We’ve been in this pandemic long enough to know viscerally that video conferences don’t work as well as face-to-face communication. There’s something missing — and we know what it is: connection.
The human connection we had often taken for granted before the pandemic started thrives from — requires — face to face communications. The normal signals that connect us are muted on video conferencing. Even though we can see the other person, their affect is muted by the two dimensions, the small size of the other person, the bad lighting, the slight delay between video and sound, and proprioception, all which I’ve talked about before.
How do you make video conferences a boon for commitment, rather than a trial the participants endure?
The hard answer is that you have to bring more to the party than you might have done before.
Don’t hang back. You need to be the one that provides the energy to make the meeting a success. Don’t leave it to the others. Because you’re just another node on the network, and just a URL away from somewhere else, it’s easy to be a freeloader on a video conference. It’s easy to wait and see if it has anything to offer you, like a teenager at a mixer, waiting to see if someone else will dance first. There is no place for wallflowers on a video conference, not unless everyone wants to waste the time you are all spending.
Don’t hold back. Don’t wait for someone else to share real stuff first. Jump in with both virtual feet and be the one who provides the authenticity to make the conversation real, rather than just platitudinous. Given that video conference time is not really a raving blast for all concerned, at least help make the time worthwhile.
Don’t sit back. It’s all too easy to multitask while on a video conference. There’s email, Facebook, LinkedIn and all the other forms of social media to keep up with. Resist the temptation. Stay present and you’ll find the connection will be much more real. TikTok can wait!
Do give back. One of the more powerful pulls in human connection is reciprocity. That is the urge to do something nice for someone who does something nice for you. On a virtual call this normal, essential human quality can weaken. Don’t let it. Don’t let that other person twist in the wind. Help them as they’ve just helped you. That is human nature, and it’s vital for human connection.
Do feed back. If you’ve spoken on a webinar, or to a large audience on a video conference without being able to see them, you’ll know how hard it is to project into the void, without the body language response we humans thrive on face to face. If you are on the receiving end of a webinar, let the speaker, organizers, and panelists know how you felt about it. You can put a comment in the chat — and you should.
For those who are feeling isolated and lonely during this pandemic — and that’s a lot of us — until we can comfortably get back together face to face, virtual communications are all we have. We have to make them work. They are different from our normal ways of communicating, and they demand more from us in some ways. Are you ready to step up?