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"Be a voice not an echo." - Albert Einstein

Zoom Anxiety? — How to Look, Feel, and Be More Powerful!

Zoom Anxiety? — How to Look, Feel, and Be More Powerful!

Dealing with Zoom anxiety? You're not alone! Here are six ways to look, feel, and BE more powerful in videoconferences. 

Are you missing some of the fun of your work life these days? I'm talking about meeting in a room with your colleagues or team and sharing the great work you're doing together. 

Or maybe it was looking forward to going to a customer's office to pitch some business.

Pre-Covid, in other words. When we actually got together and talked to people.

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Among the changes the pandemic has brought about, is a profound feeling of dislocation. It's literal, of course, in the sense that we can't actually go to the places where we used to conduct business. But it's also disrupted our sense of self and the way we relate to others. Transforming from a flesh-and-blood person into a virtual one is a jarring experience.

If You're Anxious. If you're prone to discomfort over speaking publicly, you've probably guessed the topic of this piece. It's Zoom anxiety . . . and you won't find a mask to help protect you from it. So, how do you ground yourself when you feel like you're floating in cyberspace and people have been replaced by an unblinking camera? (To keep you from screaming, I won't even mention your company's policy of letting everyone turn their camera off.)

Six Solutions. Below are six ways you can deal with Zoom anxiety. These techniques go from before-the-fact cognitive restructuring, to in-the-moment awareness of the body. Together, they will help you to look, feel, and be more powerful in your every virtual meeting and videoconference. 

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Dr. Gary Genard's guide to speaking virtually, The Online Meetings Handbook

1. Learn to Succeed. Our memories can be highly selective, and nowhere is this truer than when it comes to a bad public speaking experience. It's called learned behavior, and it means that if you've failed at something once, you "learn" that this is what is going to happen every time. Being a full-time virtual speaker is a new experience. If you stumble while doing it, it's easy to believe that ALL of your virtual encounters will turn out this way. Most of us are great at beating up on ourselves, anyway. Rather than basically learning to fail, learn to succeed. How? Remind yourself about all the times you've nailed it. Write some of them down, and take them to heart!

2. Get Ready to Perform. That means revving up your energy. A performance is different from the everyday. If you have Zoom anxiety, you already know that there's an audience, and you're performing. Yes, it's harder to light a fire under listeners when you can't see them, but energizing yourself is one of the ways you can make it easier. Remember Isaac Newton's law: "For every reaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction." If YOU provide the energy, some of it will come right back to you. 

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3. No Drones Allowed in This Airspace. You know how sometimes you're in the middle of a lengthy explanation, and you start wondering if it's boring everyone? The answer to your question is probably yes. So don't do it! Virtual meetings (where we can't see everyone's reaction) can easily convince us that people have zoned out. Why not err on the safe side and do you best to ensure that they don't? Get out of the content/data/literary mode and into the oral arena. Speak in short sentences. Use small powerful words. There's no downside. It will help in all of your speaking. See?

4. Tell Stories. Want you make sure listeners pay attention whether you can see them or not? Turn your data into stories. That is, weave the essential information into a story. You'll get the same information across, but with a huge advantage: it will sound and feel like it's all about people. Which in the end, it always is. If you speak in terms of how the data relates to the people you're talking to . . . well, you just ain't gonna fail.

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5. Be In the Moment. One reason anxiety intrudes on our presentations is that we can't focus on the here-and-now. We'd like to, but we start indulging in negative self-talk, and move further and further from connecting with people in the moment. Instead, we need some mindfulness, which simply means being in the present moment as much as possible. One way is to get out of your head and into your body. Get physical! Focus momentarily (aha, good word!) on the sensations of your own body. Speaking of bodies, pay attention to anything you're seeing from the other participants. But in all cases, avoid looking at yourself. The moment isn't about you—it's about connecting.

6. Take the Pause that Refreshes. That's an old ad slogan, but it can apply here as part of becoming more mindful. Take a moment to become aware of your breathing. "Follow the breath," and enjoy this all-physical space. You should be able to do this easily while still paying attention to the meeting. To focus on the breath is to be in the moment. Enjoy this calm place, then simply and invisibly come back online. 

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Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in public speaking training and overcoming speaking fear. His company, Boston-based The Genard Method offers live 1:1 Zoom executive coaching  and corporate group training worldwide. 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 the Amazon Best-Seller How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speakingwas named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." His latest book is The Online Meetings Handbooknow available at The Genard Method and at Amazon. To know more about TGM's services, Contact Gary here.  


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