Sh*t my brain says and forgets about

Being mindful during video calls

Working remote means I’m on a lot of video calls. I’ve come up with a bunch of little tweaks to help with attentiveness and mindfulness during the call. It is important to show you’re listening.

Look at the camera often

When you’re in person you look at people’s eyes to show them you’re listening. Doing that on a video call requires a bit of counter-intuitive body language by looking at the camera. You won’t be looking at the person but they’ll see you looking directly at them. It’s a subtle difference but I’ve found it highly effective.

Also try to place the video call window up the screen towards the camera. Also decrease the size of the window so the person’s eyes are naturally closer to the top of the window (closer to the camera). When you’re not looking at the camera while the person is speaking it’ll still look like you’re generally looking at them. If you see someone’s eyes darting around during a call it’s easy to assume they’re distracted.

Actually listen

Don’t get on a video call unless the other people have your attention. There’s nothing more dismissive than seeing people on the call absorbed in something else. Give the speaker visual cues you’re listening including the occasional nod. Mark yourself as do not disturb and turn off distractions.

Show your hands

Once in a while I’ll lean back or do something to have my hands show up on camera. Why? It shows I’m not typing. If I’m not typing then I’m not doing something else like chatting on Slack or coding. This is just another subtle way to show you’re paying attention.

Take written notes

Hand-written notes force you to not use the keyboard and further pay attention. I generally let people know I like taking hand-written notes so they know why I look down once in a while. Sometimes looking down can be disruptive particularly in 1:1 meetings –  conversations will naturally pause. If you need to be less obvious when taking notes then stick with typing notes.

Lighting, sound, camera

Make sure you’re properly lit and don’t have a light behind you that’s washing out your image. Use a headset or headphones to prevent feedback. Try using a higher quality microphone as well instead of the built-in one. If your camera is lower resolution consider getting a decent USB one. Looking and sounding good helps eliminate distractions from any message you’re trying to convey.

Turn off your own video preview

If you can, turn off the little window showing your own live view once you’re sure your lighting is good. You’ll find that once that preview is gone you’ll look more at the person on the other end of the call.

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7 Comments

  1. romainvincent

    Thanks for all these tips, Aaron!

    I also found a way to dedicate a little standing desk for video calls.

    Standing up – and being away from my second 21′ screen – during video calls helps me a lot to focus by keeping all my body “active” and mindful.

  2. Great post. Completely agree with all your points. And particularly appreciating the theme of trying to show others they have your attention.

    One I’d add: eating, drinking, smoothing your hair, scratching your nose… Be conscious that in some contexts these type of things are fine, but in others it can seem a little unprofessional (eg a business/client call, call with someone who’s new to video calls). If it’s a relaxed call with teammates different story – keeping it real becomes a positive. … Although I’d probably stop short of blowing my nose. 😋

  3. Great tips! I’ll try to keep them in mind during my future calls.

  4. Absolutely correct. Just imagine talking to a person physically and they are not looking at you. Even if they say they are listening, you doubt they are.

    Noise should be eliminated or reduced at all costs. Very important.

    Great tips, thanks for sharing.

  5. I love these tips, Aaron. In Zoom I often use the “Minimize” function and move the smaller rectangle to the top of my laptop under the camera. This means I can look at the person in the face and be seen as looking back.

    My recent favorite tip (from an altMBA coach named Lisa Lambert): put a paper sign or sticky that says W.A.I.T. on it near your camera. It stands for “why am I talking?” and helps me to notice when I’m not actively listening.

  6. Reblogged this on The Sensible Leader and commented:
    Aaron Douglas on being mindful during video calls. Great tips, not just for remote workers, either. “I’ve come up with a bunch of little tweaks to help with attentiveness and mindfulness during the call. It is important to show you’re listening.”

  7. These are simple but great helpful tips.

    Two takeaways for me: ‘show your hands’ and ‘turn off your own video preview.’

    Thanks, Aaron.

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