A few weeks ago, my team and I wrote an article called 10 Tips to Presenting Virtually. I was really proud of the information it contained for colleagues and clients who are frantically pivoting from in-person to virtual meetings, pitches, and presentations.
A few days later, a former classmate of mine from the Harvard Kennedy School, Thor Steingraber, posted the following message on LinkedIn: “I just read a post on LinkedIn from a well-meaning colleague. She listed 10 things we should do on Zoom during this new era of remote work. It included dressing professionally, checking your lighting and backdrop, organizing your meeting materials, etc. While I appreciate her intention, maybe she misses the point. WHY are we working remotely? A pandemic! So here are my 10 things for Zoom.”
As you can imagine, my first (human) reaction was defensiveness. However, as I read through Thor’s tips, I realized they added a much-needed WHY to our article which had been focused on the HOW.
And I started to see his points everywhere. Last night, I watched the iHeartRadio Concert for America and saw a dozen performers share with us their living rooms, their families, and their pets. Clients of mine are starting to ask that their direct reports introduce their pets in virtual meetings. Personally, while teaching virtual classes at Harvard, calling in from the comfort of my home, I’ve found myself more authentic, more relaxed, and funnier (I think) than I ever was on stage.
I’m convinced we are going to see a revolution in authenticity in the workplace as a result of this trend. So here are Thor’s top 10 tips for virtual meetings (actually, he shared 11):
- Ask your colleagues HOW ARE YOU? and wait for them to answer.
- Laugh at yourself when technology fails you.
- Empathize when technology fails your colleague.
- For a backdrop, show off a little something in your house that makes you you, even if it’s a little messy.
- Enjoy the appearance of your colleagues’ pets.
- Enjoy your colleagues’ children too.
- Set aside a few minutes for water cooler chat – we’re all missing that.
- Take responsibility to learn how to use all the video functions so that you’re being a cooperative/collaborative member of the community, especially the Raise Hand function.
- Her note about lighting is probably a good one to heed. Good lighting is always a solid idea, even in a crisis [thanks, Thor!]
- Remind your colleagues why you’re working through the crisis at all – maybe because your work has value to you and others. Right?
- Say “thank you” and offer genuine well wishes before you Leave Meeting.
Final words from Thor: “Not every meeting is an interview or audition or opportunity to impress. Sometimes it’s just about getting stuff done, being human, and exercising #authenticleadership. I hope this is as much a rant as I’ll ever make on FB. And if you haven’t laughed yet, I failed.”
Friends, Thor’s tips were too good to get defensive about and too good to keep to our circle of friends on Facebook. I hope they remind you how to be human and make the most of these challenging times.