How to stay professional on screen at home
If you read my earlier blog post about Zoom with ADHD, you know how Zoom has allowed us to go from in-person meetings to entirely virtual workplaces.
But what I didn’t mention was the challenge a disembodied group on the screen can present for an ADHD brain.
In the work world, staying focused in face-to-face forums is already tough. Move the meeting to a screen and roughly three-quarters of participants will inevitably lapse into a coma of inattention at some point.
And it’s not just an ADD / ADHD thing. The Harvard Business Review calls it “zoom fatigue.”
But meeting online can be made tolerable with simple strategies that take the sting out of sessions. … even when you’re forced to participate in several professional meetings a day.
My friend Sue Treiman is a journalist and TV producer who just completed 19 hours of Zoom interviews for a video project. So I asked her for some “do’s and don’t’s” on how to come across well on Zoom.
Whether you’re participating, organizing, or just trying to wrestle your ADHD to the ground, here’s how you can survive – and even make a good impression — during Zoom time.
ADHD survival tactics for Zoom meetings
Study the agenda in advance. When you know the topics that require your input, you can avoid the danger of being ‘called on’ while in a boredom-induced coma.
Hide your inevitable multitasking by never allowing yourself to look downward. You can sneakily check email on your screen while reestablishing frequent eye contact. Just make sure to keep the meeting visible. And avoid interacting with your phone!
Mute your microphone. Keystrokes and pings are audible proof you’re otherwise engaged.
Keep a pen and paper handy for emergency doodling. Creating artwork without looking down will keep your focus sharp and your mind engaged. And nobody will know. (Or they'll think you're taking notes.)
Before joining a virtual meeting from home…
- Dress for virtual success – Remember, the meeting may be recorded. Dress accordingly. Wear a solid-color top, avoid elaborate patterns, and keep those comfy pj bottoms out of sight. You don’t want to call the wrong kind of attention to yourself.
- Position your camera – Position your laptop camera at eye level by propping it up on books. Lovely as your nose may be, nobody wants the view from below.
- Watch the lights – Never sit directly in front of a light source. At best, you’ll be silhouetted. At worse, you’ll show up as an indistinguishable blob – and that’s not a professional look.
- Look behind you – Arrive early enough to assess what can be seen in your background. You don’t want anything embarrassing lurking.
- Check out your screen – On a similar note, ‘sanitize’ your computer's browsing history in case you have to share your desktop. A college lecture recently went viral when the professor’s notes revealed he was also visiting a ‘busty women’ website.
If you're running the meeting…
- Create a written agenda before the meeting. Then stick to it.
- Have one person speak at a time. Ask participants to signal – via chat or a raised hand – when they have something to say. Simultaneous speakers can mess up audio and frustrate everyone.
- Know who is speaking. Remind participants to quickly reintroduce themselves before speaking, so you aren’t forced to scan the whole screen looking for the flapping lips.
- Keep people awake. Since everyone tends to zone out after 20 minutes, reawaken the audience with occasional visuals, whether PowerPoint slides, photos, polls, or even brief video clips.
- Keep things moving. If you’re doing a round robin, limit each person’s comments to three minutes.
- Don’t underestimate humor. A laugh can reset the tone, and will keep people from dreading your meetings.
The elephant in the room
Of course, there’s the elephant-in-the-room tip that few people consider:
Ask yourself whether the meeting is really necessary. Could your goals can be accomplished another way – through email, postings, or a telephone call? American workers attend 25 million meetings every day. Eliminating one or two would be a small, but much appreciated, act of kindness.
Please let me know if you have other tips and strategies to keep meetings sharp, effective, and, of course, blessedly brief. We may be zooming for some time to come.