Studies show that approximately two-thirds of employers are taking steps to allow employees to work from home while 36% are actively encouraging employees to do so.
With this new reality, in-person meetings are being replaced by meetings via Zoom. And while many employees have found that camera meetings have certain upsides (such as reduced travel time), many others find them more exhausting than standard in-person meetings. For example, some worry about how they appear on camera and/or whether or not their equipment will work. Additionally, employees are now glued to a computer screen nonstop. Hence, the term "Zoom Fatigue" was born.
Here are seven ways to combat "Zoom Fatigue" and create a more engaging virtual presentation for your audience:
1. Introduce yourself
A big challenge associated with working remotely is that we miss daily interactions that help us create more personal relationships. Regardless of whether you’re talking to your colleagues or if you’re speaking to a virtual room of strangers, take a second to tell them a little about yourself. If it’s a small enough presentation, you may even ask each of them to introduce themselves.
In the Trillion Dollar Coach, Bill Campbell, an advisor to Eric Schmidt, Steve Jobs and Larry Page, planned time for small talk before meetings at Google to allow employees to get to know each other on a more personal level. While this may not be possible in a virtual presentation, try to replace those in-person interactions by opening yourself up on a more personal level. Doing so will make your meeting begin on a much more interesting note and help combat the dryness of "Zoom Fatigue."
2. Use inflection in your voice
Another thing that's missed during virtual presentations is body language. Your posture, eye contact, and movements are used to aid your speech in a live presentation, though the audience will miss these important social cues in a virtual environment.
The lack of visual cues therefore force people to listen even more carefully, which contributes to 'Zoom Fatigue.' Therefore, it’s important that you use inflection in your voice to help aid the comprehension of your speech.
We register over 1,300 different sounds and these help us distinguish different meanings. Try speaking more softly when you're making a particularly important point, and inject pauses as well. Stressing words can also help you convey a point.
3. Actively engage your audience
Every presenter’s goal is to keep the audience engaged and hold its attention.
If you’ve presented live before, you’re probably accustomed to engaging with live audiences. You might ask them to stand up, ask a neighbor a question, raise their hand, or even pick an audience member to give a pop quiz.
However, now that we're presenting virtually, don’t stop engaging with them. Ask the audience to type questions in the chat, raise their virtual hands and even call on people.
4. Choose presenter view
How many times have you been on a Zoom call and realized that you had no idea what the speaker was saying because you were too occupied noting the backgrounds of the other people in the gallery view?
Instead, select presenter view. This will help eliminate on-screen distractions and help others better connect with you. Most people become distracted by their own appearance on video. Consider hiding your video from view so that you’re able to focus more on the presenter.
Fewer distractions in your presentation will help people feel less tired and reduce "Zoom Fatigue" as they only have to focus on one thing.
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5. Schedule breaks
There’s debate about the average attention span of a human, but it’s less than 20 minutes.
If your meetings are longer than 20 minutes, schedule short breaks to allow people to get a drink or do some jumping jacks. Physical activity is one of the better ways to stimulate the brain, so encourage your audience members to do some form of exercise during a break.
These breaks also provide a prime opportunity for you to recap the main points of what you’ve already talked about and make sure that everyone is on the same page.
6. Tell stories
Most Zoom meetings are pretty dry. To combat this, add fun stories to your presentations.
Not only does it help increase engagement, but it also makes you about 22 times more memorable. It also increases likeability as people can relate more to your message.
While you’re telling stories, be sure they have a point and that you weave it in with your message. Stories also shouldn’t take more than five minutes to tell.
Prior to the presentation, practice telling your stories out loud using the inflection pointers noted above.
7. Limit length of meetings
Try to limit your meetings to 50 minutes or less. Doing so will help people make it to their next meeting on time, which will make them appreciate you more.
If you're a manager and can instate this as a company-wide policy, this will help people arrive at their next meetings much more prepared.
As a presenter, it also keeps your presentation from becoming long-winded. If you need to spend 60 minutes or more explaining one point, your speech is probably going to be more confusing than helpful.
If you’re struggling with "Zoom Fatigue," you’re not alone. As a presenter, it’s intimidating to think of holding an audience’s attention and inspiring them to take action, but using these tips, you’ll see your engagement rapidly increase.
Try recording your presentations and listen back. How could you have done better? Are you hitting the right parts of your speech at the right time?
Additionally, ask for feedback from the audience. Were they bored? Did they get the right message? Did they take away anything actionable? Even though much of your material will likely be the same, shifting from live to virtual can have a huge impact on how your presentation is perceived.
About the author
Ljana Vimont is the managing director of Stinson Design, a design agency specializing in customized, professional, and on-brand presentations for companies across all industries. Ljana's leadership has taken Stinson from a hobby to a well-respected creative agency working with big global brands like NASA, Microsoft, Google, and Hilton.