What’s even worse than having to attend half a dozen Zoom or other video chat meetings during the working day? Attending all those meetings and feeling like you might as well have skipped them because no one is listening to your input or your ideas. That happens much too often to entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, business leaders, and employees.
Fortunately, you don’t have to put up with feeling ignored during video chat meetings. A few subtle changes to your approach will have your colleagues, business partners, or customers paying much more attention to what you have to say. In a post at Psychology today, business communications coach Nancy Ancowitz offers some smart tips for getting people to pay attention to you during video meetings.
You can find all her advice here. These are my favorites.
1. Be picky about which meetings you attend.
In a hilarious TED Talk that’s been viewed more than two million times, information security manager David Grady rails against what he calls MAS, or “mindless accept syndrome.” It’s that bad habit most of us have of clicking “yes” on meeting invitations without necessarily knowing how we’ll contribute to the greater good by being there. Instead, he recommends clicking “Maybe” (or whatever the equivalent is in your calendar system), and then emailing the person who invited you for more information about how you can add value by attending the meeting. If there isn’t a compelling reason for you to be there, it might make sense to skip it and review the information by email instead.
Admittedly, in a work-from-home world, video chat meetings carry the benefit of letting people who no longer see each other every day feel more connected as a team. At the same time, it’s all too easy to get overloaded and exhausted and it’s harder to be effective in a video chat meeting — or any meeting — if you’re desperately wishing you were just about anywhere else. So be judicious about which meeting invitations you accept and which you politely decline.
2. Learn to interject gracefully.
When should you speak up? It can be tough to pick the right moment, especially if there’s a brief time lag so that two or more people start speaking at the same time. That’s always an awkward moment, but it’s also an unavoidable side effect of video chat meetings. Be prepared to yield the floor if appropriate, and don’t let it rattle you.
Ancowitz suggests that you “practice interjecting by putting up your actual or virtual hand, saying the facilitator’s name, and jumping in.” In a smaller, less formal meeting, you could just jump in. She recommends acknowledging and or building on whatever was just said, for instance, “Great point, Lee, I’d like to add to that…” Conversely, if you want to tackle a different topic, say so. “That’s a great point. But now I’d like to talk about something we haven’t covered yet.”
Speaking up during meetings can be difficult, and speaking up during video chat meetings is even tougher. But if you’ve been hanging back and letting everyone else do the talking, you’re not adding value or doing yourself any favors. It’s important for your voice to be heard.
3. Arrive early and follow up afterward.
Ancowitz recommends logging in a bit before the meeting starts so that you can relax and check yourself and your surroundings on camera before you share your video with the group. That’s great advice and it also lets you take part in the meeting from the very beginning. Entering a video chat chat meeting when people are already conversing puts you at a bit of a disadvantage. And sometimes, before a meeting has officially begun and in particular before recording starts, other participants may share their uncensored thoughts so you could wind up gaining valuable information.
Even more important, follow up in writing after the meeting. This is your chance to — briefly — remind others of important points or suggestions you made, share any new ideas or comments you may have, and suggest follow-up actions. Because people don’t always have precise memories of a meeting (especially if it was a long one), your written follow-up can influence how they remember it, giving you some power to control the narrative. Which is a great way to make sure your contributions and your good ideas don’t get forgotten.