Not Another Zoom! 9 Tips to Look, Feel, and Be Your Best on Zoom
If you’re like me, then sometimes the idea of doing yet another darned Zoom meeting can be overwhelming, even anxiety-provoking. While Zoom is a fantastic tool for tackling the barriers of isolation and distance that this time of pandemic imposes upon us, it is also, to speak plainly, a pain in the keister. I’ve combed the internet and come up with these nine tips to help you have a better Zoom experience. They are organized in order of importance, with the least vital at the beginning and the ones that are absolute essentials at the end, but all of them will help ensure that the next time you’re on Zoom, you can look, feel, and be your best!
Look your Best
As I said, the really essential Zoom lessons are at the end of this article. But I thought it was a good idea to start with the elephant in the room: Why do I think I look just so plain awful when I see myself in that little window! And, as it turns out, I’m not alone in feeling that way. Jefferson Graham over at USA Today has a whole list of things you can do to look better (and sound better) when on a Zoom call. However, these are the three that I have found to be both vital and easy to implement.
Lighting is essential to looking good on Zoom. And while you may (like me) think you look best in soft lighting, being able to be seen is extremely important. How many times have you been in a Zoom meeting trying to have a conversation and the person on the other end is a dark silhouette against a bright background? (Or, for that matter, a dark silhouette against an ever darker background?!) The answer is simple. One of the best ways to make sure you are seen on your Zoom calls is to make sure you face a window or other light source. Bright, diffuse light will show off that winning smile and make sure that you (very literally) get seen!
Prospective is another critical thing to consider. While the conventional wisdom concerning soft lighting is not advisable, the sages of old are dead on about low angle shots being unflattering. Keeping the camera at just a little under eye-level will make you look more approachable and less imposing to your fellow Zoomies.
Eye Contact is one more time your grandfather was dead on in his advice. But this one can be tricky! While it is not possible to actually make eye contact over zoom (at least not yet), maintaining the illusion of eye contact can make your colleagues, teachers, or students feel more at ease and more heard. The answer is simple. When you see your Zoom-mates looking at the screen, look directly at your camera. Really! Look right into the lens. The person on the other end of the screen will feel like you are looking them dead in the eye. And it can be so reassuring!
Feel Your Best
Zoom burnout is very real, and very deadly! JUST KIDDING! But it can make you feel like you’re dying. When we’re in a Zoom meeting, we are deprived of many of the social cues, like body language and subtle intonation, that actually make up the lion’s share of human communication! At the same time, we are presented with an overload of visual information that we just did not ask for (including being able to see ourselves the whole time). While in a normal meeting (or class) it is possible to look out the window from time to time (or for that matter look around the room, or look at the board, or look at the floor, or look at your feet, or look at your neighbor’s feet— you get the idea) when we’re in a zoom meeting we look only, and ad nauseam, at that darned glaring screen. But there are a couple of ways to get around the feeling of deep-down exhaustion that this situation causes.
Don’t Go Into Gallery Mode unless you absolutely must. As an instructor, you need to get all the information you can about the students in your class. But, if you can, when you can, use Speaker Mode so your brain is only processing visual cues from one person at a time. This will relieve stress and make for a (more) normal experience.
Hide Self View! Yes, it is actually possible. And, yes, others will still be able to see you! Being self-conscious is one of the worst things about a Zoom meeting. So, get rid of that annoying little picture that keeps looking back at you and, you are sure, judging! The way to do it is simple: All you need to do is right-click on the little box with your picture in it and scroll down the menu to where you see Hide Self View. Click, select, DONE! That’s it! Problem solved!
Just Don’t Do ‘Em. I’m not kidding. You can text. You can email. You can talk on the phone. And while you’re talking on the phone you can go for a walk, get some fresh air, see the world beyond your four walls. Again, for educational purposes, this is not always possible. But feel free to get creative and find ways to hold a tutoring session (or even a class) with a method other than Zoom. Your less technologically literate students will probably very much appreciate it. And you will get some much-needed relief.
For more tips on avoiding Zoom fatigue, check out this blog post from the folks over at Vidyard.
Be Your Best
Now we get to the real meat and potatoes. (Or Tofurky and stuffing for any vegans out there.) This is the most essential part of the article. This is the stuff that you really need to know. If you’ve skipped over the first two sections and gone straight here, then good on you for reading this part. That other stuff is nice, but these are the things you absolutely, positively, and without a shadow of doubt must do in a Zoom meeting to make sure your fellow participants are comfortable and able to conduct the meeting (or class) properly.
And it’s all really easy too!
Mute Yourself When Your Not Speaking. And I mean absolutely anytime you’re not speaking. But, most especially, when you are talking to someone other than your fellow Zoomanaughts. (Get it, like astronauts, but for zoom! We’re all braving new territory here.) Nothing is more annoying than listening to the teacher talk while someone yells at their kids in the background. Yes, you are an adult. Yes, you have a life outside of school. (And, may I say, good for you for braving this educational journey with so much extra to carry with you.) If you mute yourself as soon as you get into the meeting, you will never have this problem. And if you’re afraid you’ll be called on and forget to unmute yourself, then remember, someone will let you know. And there’s always time to start again!
Dress for Success. This doesn’t mean you’ll need a suit and tie every time you meet with your periodontist to show him your teeth over webcam. (Does anyone else do that, or is it just me?) It does mean that you must not wear anything that is Rude, Revealing, or Too Relaxed. Just remember not to violate the three Rs and you’ll be fine!
Stay Put. Motion sickness is very real. Moving from room to room in your house is simply not a polite way to show you are paying attention, and it is distracting to boot. If you do need to get up and move around (and that’s another great way to avoid Zoom fatigue, by the way), turn your camera off, or even ask the person in charge for a brief recess. Most likely, everyone will appreciate it. You can’t do this every 20 minutes, but one break every 90 minutes or so is just simply a good idea.
There are a whole bunch of more ways to improve your zoom etiquette. Check out this article from the University of Pittsburg or this one from Chicago’s own Depaul University. And Zoom’s blog has a great piece as well.
As I said, Zoom is a wonderful tool. But, as with any tool, incorrect usage can result in problems and even death. Okay, not death, but, as I said, it can feel that way sometimes. Following these simple guidelines is a fantastic way to make sure you get the most out of your Zoom experience while also making sure that everyone else has a great experience as well. Happy Zooming, everyone!