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We’ve all been there. On a Zoom call and you see those little black screens.


No camera.

Just a name.

A headshot if they are Zoom savvy.


You accept the reasons why and carry on with your meeting anyway. Then you have to ask the black screen a question.


Oh, they are on mute too.


Are they even there? Are they multi-tasking something else? If  I ask, will they respond? Or will I look silly to the rest of the group when they don’t answer at all?


Being on a Zoom call with a bunch of little black squares can be frustrating. You have your camera on, you’re ready to go, you’re ready to participate just as much as if you were in-person.

So why isn’t everyone else?


If we’ve agreed to be on Zoom, it was for a purpose. It was to replicate an in-person meeting that should have been had, but could not be had for any number of reasons.


The little black square takes away several nuances that can be really helpful to a meeting:

We can see facial expressions
We can sense someone’s hesitation
We can share resources better
We all know that meeting in-person is most optimal. However, since March 2020, we realize more than ever that in-person meetings are just not always feasible. We hear about Zoom fatigue. We’ve all likely had it as we waited for the return of in-the-same-room experiences.


What does “doing our best” in this virtual meeting era look like?


It looks like us trying to make connections as personal and meaningful as we can.


So how can we show up as our most present self???

Camera ON
Cell phones flipped upside down or away (AND on silent!)
Your screen is filled ONLY with what you need for THIS meeting (hint, it’s usually NOT your email.)
Your email is closed and not dinging
And, unless there is major background noise going on (dogs barking, kids playing, Amazon is there AGAIN…) your mic should be on too.
Let’s break it down…


Camera On


You don’t have a camera???

Get one! A camera is just as necessary today for work as a chair is. You wouldn’t, time and again, tell your team “oh sorry, I don’t have chairs. You’ll have to stand” – RIGHT?  You’d go buy chairs.


Your computer doesn’t support a camera?  I have heard this reason. One that seems implausible if you are using a laptop built in the 21st century. Your employer should be supplying you with a computer that supports a camera. Or buy one yourself and take a business deduction.


Well, in today’s world, it’s nearly just as ridiculous to have a computer that doesn’t support a camera. Using Zoom or Teams has been “normal” since mid 2020. It’s been over two years guys – cameras are fundamental office tools.


No Multitasking


Remember when we DID all meet in person??

Were you balancing your checkbook while sitting at the big conference table with your team? (I know “no one” balances a checkbook anymore…lol… but I do!)
Were you ordering groceries online?
Were you answering emails or typing while nodding to the people in the room to look like you were listening?
Or were you fully engaged and participating in that meeting? (Ok, ok, we all daydream sometimes, I get that…but I’m talking about literally doing other non-business tasks while in a meeting.)


We didn’t do that. It was inappropriate then. It is inappropriate now.


If you’re multitasking during a meeting, you are not getting the value that is being offered. You are not being a pivotal part of discussion and decisions that are being made. You are not coming in at 100%.


Microphone On


I think I’m a little bit of a loner on this idea. But hear me out:


So many people join Zoom and may have their camera on, but are muted the entire meeting.


I may ask you a question, you’ll start to respond, and the meeting will do a stutter-stop as I remind you that you are muted, ask you to unmute, you unmute and then say “sorry! I was on mute…” (we already know that btw), and THEN you have to say your sentence again.


Talk about unproductive!


I know you’ve been in online meetings where this has happened. The entire vibe of the meeting gets derailed. You could be in the most awesome, exciting, brain-storming session EVER….and whoops, Sally is muted again.


If you unmute, we can have more productive, exciting, and engaged conversations! It does a world of difference for the energy of your meetings! (Try it!!!) Obviously mute if your dogs are barking or kids are being loud, I totally get it. But, for the most part, that isn’t the case and if you truly are fully engaged in the meeting, having your mic on will not be an issue.


Concerned we’ll all be talking over each other if we don’t use mute?  I’ve got an app for that 😉  There is a “hand raise” feature on Zoom. Or you can do it old school and have people literally raise their hand. The facilitator of the meeting can call on the next speaker and there won’t be much interruption.


Afraid you’ll forget that brilliant idea or question unless you say it out loud right now? Type it into the chat box!


>> If you’re reading this and have been on any of my group sessions (Leadership Lab, Group Executive Coaching, the free Coffee & Coaching Sessions) PLEASE comment on this post telling everyone your experience with how this goes. I really would greatly appreciate you helping to expel the myth that “mute is always good”. (Thank you!)


Sure there will be exceptions. There will be scheduling conflicts where phoning with no camera is the only option. But make a pact with your team that it stays the exception and does not become the default.


So what do YOU think? I realize my stance on this topic may be provocative, so I’d really like to hear your input.


Again, I realize many of us want to go back to only in-person meetings. But we can’t wait around and be unengaged and multi-tasking while we wait for that to happen. We just can’t.


Well, you can…


…but it won’t get you (or your business) very far.


Interested in working with a coach that’s so engaging that you won’t even think of touching your phone during a meeting? Interested in being SO totally focused on your goals that you can’t wait to get out of bed?


Then, LET’S GO!!!  Put some time on my calendar to talk with me about it…

Cheyenne Bennett profile picture
Cheyenne Sweeney

Cheyenne’s passion for serving people is evident in her gift for engaging the entire management team – from the owner to key executives during business sessions. Always having an interest in self-awareness and leadership, she helps teams better understand their role in the overall business strategy and company culture. 

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