How can you speak with high energy if it's your sixth video conference of the day? Here are the best tips and tricks for starting a Zoom meeting.
"The show must go on."
How many times have you heard those words? According to the Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, that's a “phrase used to convey the idea that an event or activity must continue even if there are problems or difficulties, with or without regard to actual show business.”
Video conferences certainly aren't show business. But if they matter to you professionally and to your company's success (and they do) . . . well, the show must go on. No matter that you've been in front of your computer for hours and you barely have enough energy to sit up straight.
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If you were in the theater, the stage manager would rap on the dressing room door right about now and exclaim "Five minutes!" And you'd let everything else go and throw yourself into the performance that's about to begin.
So, where in the world do you get the energy to do so in a Zoom meeting? Let's talk about that.
Developing a Performance Mindset
The place you need to start is not in your body, but in your head. Recently, a client said to me: "You're always the same in our Zoom meetings. You always have the exact same level of energy." Well, I had never really thought about it, but I did at that moment. And I realized the answer was that for most of my life, I've been a professional performer.
For performers, "the show must go on," never needs to be stated. It's simply understood. You have a bad cold, and tonight you have to perform your 500th performance as King Lear? Too bad. Chances are you'd never mention the cold—or if you did, you wouldn't pair it in your own mind with the show.
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This isn't to suggest that actors are more noble human beings than, say, business professionals. It's just that they understand a simple fact: performances need a higher level of energy than everyday interactions. So you just gather yourself and do it. In every situation with other human beings, you're performing; and if anything, that fact should be more obvious in a video conference. You might say it's your fiduciary duty to give 100% of whatever you've got left to the discussion. Truly, your organization is depending upon you to do so.
How to Create a High-Octane Performance
Now we can get to the body. The good news is that you can put your performance mindset to work through some breathing and movement.
You won't feel energized if you're not breathing properly—and unfortunately, few of us do when it comes to public speaking. Add to that the lethargy that can come from sitting down, indoors, for long periods without any physical activity, and it's no wonder you run out of gas.
If you can, take five minutes and practice this amazing exercise for focusing yourself and getting more oxygen in your system. In these days of frazzled attention spans after endless meetings, anything that will steady and focus you is well worth a few minutes! Alternatively, go in the other direction (alternate the two between video meetings?) and move!
When you move, your muscles require more oxygen, so this is another way to kick-start yourself into a more active state. That includes your mind. Your brain needs the oxygen increase to help you think on your feet . . . or on your seat in this case. And there's nothing like even a modest amount of exercise to clear away those video-cobwebs.
Time to Get Creative in Your Next Zoom Meeting
Once your brain has been reactivated, you can get creative about how to start a meeting with more pep and pizzaz. Some ideas:
- Go with something other than "Hi, hello . . . how are you?" Even "What's new?" isn't going to elicit much, since everyone has been stuck at home in front of their laptops. What could be new? How about some of the greetings you would use if you were in the office?
- Set a rule: Whoever is hosting the meeting has to start off with an interesting fact.
- Or the host has to share something from their own life, and everyone has to say whether they think it's true or made up.
- Make a rule that the first five or ten minutes is chat-time, before the team gets down to business. Especially if everyone is in back-to-back meetings, this can be decompression time, as well as an opportunity to actually look forward to the meeting.
- Use virtual backgrounds. The pro version of Zoom allows you to use photographs or video clips. Some of them are really fun and will wake up people's attention.
- Be on the lookout for visuals you can share with the attendees. Or even consider using the occasional slide to break up your part of the discussion. We all respond to visuals.
- Tell stories. We respond just as strongly to them as we do to visuals. Don't bring in long time-consuming tales. But include a personal anecdote, customer experience, or something the team would appreciate hearing. It should perk them up, right quick!
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Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in theater-based public speaking training. His company, Boston-based The Genard Method offers in-person and online training to help executives and teams become extraordinary communicators. In 2020 for the seventh consecutive year, Gary has been ranked by Global Gurus as One of The World's Top 30 Communication Professionals. He is the author of How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speaking, was recently named as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." Contact Gary here.