Challenges of the Remote-Age: Effectively Contributing to Zoom Meetings (by Stephanie Trattles - Multiverse BA Coach)
This week’s article focuses on a niche aspect of meetings: finding the right time to speak up and add value to a remote group meeting.
First and foremost, it’s worth a mention that when it comes to fairly allocating air-time within a meeting, a level of onus is on the person running the meeting to allow each attendee an opportunity to contribute and add value. However, this article is not about shifting blame and making excuses, it’s about understanding what is within your locus of control and taking accountability and ownership of your performance.
There are a number of elements to consider when thinking about why you, or a member of your team, might feel uncomfortable at the thought of contributing to remote group meetings. I divulge into a number of these below.
Your Network Is Your Net-Worth
Have you had the opportunity to get to know your colleagues? A real challenge of the remote-age is the fact that anyone who started a new role in 2020 has hardly had the opportunity to meet their colleagues face to face - ever. This is an important part of confidently contributing an idea, giving feedback, or simply coming off mute to share what you got up to over the weekend.
Diarise 121 remote coffee catch ups with different people in the team to find out more about them as a person: Where did they grow up? What are their hobbies? Have they got any holidays booked in this year? By building relationships with your teammates, you will realise that they are just people - the likelihood is they won’t ridicule your idea and they won’t be offended if there’s an internet delay causing you to talk over one another.
Fail to Prepare, Prepare to...remain on mute in remote group meetings
Do you feel like you have no substantial ideas, feedback or points worth a mention during a remote group meeting? Personally, when an idea or conversation is sprung on me, I need time to digest the information as often, my best ideas come to me after the fact, when I’m out shopping for groceries or taking a shower. This can make me look uncreative and unengaged in meetings, so I implement the below strategy where possible.
A way to overcome this challenge is to reach out to the person hosting the meeting for some background information days before it takes place: What is the content of the meeting? Are there any points where you will be asking for group contribution? Is there anything I can do to prepare for the meeting?
Remember to explain why you’re asking these questions, and remain positive throughout the interaction - you don’t want to come off as if you would rather not attend. Moreover, by flagging that you are putting in some pre-work, the host is likely to ask for your contributions in the meeting, providing you with a great opportunity to come off mute: a win-win.
Picture this: you have an idea, the person hosting the meeting has asked if anyone would like to contribute…all of a sudden your inner critic, the devil on your shoulder starts telling you all of the reasons why you should stay on mute. However, professional development and growth do not take place during these self-sabotaging moments, so get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
This one requires a bit of self-work and reflection, and even if you feel confident most of the time, it's worth carving out 30 minutes to complete the below steps. Doing so will increase the distance between your confident self and the inner critic.
Reflect: Can you think of a time when you were highly confident in your ability to do something? What was it? What did it feel like?
Set a timer. Write for 5 minutes in third person about yourself, starting with ‘What’s so amazing about *insert your name* is…’. Include all of your accomplishments, skills and challenges that you have overcome.
Think about your inner critic: What does it say to you? What impact does this have on your life? Once you have considered all of this, think about what life would look like if you were free of the inner critic.
Now think about the situations that trigger your inner critic: Where are you? Who are you with? What, specifically, is triggering it?
Create an empowering statement that you can revisit when your inner critic is at its loudest; something like ‘I can’, ‘I am capable’ or ‘I am strong’
Now that you understand your inner critic, make a conscious effort to distance yourself from it. More often than not, the situations that trigger your inner critic are not life or death, and remaining in your comfort zone by failing to act is unhelpful and hindering your ability to grow.
Have confidence in yourself and your ideas - diversity of thought is important, and if the same people add the same ideas, we become siloed in our thinking and fail to innovate. Your suggestion may or may not come to fruition, but I can guarantee that an unused idea is far more valuable than silence.
Connection: It's not you, it's m...y internet
We’ve all experienced the internet delay that causes at least two attendees to start speaking at exactly the same time. A challenge of the remote-age is that when this happens, the audience can make out absolutely nothing of what has been said. It creates an awkward moment and a wave of ‘no you go!’. On one hand, this has emphasised the importance of not interrupting people while they are speaking, however, I have observed a depletion in the conversational nature of discussion and a reduction in the number of valuable, ad-hoc contributions.
Finding the perfect moment of silence during a remote group meeting is an art, and sometimes it feels impossible in a call of extroverted colleagues. My advice is to use technology to your advantage by implementing the below suggestions:
Turn on your camera and use your facial expressions and body language to react to what is being said. Often, I will sit forward and look as if I am preparing to speak when I would like to contribute or have an idea.
There is a function on Zoom where you can raise a cartoon-looking hand in your video to indicate that your hand is up and you would like to contribute. To do so, select ‘Reactions’ in the bottom tab and select the raised hand. On a separate note, you can also use this function to demonstrate a ‘round of applause’.
Ultimately, faulty internet is outside of your locus of control. Your ability to communicate this, however, is not. If you notice your internet delay is causing you to speak at the same time as others, take the opportunity to apologise for interrupting and explain that your internet is playing up before contributing your point. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, use the chat function on Zoom to communicate the same message.
When it comes to effectively contributing to remote group meetings, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy - you can choose to remain silent and stagnant, or you can take a risk by coming off mute and creating an upward spiral where you converse, contribute, and engage in meaningful discussion with your colleagues. By implementing these strategies, you will realise that it’s not as daunting as it initially seemed, and as you continue contributing, you will start to reap the rewards of being an active, engaged attendee, without feeling awkward when coming off mute to share your thoughts.