As featured on 6 Feet Apart: Link to article
Dreading your next zoom call whether it’s with co-workers or even family and friends? Here are some expert tips for breaking the awkward silence and having things run more smoothly, all while of course, looking your best.
Is it just me, or does it seem like every event under the sun is pivoting to virtual right now? With most of us have been spending the majority of our time at home since the shut down in March, did you know that Zoom Fatigue is actually a “thing”?
To combat waning attention spans and keep people engaged, it’s important to consider how to best present yourself on camera and how to build maximum engagement into your virtual conversations with friends, family and colleagues.
Just as you would want to look your best when going out of the house, you should view virtual meetings the same way and let others know you are practicing self-care even if things are really tough right now. It doesn’t matter if it’s a business talk, a virtual date or just a family chat.
Tips and Tricks To Help You Look and Sound Your Best on Camera
Make sure you position yourself so those you are zooming with can see the upper 1/3 of your body. Framing from the shoulders up at eye level with your body centered is most visually appealing.
Consider an area that has consistent abundant light (unlike light coming from a window which can change and force you to have to move midway through your zoom). Take the time to properly light yourself with two light sources, one for your face and one to diffuse shadows, to make yourself stand-out.
The next time you host a meeting, make sure to silence all audio channels that you don’t want to hear from. Attendees will still have the ability to chime in when they want by utilizing zoom’s hand raising feature. You will be prompted to unmute them so they can be heard and can mute them again once they’re finished.
Once you have done everything on your end of the stream to present yourself well, it’s time to think ahead about how to lead others in positive virtual interactions. Consider taking an inventory of your social groups’ unique skill sets: hobbies, musical talents, book interests, favorite vacation spots, sports interest background, alma maters, decorating choices, dating styles and more. Then put together a list of ideas to share with them. For starters, consider the relatives you know that are stuck inside alone or unable to go out at all. This includes Grandparents and elderly friends you know that are desperately in need of companionship and fun. For all of your relationships, come up with a game plan.
Simple Suggestions For A Successful Zoom
Strategies for Virtual Visits with Grandparents
The next time your child gets on Facetime or Zoom with grandma or grandpa, prep them in advance to talk about memories that will recall happy thoughts around subjects of mutual interest across generations. There is a book called Grandmother or Grandfather Remembers that I strongly recommend because it is filled with pages of fun questions for the grandparent to respond to in full sentences. You could easily come up with your own questions for free, but filling out a book like this is a priceless treasure for you, your child or grandchild to cherish forever as a keepsake. It sparks memories and helps ignite conversation about meaningful topics. It includes questions like, “Grandma, did you have a favorite pet as a kid?” “Grandma, what was your first date with grandpa?”
Zoom parties and Happy Hours with Family and Friends
Before your next Zoom call, prompt everyone that will be participating to start off with a short positive message about something professional or personal that is good news happening in their life right now. It’s amazing how that quick burst of positivity and gratitude at the beginning of a call can change the entire course of the conversation.
Recommend that your guests bring to the call
A favorite motivational quote, poem or book suggestion.
High school or college specific clothes or branded clothing from their favorite sports team. Discuss one of their favorite recallable memories that shirt or clothing brings to mind.
Recipes and sources: family, cookbook, internet, etc.
Favorite music: albums or artists that influenced them most.
Favorite movies, actors or comedians. Share funny or powerful clips.
A list of favorite pet names and memories.
A vivid childhood friend’s mutual memory.
A favorite object or possession in your home to “show and tell” about.
Current sports team trivia
Name of their favorite professor or teacher and why
A home video past or present that everyone will enjoy seeing.
A honeymoon memory, location or romantic occasion.
Baby, prom, senior year, Homecoming or reunion photos.
Performance photos from a play, show, concert, recital, gymnastics or dance performance.
Kids sports photos. “Here’s dad playing Little League.”
List of anyone in the family that has a military connection and description of what their training was like. Honor that person’s service.
Travel logs, favorite family trips over the years or reunions with friends, etc. (bring pictures) or discuss “bucket list” future vacations complete with photos.
Ideas For Pre-planned Virtual Activities
Dancing tutorials and participation
“We’ll be learning and practicing a virtual line dance together in the backyard at 6 pm.”
Creative mask making, painting, potted plant decorating, etc.
Tell everyone to go around their house and collect an item they can donate to charity (canned goods, or other items). Do a show and tell of those items and arrange a time and date to retrieve them or drop them off together. Or work on making hygiene kits for healthcare workers or virtual school kits for students, etc.
Have each person share an old fashion book report on an interesting relative or historical person. Who was the most interesting person in your family tree?
Create a fun video montage with little snippets from a variety of relatives around a specific subject. “Here’s grandpa’s advice about building a fence.” “Here’s three words of advice on how to succeed in college.”
Share memorabilia or art around your house
“See this oil painting? I bought it from a little street vendor outside Notre Dame in Paris.”
Take up an instrument
Share your “home school” rehearsal improvement with others every week to stay motivated. Consider complimentary instruments so that you can form a band and screen share musical numbers eventually when the time is right.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly when talking to close friends and family that you trust, think about taking the time to nurture spiritual health. This does not mean “preaching” or sharing different religious beliefs over Zoom which can lead to arguments and misunderstandings. But with a world pandemic raging, you will be amazed at how healing and comforting it is to know others are thinking of you and praying for your general well- being. As you end your discussion with loved ones in particular, consider bringing up prayers you want to share. If you are uncomfortable sharing them out loud, say things like “These are items on my prayer list this week.” “I am praying that your flight arrives safely in North Carolina.”
I hope these ideas help inspire and motivate you as we head into fall and winter months that will present their own new set of challenges. And when those challenges do arrive, you will be prepared, having built stronger relationships within your social network though healthy discussions and activities, so you will be ready to tackle whatever comes next!
Stay safe and be well!
About the author: Nancy Hays is the president of Nancy Hays Entertainment & Speakers, Inc., VirtualCelebrityTalent.com and DanceWithNancy.com. Nancy specializes in producing celebrity talent and speakers for meetings and events and dance programs for virtual participants. In addition, Nancy works through NancyHaysSpeaks.com as a virtual moderator, professional dance instructor and musical entertainer. Nancy's products and services have received critical acclaim in major publications including LA Times, Washington Post, Variety and others, and she has made appearances on major network news and talk shows. Reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org