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February 26, 2021
The word “pivot” has officially been said more times over the past year than in that one couch-moving episode of Friends. That’s because, well, we’ve all had to. Part of the “pivoting” includes the way in which we communicate—with our teams, loved ones, target demographics and more. The whopping 500% growth in web conferencing since the start of the pandemic1 proves it. “We’ve gone from in-person theatre stars to television stars, with everything magnified in that small rectangular screen,” Actor, Director and Self-Awareness Specialist Michael Allosso explains. So, how can you make the most of discussions taking place on a computer screen when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month or even your year? Today we’re tearing down the blocks of Zoom fatigue and building the set for better virtual communication with three easy steps. (Because we’re there for you). Lights, camera, action!
Small talk with early meeting goers, delays in audio, frozen screens and the occasional phantom cat filter are just some of the scenarios that come with the unpredictable territory of video calls. While the lack of face-to-face time can create an element of disconnection, there’s a deeper layer of intimacy present as we give individuals a glimpse of our personal life. Like Elaine in Seinfeld when she busts out her “best” dance moves, let your truest self shine and “embrace the awkward.” Be transparent when someone’s audio cuts out. Engage in personal conversation when someone’s child lets out a yell in the background. Indulge your own inner child—the ever-curious one who always asked: Why?! The authentic interactions that stem from impromptu conversations, like asking someone about a painting in their background, are what help individuals fight zoom fatigue. As for virtual backgrounds? Unless they’re used as conversation pieces, consider removing them, Allosso shares. “(Without them), you’re more open to learning about people. Sometimes they don’t reciprocate the answer, but you’re still seizing the opportunity to build a connection.”
Preparing for your role, or presentation, and embracing the art of improv, is just one part of the multi-scale production that goes into each virtual meeting. The other is set design. Avoid the Phantom of the Opera look that comes with having the light source behind you and place it in front of or above you, Allosso advises. Instead of renovating your entire workspace, invest in a small ring light to achieve natural “stage lighting,” he adds. As for hair/makeup and wardrobe, don’t let your office attire gather dust in the closet. Research from individuals at Columbia University and Cal State Northridge finds that dressing more formally for work leads to the “higher levels of abstract, big-picture thinking associated with someone in a powerful position.” With these tips, you’ll be as prepared as “the movie star,” Ginger Grant in Gilligan’s Island when it’s time for curtain call.
“Looking at the screen all day is 10 times more exhausting than flying across the country and doing in-person presentations,” Allosso said. As someone who has held over 250 virtual keynotes and five weekly one-to-one meetings, he acknowledges that Zoom fatigue is very real and very avoidable when the proper steps are taken. The first step to tossing out boredom, like Uncle Phil throws out Jazzy Jeff in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, is to set and stick with a designated length of time for each individual meeting. Following cues from his career as a professional actor and director, Allosso recommends utilizing the 55/5 and 80/10 rule: at 55 minutes, take a five-minute break and at 80 minutes, take ten. In order to maintain energy, it’s best to keep the meeting under an hour and twenty minutes, in most cases. To engage individuals throughout meetings, give everyone a chance to speak and address them directly, by name. Let them know you see them and provide TSP: Truthful, Specific, Positive Feedback by observing what they’ve been doing “right” or excelling in and acknowledging them for it. “As leaders, as life partners, as parents, our job is to nurture and feed those people who come to us for criticism,” Allosso shares in an interview with Mike Zani.
If you loved these communication tips from Professional Actor, Director and Self-Awareness Specialist Michael Allosso, stay tuned for our two-part podcast episode of The 19: Entrepreneur Edition, which debuts in Mid-March. Subscribe to The 19: Entrepreneur Edition newsletter to get a reminder notification when the podcast drops! To do so, click “General Response Marketing” in our sign-up form toward the bottom of the page. Before we roll the credits on this blog, it’s only appropriate to share Michael’s secret weapon #26, a tip on how to close your virtual meeting: “End with action. End with panache. End with class. It’s what we call the mic drop… The toughest thing about success is that you’ve got to keep being a success. Talent is only a starting point in this business, you’ve got to keep on working that talent.” And that is (virtual) showbiz, baby.
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