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Suddenly Virtual: Making Remote Meetings Work

The new virtual world requires a whole new skillset, and new book, Suddenly Virtual: Making Remote Meetings Work, co-authored by an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster and an expert on the science of good meetings, offers virtual meeting/presentation/interview bootcamp within its pages.

Having quickly become a gold standard for preparing professionals to navigate this virtual on-camera world, Stanford University’s School of Business has just incorporated Suddenly Virtual into their curriculum for their Essentials of Strategic Communication course for their current Spring 2021 semester.

A Taste of What This Game Changing Book Offers:

Turning Your Camera on is Not Enough

Simply looking at your camera is not going to make you an effective virtual communicator. You have to change your mindset. The camera is the conduit to your conversation partner. Focus not just your eyes, but your energy through the lens, in order to truly connect with the person or people on the other side. Otherwise, you will just look like you’re being held hostage by the camera lens.

Take Care of Your “Personal Production Value”

Ensuring that you look and sound your best on camera isn’t just a matter of vanity. It’s about showing respect for your audience. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to engage with you. That means making sure you can communicate without distraction. For example, sitting in shadow doesn’t impact the way you feel on a call, but it certainly impacts everyone else. They can’t receive your message properly if they can’t read your facial expressions.

Meetings Were Tedious Before – Virtual Meetings Can Make Them Even Worse

Remember all that stuff you’ve known forever about what makes meetings more effective, that you never bothered to do (e.g. having an agenda, even-handed participation, coming prepared, etc.)? All of that is MORE important online because the flaws in the process are even more obvious online. We are quicker on our feet in person than we are in a virtual setting, and we can make up for those mistakes or missteps more easily in person. The old best practices for effective meetings are common sense, but uncommonly practiced. Not doing them now, in virtual meetings, leads to virtual drudgery and less productivity.

Don’t Overly Rely on Virtual Meetings – They Just Clog Up People’s Calendars

There is often an over-reliance on video meetings that up clog calendars and lead to “Zoom fatigue.” Zoom fatigue is not due to a problem with Zoom and similar platforms, but user error. Not every human touchpoint needs to be a video meeting. There’s a huge need to be more strategic in determining WHEN a video meeting is required. If it’s just information transfer, ask yourself if that could be delivered via email, a message in Slack or Teams channel, or a quick phone call. If it’s a meeting that requires group collaboration, discussion and decision-making, it absolutely SHOULD be a virtual meeting with video on.

Stop the Back-to-Back Meetings – Recovery Time is Critical

Virtual meeting technology has enabled back-to-back meetings like never before! Ever look at your calendar and think, “When am I going to get lunch?” or, “When will I get to the restroom?” A new study, reported briefly in Suddenly Virtual: Making Remote Meetings Work, and forthcoming in an academic journal, confirms that we need 5 minutes recovery time after a good meeting and 17 minutes recovery after a bad meeting. Neuroscience confirms that humans need time to cognitively switch gears.

Put More Humanity Into Meetings or Team Culture Will Suffer

Start your meetings with the question “How are you?” and actually listen to people. That social lubrication where we catch up in the hall or the breakroom has been lost, and must be re-introduced. Remember to connect, beyond running down a checklist of updates, projects, or tasks. This is particularly true and important when human touch and social interaction is reduced due to a pandemic OR after we remain in our homes and work remotely.

Stop Letting Your Slides Dominate the Screen: YOU Bring the Value – Not Your Visual Aids

The typical virtual presentation looks like this: you introduce yourself, you introduce the topic, you share your screen and present way too many slides. Then you ask at the end if there are any questions. By that time, you are lucky if anyone is still listening and awake. The in-person equivalent would be introducing yourself and then turning your back on the audience while reading off your slides for the entire slide deck. Don’t do it! Deliver your presentation in digestible chunks, sharing only a few slides at a time before toggling back to gallery view. It changes everyone’s virtual environment and forces them to re-engage with you. Plus, it allows you to actually drive dialogue by putting PEOPLE front and center… not your visual aids, which too often become visual crutches.

About the Authors

Karin Reed is an Emmy Award winning former anchorwoman who transitioned into coaching C-Suite level executives in the art of communicating on camera over the last decade and a half. Suddenly Virtual is her second book published by Wiley & Sons Publishing. 

Joe Allen, Ph.D. is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Utah, and the world’s leading scientific expert on workplace meetings and organizational community engagement, with more than 100 published articles in academic journals. Joe Allen is also Director for The Center for Meeting Effectiveness. Suddenly Virtual is his first book.

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