Meetings during Covid19 are definitely a different experience…and for some of us the convenience of not leaving the house and the thrill of knowing you’re talking business in your ‘trackie’ bottoms, has well and truly worn off.

Zoom fatigue is definitely a thing… and it’s surprising given many of us can manage to sit in front of our favourite Netflix show or computer game for hours!

The trouble is that there’s a world of difference between passively enjoying well-written, entertaining content, versus trying tostay focused in a zoom meeting where the tap dancing children in the background are more entertaining than the speaker.

However you feel about online meeting, all the indications are that it’s going to continue beyond the demise of Corona. That means it’s time for you to stop seeing this as a stopgap and start considering how to make your message land in the virtual room.

To help you get started, I’m going to be covering off the basics you need to get right, before sharing some ideas and suggestions, to help your message and business stand out.

The Basics!

First of all, I want to make sure you’re making a good first online impression.

  1. Let’s talk about location and visuals first. 

If you know you’re going to be doing online meetings for some time, then ideally try to find somewhere in your home where you can create a semi-permanent virtual meeting set-up. As much as possible make sure it’s quiet and away from distractions and if you can lock the door that is great…there’ve been a few TV journalists who’ve inadvertently given national TV exposure to their kids asking for a biscuit!

Talking of children…just like your conversation in front of your kids, I think the best bit of advice about your background… is keep it clean.

You may well have Movie collectibles that you want to show off, but you don’t want Marty McFly, or Darth Vader sabotaging your message. Ideally a plain wall and a couple of tasteful plants are what you want.

We also want to make sure that you’re seen in the best light, so if you can locate your setup near natural light that is the best, (but not so that you’re back lit and people can’t see you). If you can’t find a spot near a window, or if you’re zooming at night, it would be a good idea to get a ring light. You can get desktop ones for between 10 and 20 pounds.

Another thing that you might want to look into is a webcam. Your phone or laptop camera will do the job, but a webcam will increase the video and audio quality. Since the pandemic happened the choice of webcams have increased, and the price has come down significantly, but you may have to wait as demand is high… and do shop around and get one with a decent number of reviews.

One more little trick you can use to improve your visuals on zoom is called ‘touch up my appearance’. When you’re in a zoom meeting, hop onto your zoom menu, into preferences, then choose video and there you can touch up your appearance, which is supposed to have a softer, more flattering focus.

You can use filters on Microsoft Teams too, but it’s a little more complicated, but it does give you more options and you can find out how to do that here.

Ok now that I’ve shared the secret of how to look like a model on camera, let’s get onto sound.

  1. Making Sure You’re Heard

In my experience it’s always better to supplement a built-in microphone, especially if your laptop or computer is quite old. I’ve found that the sound can fade in and out and you don’t want people to miss a crucial part of your message.

Phone headphones with a microphone are one up from a laptop mike, if you have a webcam then that will likely have a microphone that’s a bit more powerful in it, or even better is to grab a separate one. You can get pick up a plug and play desktop USB mike fairly cheaply, and even the higher spec ones are less than 200 pounds, or you can grab a lavaliere one that clips to your clothes.

The last bit on the visuals is what you wear. It’s important to consider the impression you want to make, and whether the clothes you pick align with that. Also, the tried and trusted advice about colours on video is avoid, solid back, solid white and patterns.

The last couple of things I want to cover off in the basics are more tech related.

  1. Some Tech Tricks

After spending a lot of time using zoom for webinars, coaching and presentations, there are a couple of zoom things that I’ve discovered that aren’t always obvious.

First off, if you find seeing yourself distracting then you can click the three little buttons on the top right-hand side of your tile and choose ‘hide self-view’, and then click ‘show self-view’ when you want to see yourself again.

Also, if you’re hosting a meeting and you want to have people see you in the main picture even when other people are speaking, then choose ‘speaker’ view and then click those three buttons again on your picture and choose spotlight video and then you’ll be on all the time.

