How Not Alienate Your Team During Video Calls

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The simple answer: Do not let the team call turn into a call between two people.

We’ve all been in virtual team calls where there are a number of people, with their cameras on, trying their best to stay focused.

You decide to ask a question to one of your team members. They respond and you ask further questions. Before you notice it, the call has turned into you both having an in-depth discussion. You forget that the other team members are just watching you two talking.

This is the moment when you need to snap out of that one-to-one conversation and grab your entire team’s attention. Staying focused while on video calls is tough. Even harder is when people are not kept engaged. They’ll lose focus and start checking emails or responding to their instant messages.

Think of the same in real world terms. You are in a meeting room and the meeting starts to drift into a one-to-one discussion with a single team member. You’re still in the room and your peripheral vision will pick up the body language of the others. You’ll make eye contact with others. They’ll engage and chip in. Real world team meetings have that advantage.

This is not always the case in virtual meetings. Due to the layouts and set up of these virtual boxes, we sometimes end up talking to just one person. It’s hard to realise that the others are shifting uneasily and losing interest. When you are focusing on a single box on your screen and it’s hard to notice what’s happening in the other boxes.

Few pointers to avoid the above:

  • Actively think about how long you are talking with just one person during the team call. If it’s just two people talking, you are definitely losing the rest of the team.
  • Practice scanning through all the video boxes so you notice that there are others in the same call. You might pick up visual queues if others are feeling fatigued, or wanting to contribute.

A simple hack: I scale down the entire chat window to one fourth it’s size. Due to large screen sizes, it’s not easy moving the focus of your vision from one corner to the other at all times. It is easier when the entire chat window is smaller.

I’d love to hear your experiences and the hacks you use to observe your wider team during virtual meetings.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

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