one year licence to use Zoom, a video conferencing service. I had experienced it prior to purchasing it and I liked the opportunity to interact with many people while being able to see them. For years I have used conference call lines for large groups; I now plan to replace that with Zoom.
On a recent Zoom call, I was keenly aware of both the opportunities and the challenges of a video call. Since I have a huge orientation to look at the positive in everything, I noticed the opportunities first:
- being able to see people allows for a much more intimate connection with them
- when facilitating a call, you can see people raise their hand when they want to speak, rather than dealing with the constant 'uh...' 'ih...' 'oh...' sounds as people try to get a word in edgewise on a phone call
- you notice 'how' the person looks as they are sharing information, and as they are listening; as you would in a live conversation, you can stop and check in with people regularly
- when people know they are being seen, they are less likely to 'multi-task' while on the call and are more 'fully present' for the time to which they have committed
- there is less noise overall - since people are not multi-tasking and moving objects around their desk - and Zoom has a simple way to mute people who might have some external noise in their environment
The challenges only occurred to me after using Zoom for awhile:
- people's faces can be distracting! If someone is looking frustrated or unhappy, it can distract everyone else from the task at hand
- actually, that is the only challenge I have encountered with Zoom - other than the fact that with a video call you have to be dressed!
It got me thinking...do they see what I see? Are people aware of 'what's written all over their face'?
After another Zoom call, I reached out to two people who I thought looked very frustrated for the duration of the call. Given the nature of the group, and the sensitivity in many of the relationships, I decided to reach out to these people individually after the call, rather than checking in with them during the call. Both replied relatively similarly, identifying exhaustion, overwork, and other factors unrelated to the topic of our call, as the cause of their frustrated-looking faces.
I began to wonder how aware I am of 'what's written all over my face' when I am on a Zoom call, in a meeting or participating in a workshop? Since I do not 'see' myself from others' perspectives, I might be communicating something to others in the room that does not reflect the message I would like to send to them.
So, what can we each do to ensure that we are sending the right non-verbal messages at the right time to the right people. I recommend this three-step process that I have been using successfully over the last few weeks:
- Far ahead of the call, meeting, or workshop (the face to face exchange), take two minutes to remind yourself of why you are going to be there. What is your purpose? Perhaps your purpose is to gather information from a group of people so that you can provide better value for them.
- In the two minutes before the face to face exchange, ask yourself how your answer to #1 would appear to other people who will be looking at you? What will they see? If you are asking these people to share information with you, you likely want them to see caring and curiosity in your eyes, openness in your smile and your gestures, encouragement in your voice.
- Behave (look) like you are curious, caring, open and encouraging. Just 'be' those things you want others to 'see'. What does caring look like? How about openness?
Taking a few minutes in your busy day to think about your purpose, or your outcome, can help you create the kind of environment that will serve that purpose...rather than unwittingly wearing a 'face' that moves you away from what you truly want to create.