Virtual interviews and meetings come with many challenges. After listening to the a16z Podcast Episode “The Art and Science of Moderating Discussions with Matt Abrahams," I learnt some new techniques to help with virtual zoom calls and wanted to share those here. Prof. Abrahams from the Stanford Graduate School of Business offers these five virtual meeting tips to moderators and managers to help mitigate virtual meeting challenges.
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It is no secret that remote and hybrid work is the nature of business in 2022. Yet, I’m sure you have been in a virtual meeting recently where attendees seemed checked out from the presenter. Some people are not aware of some ways to help make virtual meetings more successful for all parties. Similarly, the practice of bringing candidates on-site for interviews has been replaced with all virtual interviews. I’ve covered tips for Product Management interviews before, but I wanted to share tips I learnt here specific to virtual interviews.
Tip #1: Build Your Vocal Stamina
One of the essential things I have discovered for virtual meetings is vocal stamina. Just as you would for any ordinary in-person meeting, I recommend preparing for your session to ensure your voice is ready to handle your role as a moderator. I have taken it upon myself to practice speaking more frequently so I can handle longer hours, as we all have likely seen changes in our communication with longer hours of video calls than a few years ago!
This means practicing breathwork and ensuring you have a strong voice for speaking and commanding a room’s attention. You can build your vocal stamina by practicing your talking points as if you were speaking to your colleagues. I do this in front of a mirror to take note of my breathing to ensure that I get my point across without losing my breath or sounding unrehearsed.
Reviewing your own recording will help you eliminate filler words like “umm”, “eee”, “I mean”, or “like”.
When preparing for interviews, practice your behavioral questions in front of the mirror.
Tip #2: Use Verbal Graffiti To Project Your Emotions
My next piece of advice is to use verbal graffiti. Virtual meetings add a layer of disconnect, but verbal graffiti is one of the best ways to show emotion and enthusiasm for the discussion topic. If you think about it, verbal graffiti is like adding icing on top of the cake.
Great speakers talk and sprinkle in adverbs and adjectives, ensuring that the participants can feel the enthusiasm of the event. Instead of saying, “I think we have a good event today,” you can say, “We have a fantastic event, and I am deeply excited to hear more from our wonderful speakers.” With this sort of language advice from Prof. Abrahams, I have been able to clearly communicate the vibe of the day.
Tip #3: Rethink Your Eye Contact For The Camera
I believe eye contact is part of what makes great connections with others in conversation and ensures that people all know that they are heard and understood. However, it is not easy in virtual settings. I recommend training yourself to look at the camera. If this still proves to be difficult as I found it to be, take this tip from the podcast: use people’s photos. Stick a photo near your camera. Another workaround is to keep the video of zoom or video conferencing application as a small box near your webcam instead of a large full-screen window.
In the podcast, Mr. Abrahams mentioned how some people put a person’s photo behind the webcam to help them make eye contact during meetings. Try it for yourself! I am sure you’ll see your eye contact in virtual meetings improve—I know I did!
Tip #4: Use Hand Gestures
Communication does not have to be verbal! I have found so many ways to communicate with my colleagues beyond what I have said. One of the best Zoom call tips that I have found is to use broad gestures on the camera and make them visible to others.
For example, if I would like to describe something, I would use my hands to show its importance. Alternatively, if I appreciated what someone said, I would give a thumbs up to the camera to show them that I heard and love what they shared. Don’t be afraid to add your personality to it—I have seen a positive impact from doing so in virtual meetings. You should always be yourself and remain professional in your gestures and your body language.
Tip #5: Prime Your Posture
Just as you would in an in-person meeting, your posture communicates a lot to your colleagues. As a moderator, you should sit up straight. Pull your shoulders back and make them broader. When you do this, you’ll draw more attention and show yourself as the leader.
This mirrors how people would stand up in front of their colleagues and direct their attention up to the front of a room in an in-person meeting. I believe you should always carry yourself on virtual calls like you would in person.
Your posture is a direct reflection of your power as a moderator. When you recognize this, you will not only show more confidence, but you will create stronger dialogue and help keep the meeting on track with your talking points for the day. I saw a major difference in my own reception when I started doing this in meetings!
Be a Pro at Virtual Meetings
I hope this information helps you prepare for virtual meetings as we find a way to adapt to our hybrid reality. No matter what challenges lie ahead, these virtual meeting tips will give you the confidence and preparation needed for a stellar event!
Ace Your Virtual Interviews
One of the things different between a virtual interview and a virtual meeting is that you want to show your complete attention to the interviewer instead of checking your resume or notes on your screen. So you would want to check a few things. Do your eyes or eyeglasses reflect your screen? Does the reflection show your notes open on your screen? When you look down to note down things on paper, how does that look on the screen? Looking around and thinking, how does it look on the camera? Do you want to share your screen to show your design, architecture, or product portfolio? Do you have it open and ready but out of sight?
Apart from these tips, preparing for commonly asked interview questions and having your case studies ready to present will help you ace your virtual interviews. I cover those tips in this webinar and offer coaching services through Spark Creative Technologies.
Originally published at https://harshalpatil.substack.com on Sep 14, 2022