In our new socially distanced world, video chat reigns supreme as the primary form of communication for many workplaces and groups of family and friends looking to keep in touch. Whether you use Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, or Google Hangouts, Meet, or Duo, you’ve probably noticed that despite being able to see everyone’s face, it’s still not quite the same as a pre-coronavirus pandemic in-person conversation. But why?
In a recent blog post, Google UX researcher Zachary Yorke explored this virtual video quandary and suggested a fix. Here are five ways to make video meetings feel more natural and help you stay connected.
THINK TWICE BEFORE MUTING YOUR MIC
Even under the best circumstances when everyone has a strong internet connection, there’s still a very slight delay from the time someone talks to the time their voice reaches the others on the call. This only gets worse when someone has laggy audio, or fumbles to hit the unmute button.
As a solution, for smaller group chats, Yorke recommends staying unmuted to provide bits of verbal feedback (like “mmhmm” and “OK”) to show active listening. In larger meetings, you can try speaking more slowly to avoid unintended interruptions, and give people time to interject if needed, Yorke recommended.
GIVE SOME VISUAL CUES, TOO
One thing can make a difference, he added: Visual listening cues. For example, when you need to engage, keep your eyes focused on your fellow video chat participants, instead of on your inbox or another browser tab, and show that you’re listening by nodding and smiling. This will help everyone better read emotions and analyze ideas, Yorke wrote.
MAKE SOME TIME FOR A PERSONAL TALK
Many in-person meetings might start with some informal small talk, with coworkers sharing small pieces of their lives and families. This is a good thing: Research shows that teams that sometimes share personal information perform better than teams that don’t. When leaders model this, it often boosts team performance even more.
CHAT ABOUT HOW YOU WANT TO WORK
When there’s a workplace problem, To keep everyone on the same page, even when working styles are different, you should have open conversations with your newly-remote teammates about how everyone prefers to work, and how you can complement each other, Yorke wrote.
USE THE ‘TALKING STICK’
Video conferences are often less dynamic than in-person ones, and fewer people tend to feel comfortable sharing, In your video conferences, you can encourage more balanced conversations, passing the proverbial “talking stick” around to each member of the group to ensure everyone has time to speak, Yorke recommended. You can also remind others to do the same.