It turns out that ‘Zoom fatigue’ is a real thing. Some companies have declared initiatives like ‘Zoom-free Fridays’, which won’t have been done without some evidence that it’s helpful to staff. Although it’s easy to dismiss, most of us taking part in a 20-minute video conference find it more draining than a 20-minute chat in the conference room. I can understand why people having to take part in a lot of these things might talk about ‘burnout’.
Suggestions as to what’s going on include the millisecond delays in verbal responses negatively affecting perceptions, and the odd impact of staring into so many people’s eyes intrusively at the same time. What can we do about it then?
People actually move around in face-to-face meetings more than we think. In video meetings, we try to sit still to look interested. This isn’t easy for a long period. One suggestion is to move away from the camera. Position yourself so that the whole upper half of your body can be seen – or as I’ve mentioned before, even stand up to do so, if the meeting isn’t a long one. This can really bring your conversation to life. Just don’t forget the audio if you do so, but I hope by now you’ve got yourself a tie-clip microphone or something similar anyway.
It’s worth watching a minute or so from this recording of a local community Zoom meeting which I ran recently (from about 2 minutes in). The first presenter is set well back from the screen, has a virtual background, and doesn’t stare into your eyes. You can see his arm gestures and occasionally his hands. The second presented, who is in a spare bedroom, fills the screen with his face and stares at the audience, as most people do. Although he’s the more fluent presenter, it’s easier to watch the first one.