Communication: Virtual Meeting Challenges

Zoom Fatigue Toll

Virtual meetings are now a daily reality and they come packaged with two major challenges. Mental health and communication experts call the first challenge “Zoom Fatigue”. Days filled with virtual calls and meetings are making people feel anxious and stressed. People dread being tethered to their computer screen for hours on end. It is a bit like cabin fever! According to InnerHour, a mental health platform, there is a 70% increase in therapy bookings as people seek relief. This is why you should schedule breaks throughout the day; take a walk or do something to clear your mind. Think of it as a sensory reboot of your brain! 

Zoom Fatigue is like cabin fever. You feel tethered to your computer.

Virtual Meetings Truths

The second challenge of virtual meetings is figuring out how to adjust communication skills to keep teams engaged and motivated. But, before we explore virtual communication skills, let’s first acknowledge some truths about virtual versus live meetings. 

Truth # 1 – Cadence

Live meetings have an entirely different cadence and feel from virtual meetings. You get to enjoy some “down time” during live meetings. You sit around a conference table and people are not staring at a close up of your face at all times. But virtual meetings consist of “up time”. Even a loose eyelash sitting on your cheek or a piece of spinach between your teeth is noticeable. Simply put, the computer camera never blinks, and this can be stressful to some people. 

Live Meeting Connections
The cadence and energy of live meetings is very different from virtual meetings!

Truth # 2 – Human Energy

Another truth has to do with the human energy you experience in live meetings. You sense the energy (or lack of energy) in the room and it is a powerful mechanism for connection and accurate feedback. It allows you to read nonverbal reactions, enthusiasm and buy-in levels. Human energy allows you to more quickly identify the intent and emotions of others. During live meeting interactions you are able to more readily influence team motivation levels. You quickly discern how to adjust your communications to be more influential and connected.

For now, we must accept these virtual meeting challenges and focus on what is in our control related to communication skills.

A. Framing Meeting Goals

There are 41 million meetings each year. More than 71% of people say meetings are unproductive and their biggest complaint is a lack of clear goals. Therefore, it is important that you frame virtual meeting goals in a way that is meaningful to participants. Effective communicators understand there are two primary ways that people are motivated to achieve goals.

Some people are motivated to achieve by moving toward goals. These people love the Nike ads that say, “Just Do It!”. Other people are motivated by solving problems and avoiding risks. Both groups can achieve great things, but they simply have different motivation drivers! If you are not aware of these two key drivers, then you will default to your preferred motivation pattern! As a result, you will fail to motivate at least half of the virtual team. So you should employ both motivation drivers!

Motivation filters graphic
Effective leaders and communicators are intimately familiar with how people are motivated.

B. Big Picture Vs. Details

Another mistake people make during virtual meetings has to do with balancing the big picture versus details. Some people are highly motivated by the big picture. They need the 30-thousand-foot view to get charged up and contribute in a meaningful way. At the other end of the spectrum, others are motivated by project details and the structure of things. In short, they are lovers of specifics and how things fit together. Watch their nonverbal cues perk up when you target their preference! The best communicators know how to balance these foundational team motivation preferences during virtual meetings. 

C. Data Dumps

It is important to remember that there is no such thing as a captive audience! If your virtual meetings are full of data and numbers, people will allow their minds to float away. They will escape the data dump! Studies consistently show that people are more influenced and motivated by emotions than by data. So, keep things simple and take a look at the key data points you want to include in your next virtual meeting. Then identify different ways you can make that data come alive with either a story or with storyline elements. Such elements may include past learnings, testimonials, visuals, metaphors, analogies, videos, similes, etc. 

Virtual meeting captives
You cannot hold the human mind captive! The best communicators know how to engage audiences and keep them plugged in!

The Virtual Challenge

Virtual meetings are now a daily reality and it can be challenging to maintain team momentum. Keep in mind that the realities of virtual meetings are very different from live meetings! The virtual environment requires a heightened awareness of group dynamics and motivation preferences to support engagement levels. Take steps to avoid “Zoom Fatigue” and challenge yourself to improve how you communicate in this virtual environment.

Refresh & Reboot Your Team!

Benchmark Communications offers a range of coaching and training solutions to help you improve your leadership and communication skills in both virtual and live meetings. Contact us today and ask us to help your team thrive in the virtual environment.