A lot more people are taking part in online communication these days. But if you’ve never been in an online group chat or a Zoom call, it can feel a little strange at first. Don’t worry, though. Video and online meeting technology are easy to use. You’ll get the hang of it quickly.
However, there are some things you can do to make sure your web calls go smoothly. Things that are second nature to you, like eye contact, blocking out distractions, and not talking over someone are tougher in the online format. So here are 3 simple things you can improve during your next online call.
Eye contact is one of the most powerful and connective forms of human communication. A lack of eye contact can communicate lots of negative things. You aren’t interested in listening. You are bored. Or worse, you are rude. Those aren’t messages we typically want to send. Which means we have to make sure to make great eye contact during web calls. That’s hard when we are oriented towards looking at screen rather than that small dark dot of the camera. But the more we look at that dot, the better our eye contact appears to be. And researchers have proven that making eye contact during a video call leads to more positive impressions of the communicators and better retention of what was said during the call.
Most of us get distracted by our own video feed on a conference call. Instead of focusing on the other person/people, we are checking to make sure we look okay. When we talk in person, we don’t have this obsession with finding the right angle or fixing our hair because we can’t see ourselves. So if you have the option to shut down your own video feed, do so. If you don’t, I suggest minimizing it as much as possible. Also, if the program you are using allows you to move the video feed around (Zoom does), put it as close to the camera on your laptop or phone as possible. That way, when you inevitably check yourself out, you’ll still be looking in the general direction of the camera.
When we are on a web call, we might forget to make eye contact, or smile, or nod our head. But these things are even more important in online communication. One of the biggest reasons we neglect to engage in these normal nonverbal practices is that we are more distracted on a web call than we would be in a face-to-face interaction. Business Insider interviewed Gene Villeneuve, who is CRO of Tehama, a company that provides remote work solutions for companies, he says, “employees on video calls have to be more diligent about paying attention than they would be at an in-person meeting. It’s tempting to check emails or Twitter because you’re still at your desk.”
So if you think you’ll be distracted, close out all the tabs on your computer that you won’t need during the call. Put anything out of reach that might distract you. This might include your phone if you aren’t using it for the call. Remember that this isn’t the time for multi-tasking. You don’t want to listen and check your email. Or listen and text a few people back. You have only one job. Listen.
One of the most awkward parts of a web call happens when there’s any kind of delay in the feed. The delay often causes the communicators to “step on each other’s toes” conversationally. If there are several of you on the online chat, you can do a few things to make sure the call doesn’t turn into mayhem. You might consider raising your hands to talk. That provides a visual cue that you’d like to speak next and will essentially claim the “floor” for you. You might also assign one person to the be the moderator, similar to a debate. This person then facilitates the conversation. Because this role has been assigned to him or her, it’s not as awkward for the moderator to call on people or ask others to give up the floor for someone else to speak. Generally, though, online communication will run smoothly like it does in face-to-face interactions.
You should also be aware and ready to adapt if the delay is so long that it becomes a barrier to communicating effectively. If that’s the case, and you sense frustration is mounting, it might be best to try the call at another time, move to a different online platform, or change to a different media.
A web call isn’t all that different from a face-to-face conversation when you keep up the practices of good communication. Just make eye contact a priority, be careful to really listen, and recognize the technology might create some hiccups that you’ll have to work around. Just be ready to adapt. We can’t stop communicating.
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