Have you been on a video conference lately?   I bet you have, and if you’re like most people… it’s getting a little tiring. A new phenomenon has occurred in 2020 and it’s just as pervasive as COVID, it’s called zoom fatigue.  It’s caused by participants staring at a screen, waiting to speak, in one meeting after another all day long.  There is no more banter, no more side chat, we’ve all been forced into sterilized conversations with brief moments to insert your own sound bite.  It doesn’t matter whether you use Webex, MS Teams, or Zoom – the experience is the same, and this is happening all around the world.

One of the things I do during my business day is host business networking meetings. Pre-COVID this was done face to face in hotels, pubs, and restaurants throughout the Southeast of the UK. In order to keep giving people what they want and keep people connected during these difficult times, we brought the Business Breakout online. At first, attendees were exuberant, but after five months – attention spans waned. Like any good marketing company, we did a survey. Nobody had a problem with our online meetings, in fact, they loved them. However, after doing more research we realized every online network was experiencing the same drop in attendance and engagement. People attending company meetings were getting edgier and less patient. They were getting Zoom fatigue.

Yes, there is market saturation because we were all forced online at the same time – but instead of creating indifference like any other market event, video conferencing has created fatigue. So what can you do to prevent your own zoom fatigue and that of your team? The answer isn’t one of mindset – but how you use the technology.

You’re misusing video conferencing 

Video conferencing isn’t the same as holding a live event.  The gravitas of a live event comes from the number of participants and who is attending. Essentially, it’s a status and affiliation thing. (Status and affiliation refer to buying triggers… read more here) Video conferencing doesn’t work the same way because even if you have a room full of people, you can’t all speak at once due to how the tech works. However, hosts and employers pack a video conferencing room because that’s all they know how to do – treat it like a substitute for a live event. However, the larger your online event, the more you are going to have to prep in advance to prevent zoom fatigue. If you don’t prepare, here is what happens to your participants:

Large video events

Large online events create bored participants and often end up becoming a style of lecture when you keep participants in the same space for too long.

Endless or consecutive office meetings

I see a lot of teams in the corporate world using video conferencing to hold their meetings. There is a better way to do it.  Meetings are often going way over time, just like they used to, but because there is no side banter, no chance to step away – people are feeling forced to sit staring at a screen for hours.  If you think about it… we don’t even do that when relaxing in front of the tv.  One of the biggest reasons this is happening is because your employer or manager is making sure you are participating at work. They are employing the buying triggers of status and dominance. Read more here. However, instead of using them to get you to enroll, buy, or volunteer for something, they are using it as an emotional checkpoint.

5 ways to increase engagement on your video conference

Keep it timely

The beauty of video conferencing is the efficiency of time. There is no more commute, no getting stuck in traffic, searching for a place to park, waiting for other people to arrive. A video conference begins at a specific time. Make sure you end at a specific time. Remember – everything is suddenly done through video conference, people aren’t used to it.  Pick a length of time and close the meeting on time. They’ll thank you later by showing up again.

You need a host with a lot of energy

Remember that your participants are sitting alone in a room… just like you are. This means there is no energy in the room your participants are physically in for them to feed off of. The energy from your meeting needs to come from the screen that your participant is watching much like watching a movie. It’s one of the reasons why movies are so over the top – because otherwise, it wouldn’t move you.  Your host needs to be more of an entertainer for this to come across. Otherwise, your meeting is going to feel very flat.

Make it multi-modal

Video conferencing is more than just listening to one another talk. You can talk, text, watch a video with other participants, work on a shared document together and zip into other rooms to speak with other people. This is a very under-used utility of video conferencing.

Breakout rooms

We realized this early with the Business Breakout network. Make sure you have a format where people arent’ sitting around for too long just listening to someone.  Chances are that someone isn’t a highly engaging entertainer or thought-leader. Send them off into smaller rooms, and switch rooms around every few minutes so that people remain engaged. The longer your participants sit without any interaction – active reading, writing, chatting, the greater the chance of zoom fatigue.

Make it an interaction, not a presentation

You don’t need to do everything together at the same time.  Again, this is usually done with bigger companies to make sure everyone is present and at work. One of the best things you can do is send a video in advance presenting the facts of your case or points of the topic, and then later use a video conference for the discussion points among the team.  Again, schedule the discussion to a limited amount of time – and stick to that time. You’ll find your team will be are more productive.

The virtual world has arrived

We study and develop technology a lot here at Bookable, and one of the things I see loud and clear is that video conferencing is here to stay. It’s shortened time spans in every way. We were heading to video conferencing being a social norm within the next 5 to 10 years anyway, but this has been hurried due to the pandemic. However, video conferencing means we no longer have to wait for traffic, for others, for information.  That also means your participants are also going to be a lot less patient. You’ll help your small business or your department a lot more if you recognize the effects of video conferencing and zoom fatigue now. Stop treating them like live events, and use their strengths to your advantage.