Think back on the last online presentation you attended. Were you sitting at the same desk where you had been sitting all day? Did you remember to bring your coffee or had it already gotten cold from the previous video calls that day? Did you find yourself drifting off, checking your email or chat, maybe picking up your phone and discretely browsing that feed (again)? If so, you are not alone. But – luckily – there are ways to help you stay focused.
I don’t know how many times I’ve found myself wanting to pay attention during online presentations but drifting off anyway. Actually, researchers at Stanford University recently published a report with arguments that nonverbal overload due to extensive videoconferencing causes exhaustion. The phenomenon is widely known as “Zoom fatigue” and describes why we’re prone to lose focus and feel drained after virtual meetings.
But what about those presentations during meetings where you really WANT to stay focused and really take in the content, like the Empower streaming sessions? Now, our track leaders are extremely experienced, and will do all they can to keep you focused and involved, but there are things that you can do too. After all, this is what you came for! 😌
So, what can you do to maximize the value you get from really important presentations? I’ve spent a couple of months trying different things and these are the ones that has helped me the most:
1. Remove distractions!
Perhaps a given, but this is the most important one. Turn off notifications on your computer, close the chat and email and put away your phone. Preferably far enough away so you can’t reach it during the meeting.
Consider covering your keyboard and trackpad with a piece of paper. This will prevent you from reaching for that distraction from old habit.
2. Bring out your (analogue) notepad
Take notes like you did in school, with pen and paper (or at the very least, in a different medium than your computer). Notetaking will help you remember and understand the information better, and hey, you even get something to come back to later! I use different colors when I take notes, because life is always better with colors 🌈
Another useful tip if you want to push yourself can be to draw your notes, so called sketchnoting. By using both words and images, you use more parts of your brain to process the information.
3. Focus less on the slides and more on the speaker
If/when you can, bring up the presenter’s video bigger than the slides, the slides are a fallback, it’s the person’s face that will give you the emotional connection and the body language that is memorable. Also, what’s more important, is that the intent of the speaker is best understood through video. Our brains tend to misunderstand that when we only listen or read.
If possible, turn off self-view too (this is possible in Zoom but not (yet) in Teams ). Constantly having that image of yourself, like a small mirror in the corner, induces anxiety and makes it difficult to focus.
4. Make the picture up big (enough)
If you have an external display you can bring up the video there and move away from the keyboard. Why not try the TV for long presentations? I’ve done this during digital conferences and it’s really amazing how much you can take in when you get that movie-ish experience. A plus is that you can actually put your laptop away!
A small warning though, full screen video of a person’s torso up close might screw with your brain’s unconscious interpretation of the room and the distance to things around you, which can add additional stress to your brain. So, make the video big enough to cover other things on the screen, but don’t necessarily use full screen mode if you need to sit close to it.
5. Make use of the pauses
Leave the screen, stand up, move around, and let your eyes and brain get a welcome break from the screen. Everyone knows by now why giving your body and mind a break is a good thing, so I don’t need to go into any more details here. Just remember to actually do it 😉
If it’s a long session, like a conference, try to prepare snacks for the breaks beforehand. Maybe a banana for one and a piece of chocolate for another.
I do have two additional tips if you would like up your game even more:
6. Let the breakout room be a break-away-from-the-desk-room
During a meeting or presentation that involves breakout sessions, use them to move around like you would during a live session. Sit at another table or even on the coach for the duration of the breakout session, then move back. This will give your body an additional break and energy boost for the continuation of the meeting.
7. Show the speaker that you’re listening
It is good to keep in mind that the one you’re looking at/listening to also sees you. So, if you want to give your focus and energy back to the speaker, make sure to show with your body that you’re listening. Nod when you agree or lean forward if you feel something is particularly interesting. This is a win-win for everyone because a more engaged speaker is much easier to focus on!
So next time you watch an online presentation, put some effort into making it memorable and free from distractions, your brain will thank you for it 🧠😃
If you want to learn more about how to connect to people in a virtual world, the book “Can you hear me” by Nick Morgan is a great start!
If you’re not already a member, join Ambition Empower to get continuous competence development within design- and product leadership from such thought leaders as Chris Noessel, Kim Goodwin, Per Axbom and Susan Weinschenk! It is optimized for your busy life, allowing you to spend as little as one hour per week, and still stay ahead of the competition.