Video Conferencing in the time of Social Distancing: There is no screen between us

by | May 7, 2020 | Professional Development

I am a social gal. It’s been quite a few weeks now since many of us have been asked to work from home and shelter in place.

For many, this working from home is at times trying and difficult. Children have become co-workers and dogs barking mid Zoom conference has become the new normal.

Many of my clients and professional friends tell me just how much they miss sitting face to face at work for their meetings.

Someday, hopefully soon, we will be able to do it again, safely.  Until then, there is no reason why you can’t connect digitally with anyone in a genuine way.

What can you do to make that video call feel like your client is right across from you and create the same degree of intimacy that comes with it?

Can that computer screen, tablet or phone melt away?  Can you feel their presence no matter where they are in the world?

It is vitally important to learn how to have an effective, connected, video conference call.

Last week I had a meeting with a client, who is currently dissatisfied in her current position with the company she’s working for, and trying to decide on her options and figure out her next career move, she’s feeling lost and stuck and just doesn’t know what to do next. When we first scheduled this meeting, it was way back in March, prior to all the social distancing and stay at home edicts.  We had decided to meet at one of our favorite local cafes overlooking the mighty Mississippi River.

view of Mississippi River

I was looking forward to it, because I just love face-to-face meetings with my local clients.  It is a treat, as most of my other clients are not local and we always do Zoom meetings.

Our plans had to quickly shift when the shelter in place orders went into effect.  I was bummed.  We finally had our video meeting recently and I realized afterward that it was just as satisfying and rewarding as if we had done it face-to-face, sans the amazing iced tea I would have ordered.  I felt just as close and connected to her and immersed in rich conversation.

I thought about it. Why was it so comfortable for me?  Why did it feel like she was right across the table and that there was no distance between us?

Three ways to make videoconferencing more satisfying and personable

As I pondered this, it occurred to me that in my 25+ years of telecommuting I have been doing face-to-face video meetings for the last 8 years.  Seeing my client’s and colleagues’ faces and expressions built a level of connectedness, deeper relationships, and trust that emails and phone calls just can’t do.   It became the norm for me.  I realized there were three things I implemented that made it so satisfying.  These are 3 easy steps anyone can take to make video conferencing feel more like a face-to-face connection.

Create a videoconference space that feels like you

1. Create a space that you are comfortable with and that represents you.

What is on your desk or workspace?  Does it bring you pleasure or joy?  Is it an expression of you? Does it ground you?  Does it make you comfortable?   Organize your surroundings to create the effect and projection you want – this is your background in the video shot.  Then look at your camera position, lighting, etc.  It needs to clearly show you, your facial expressions, etc. to your audience.  Take some time to construct the visual clues to project your authentic self.  A modest investment can bring a big reward.

Jennifer from HTSS in San Diego

2. Prepare for your meeting before your video conference starts.

By doing so you use meeting time to connect and listen intently.  As a result, you avoid being distracted by looking around for what you need or organizing your thoughts on the fly.  This way you can focus on your physical presence and theirs, connect authentically and be fully present.

Make sure you jot down a comment to share as your contribution, ask questions, listen intently, give praise, and laugh.  You may need to emote in a more exaggerated way as video may not pick up all of our physical nuances in a small window.  Be natural and engaging.  Your clients and colleagues will appreciate it more than you know.


erin Duffy Office picture

3. Show off your personality.

Dress the way that makes you feel most comfortable and expresses who you are in your professional world.   You know when you have a great outfit on or when you are wearing something that just makes you feel unique, comfortable, and confident – do the same for your video meetings.

When you do what makes you feel comfortable, that relaxed confident nature will come across and create a sense of connectedness with your audience. Bring “yourself” to the meeting. The camera and the screen will fade away over time.

These three steps will make you feel more present and help you feel like you are in the presence of those you speak to on video.  Because you have prepared yourself and created your ideal surroundings you project your authentic self, you are more apt to recapture the feeling of sitting across that table with your clients and colleagues. You will be more comfortable and over time, you won’t see the screen – it’ll be just you and them!

Have you gotten over Zoom as the new norm? Are you ready for that face to face meeting? Get rid of that bed head, dress for action, occupy those co-workers, give the dog a bone, and earn the Zoom Wings!

If you’re still struggling to create a deep connection with the people you’re speaking to, maybe because in your heart of hearts you’re in the wrong job — if that’s how you’re feeling deep down then let’s talk!

Erin Duffy

Erin Duffy

Founder, InspirationSQRD

Erin Duffy is more than an Executive Stage Presence & Career Transformation Coach; she’s a catalyst for personal empowerment. Her mission? To guide individuals to steer their careers and step onto the stage with authenticity, confidence, and irresistible charisma to inspire. Erin’s expertise lies in helping clients clarify their why’s and embrace their unique personal stories. These stories, traits, and values guide a career transformation journey more in line with who they are today. They also become the cornerstone of their personal brand. She empowers individuals to own their narratives and harness them to amplify their stage presence.