To See or Not to See? THAT is the ZOOM Meeting Question
In a recent conversation with our CPI colleagues, we discussed how some people were turning off their video camera during live coaching meetings and training workshops. We took a closer look at our own virtual meeting protocols to determine when it is recommended to keep your video “on” – and if so, for what reason? Soon we observed participants were keeping their cameras off more often than not. So we wondered: did they turn their video on when they were fully engaged, or did they keep their video off in order to multi-task? We then laughed out loud thinking about all the times when we, as coaches, might want to turn the video camera off too. We brainstormed some of the reasons we thought people turned off their video (‘home-casual” attire, messy hair, kids at home, forgot to take a shower, etc). We became acutely aware that by the simple act of turning off our video, it was possible we were communicating something else to our viewers (however unintentional) by our lack of presence. As a result, CPI wanted to outline a few of the unintended consequences of “not showing up” in virtual meetings.
At CPI and for our candidate clients, we highly recommend turning “on” your video whenever possible. We recognize that many employees of companies operating virtually these days do not turn on their video function for meetings, and yet others do. Many want to listen and be present, however they are also trying to multi-task to get other work done. There are others who are not comfortable being visible if they don’t have to be – and in many instances, no one is really requiring them to be on video. Clearly multi-taskers love the video-off function so they can keep working while listening. Parents who have children running back and forth or school age children are concerned about them interrupting the meeting. Employers understand these challenges and know there are good reasons for why some choose not to be seen on calls. The pandemic has given us new virtual meeting protocols. That said, we believe the benefits of being seen on video far outweigh those of turning it off.
When you disable the video function and others cannot see you, you may inadvertently be sending a (highly unintended) negative message to others on the call that you are not fully present. When you join a call, and you see a black screen with only a name, do you tend to discount that person’s participation or value to the meeting or topic itself? Do you think you have that person’s full attention? We all remember the audio conference calls from the past when someone would call out “Martha” to answer a question and “Martha” would ask to repeat the question, because she was not paying attention. With video, you can see and experience firsthand people’s eye contact and expressions. This makes the conversation much more of a two-way dialogue.
Here are a few thoughts from your coaching team at CPI about the value of keeping your video ON in virtual meetings:
- You have the opportunity to CONNECT with others you can see, far more than those you just hear
- Relationships are critical elements of our ability to feel INCLUDED and VALUED
- You want people to know you are FULLY ENGAGED in the meeting
- STAYING PRESENT AND PARTICIPATIVE allows you to demonstrate your caring and empathy for those on the call
In short – before your next video meeting, ask yourself: “What will I miss if I cannot be seen?” What will others assume if they only view my name and a black screen? Whenever possible, show up visibly and don’t miss out on a chance to connect face to face with others. They could be your new best friend, give you an introduction to someone new or perhaps offer a sales opportunity. If they feel the initial connection with you, then you will have the ability to build this connection into a longer-term business relationship. Certainly there will be times when you may have a circumstance that requires you to be off-camera. In that case (and hopefully, it will be rare) simply enter the meeting and explain why you need to be off camera for the meeting, so others don’t assume you are “there but not really there” to fully participate in the meeting.
One last thought as we think about our new virtual circumstances – remember those days when we would ask “is this meeting business casual?” in order to dress appropriately to respect the venue and prepare ahead of time so we fit in? These days, it might be good to ask “will we need to have the video on or off for this meeting?” and by doing so, we show our utmost respect to the presenter as well as the audience. We’d love to hear from you any other ways you can see the benefit of keeping your video camera on during meetings. Feel free to comment below. Thank you.
Great and timely article. We are certainly getting Zoom-tired, but the message from a blank (name or static picture) screen is not 100% positive. There is some doubt about interest in the topic, person, etc. You do gain so much from being present/paying attention. (Remember live meetings? You attended – and paid attention. You should do the same – and your time savings is your lack of travel/commute time.) Interestingly, if you are ‘video-on’, make sure you are focused on the meeting as well. Everyone sees you all the time.