So, whether you’re using Zoom, Skype, Teams, Google Hangouts, or more, and you’re still feeling unsure about them, take a bit of time to familiarize yourself with the controls so that you can communicate your message without letting the tech get in the way.

Ok… so I’ve covered off the basics, and now I want to get into the stuff that really makes the difference!

The Important Stuff!

What is absolutely vital, is that you’re able to grab the attention of your audience.

To help you with that I need you to know an important fact first…

Every bit of information we receive arrives at the oldest part of our brain first…called the ‘croc’ brain, or ‘chimp’ brain.

I want you to imagine that this part of your brain is like a bouncer at a nightclub or very fancy dining establishment…and it only lets in information that meets it’s set criteria.

Those criteria are:

Is it dangerous?

Is it new and exciting?

Is it complex?

Basically, the croc brain bouncer will ignore anything that’s not unexpected or out of the ordinary or easy to understand. That’s because attention costs energy and energy is needed for our survival.

What this means for you and your meeting is that you have to provide novelty OR keep it simple to get the attention of the people you’re speaking to.

If you can create curiosity, then you’ll get attention.

So, how do you do that?

  • A short product demo provides novelty.
  • A new idea provides novelty.
  • Stories provide novelty.
  • Good metaphors and analogies for otherwise complex subjects or abstract concepts provide novelty.
  • Humour provides novelty.
  • Moving images and animations provide novelty.

You might not always have access to some of those, but I believe stories as a great way to provide novelty and would always advocate using one to start your presentation and sprinkling them through.

If you can find different short, snackable stories to illustrate the value of your message, your product or service, or to address objections people might have to using it, or why alternative solutions to people’s problems fall short, then these will make your presentation so much more interesting and attention grabbing.

If you can find some good metaphors and analogies for your product or the problem it solves, that will make your message more novel and stickier too.

Michael Dubin, Founder and CEO at Dollar Shave club …uses some great ones in his original video pitch… ”It’s so gentle a toddler could use it.” “And do you think your razor needs a vibrating handle, a flashlight, a back scratcher, and ten blades” with the follow up message “stop paying for shave tech you don’t need.”

It’s been around for years but that video presentation is still fantastic…it uses all the great stuff that creates novelty, including humour, which if you can do it right will help your presentation out enormously! If you haven’t seen it yet then you can check it out here.

The good news is that whilst zoom and other virtual platforms have some downsides, they also have some upsides when it comes to creating novelty.

As far as product demos go, being able to share your screen instantly means you can show the big benefit of your software or an image of your product really easily.

Also, because we’re at home, if you have a big product that you couldn’t normally take to an event, then maybe you can have it set up at home, ready to demo it live.

Another thing that zoom meetings allow you to do easily is share video. This means that you can use whiteboard animations as explainers and promos for your message.

Last week, I was talking to a client who told me that “when someone plays a video, it’s a change from the usual”, (which brings us back to that croc brain and novelty again).”

Video is also easier for us to process and remember.

They say that a single minute of video is worth 1.8 million words, and that’s because we process visual information 60,000 times faster than text. (HubSpot) It’s one of the big reasons why video is so effective when you want to share information or explain complex topics in a short timeframe.

Given that the stats and the science are compelling about the power of video, it’s definitely something you should consider using when you’re presenting virtually.

The point of all this is to get you thinking outside of the box, so that your message gets traction.

If you want to find out more about how we can help you develop your storytelling and presentation skills to make your message more engaging, then just give us a call!

By Sarah Archer.

Sarah has just joined the Intelligent Dialogue team. Sarah can help you land your message in meetings, public speaking and in presentations. She is also a stand up comedian,  actress, podcast broadcaster and writer ( the speaking club podcast – and she’s interviewed Diane Banister a couple of times ). Most importantly, besides being talented, she is a generous and decent human being. A great addition to the team.