Like many of you, I am on video conference calls most of the day. I am grateful for the intimacy and effectiveness online meetings provide during my isolation, however, I’m often left feeling like I’ve been on a live TV show all day.
Looking straight into the camera, making sure my posture is right, knowing that when I speak I fill up everyone’s screen and every imperfection of my face is on display, and trying to make sure my lighting and background are just right. It’s draining.
According to Jeremy Bailenson, the founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, the “constant gaze” of video conferencing creates visual exhaustion. Sort of like how facing others on a crowded elevator might feel – for an entire day.
Here are few of Mr. Bailenson’s ideas and many of my own to allow us all to feel more energized by our new starring roles as host of our own channel on the new “Video Conference Network.”
8 Tips to Host a Virtual Meeting
1. Turn off the camera feed. Stream only the person speaking for longer meetings so the rest of us can listen without thinking about being on camera. Understanding your meeting technology functionality is key.
2. Set up an external webcam instead of the laptop camera which allows you to be fully framed in your own camera while getting some space from all the other faces.3. Establish a virtual meeting dress code. We should be comfortable and still be professional – after all, we are still working. I feel better when I dress the way I did at the office, which seems to be how the rest of the world is behaving. But it can’t hurt to decide that “Casual Friday” is the new normal or just reserved for a special day of the week.
4. Offer feedback to your coworkers. If the camera is too low and you’re staring up the nose of a colleague, let them know to adjust the camera to eye-level. Lighting is key, so help each other out with advice on the best options.
5. Strive for efficiency and accountability. Have online meeting objectives, agendas, and post-meeting action items, owners, and dates, just like you used to for face to face meetings (or start doing this if you didn’t before). Every meeting invitation should include these details.
6. Be transparent. Announce if the video conference is being recorded and what the recording will be used for.
7. Consider your alternative meeting options. Include a few phone calls in your day. Give yourself and your colleagues a break from seeing you 8 hours a day.8. Establish meeting ground rules. Set a time for lunch when there are no calls. Set two, 15-minute breaks into everyone’s calendar so we have a moment to breathe. Have a morning sync for 10 minutes to kick off the day. Our company has been doing this since we all began to WFH. So far, they are working to keep us connected through a different daily prompt, like “What food would you take with you on a desert island,” “What’s the best thing that happened yesterday,” what you’re grateful for, or sharing a high school photo. This hasn’t felt weird or tiresome and, for now, we’re going to keep it up. I look forward to these every day.
What’s working for you?
We’re all in this together.
Email me to let me know what’s working as you adapt to this new WFH reality show.