I am noticing something interesting in the pandemic about communicating.
There is great disparity between how various people show up to meetings on video conferences.
Before the pandemic I wrote an article about increasing your effectiveness while working remotely and included the video below.
I wanted to add some thoughts and re-share the video.
If you are not communicating you are communicating
Let’s start with the idea of communicating in general.
Some people are talkers and some are not. Can you still stand out if you are not a natural talker? Of course.
But you can’t opt out of communicating entirely. You need to communicate some, because…
If you are not communicating, you ARE communicating something.
The problem is that by staying silent you are likely communicating things you don’t intend to communicate.
You might be communicating that you are checked out, that you don’t understand, that you don’t care, that you have nothing of value to offer.
That’s not the case, but how does everyone else know that? You are leaving it in their hands, and giving them no input to base their reaction on.
The risk of not communicating is that your peers and management will probably default to one of these explanations — especially if you are silent AND invisible because you are on a video call.
The Brandy Bunch screen
During the pandemic I have had the opportunity to talk with teams from many companies on group video calls.
What I typically find myself looking at in the “Brady Bunch” or gallery view, for a group of say 15 people, is 2 people with their cameras on, 7 black squares, and 6 profile photos — half of which are low quality.
Exerting Your Presence
How are you showing up?
How do you want to be thought of by your peers, colleagues and managers?
The most important thing for how you show up in conversation is the extent to which you are truly present.
We need to pay attention to exerting our presence — particularly remotely.
If we are in the room together we have a head start. But even in the room together, if we are not participating, not engaging, not talking, we are still not fully exerting our presence.
So how do you exert your presence when you are remote? Well, the next best thing to physical presence is video. Turn your camera on.
If you don’t turn your camera on you are missing the opportunity to be present.
On a video call, not only might your colleagues be thinking that you don’t care, you don’t understand, and you have nothing of value to offer — they might think that you are out for a run. They might think that you are not even there at all.
Three ways to show presence remotely
1. Turn your camera on and talk
This is how to show up and make your presence felt in the strongest way possible when working remotely.
2. Turn your camera on and don’t talk
SHOW your presence. If you are not much of a talker, at least let people see that you are there, listening. Give some head nods and thumbs up while others are talking.
3. Keep your camera off and talk
If you really don’t want to turn your camera on, you can still exert your presence. Say Hello at the beginning, say Goodbye and Thank You at the end, and participate throughout the middle.
I also suggest if you insist on keeping your camera off, that you use a high quality profile picture that shows you looking directly at the camera and has some energy in it. Look engaged! Don’t be a black square.
What you lose by not exerting your presence
Your choice to not exert your presence degrades your brand, your ability to connect and collaborate, shows a lack of respect for others, and
Keeping your camera off and not talking is not providing any value to your team or your career.
I know you are on more video calls than you can stand right now. I’m not saying to never turn your camera off. I’m not saying to never multi task.
But what I am saying is that it’s important to choose some meetings throughout the week, ones that matter the most, where you commit to being fully present.
You will not stand out in your career if you don’t show up.
I used to think that not only did I need to look presentable, I needed to look extra good, if I were to do a video call. The camera somehow upped the stakes.
I finally realized that it truly doesn’t matter. Long before the pandemic started I decided to get over myself, and I turned my camera on — no matter what I looked like, and even on days when I am not happy about what I look like.
If someone is giving me their time, I show up for them as much as I can, and that means turning my camera on.
You don’t need to be camera ready. You just need to be present.
There are some meetings when I am the only one with my camera on. I am talking to a bunch of black squares. But even then I don’t use it as a reason to be less present myself. I keep my camera on.
Here is a video from the pre-pandemic article I wrote where I show myself in various stages of decay, from camera ready to, my “one minute look” to just bad. And I talk about how I realized that it really DOESN’T MATTER how you look.
It matters so much more to exert your presence, and show up for people.
Collaboration and the quality of the conversation increases a lot if everyone turns their video on. If you’re not going to show yourself, please speak up!
I got so many positive responses to this article, that I decided to share them in another article: More Reasons to Turn Your Camera On.
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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)