Virtual meetings have become an integral part of our daily lives, but it can be challenging to maintain focus and concentration for the duration of these meetings. With the many distractions that come with working from home and the lack of in-person interaction, it's easy to lose focus and become disengaged.
Like any bad habit, we inch our toe over the line. First, just check social media notifications, then open Youtube or even accidentally turn off the camera to go back to sleep. Regardless of what we do when distracted, the reality is that most of us experience online meeting distractions. We've all done it. You are in a virtual meeting, and your attention wanders. Then, how do you stay focused?
Why are virtual meetings more complicated?
There's a reason virtual meetings are more complicated than offline. Let's meet the Ringelmann Effect.
In 1913, a French architectural engineer named Max Ringelmann conducted a series of experiments and asked a group of people to individually and collectively pull on a rope. Ringelmann found that when people work alone, they put more effort into pulling on the rope than working on a team.
The Ringelmann effect is amplified in Sarah Gershman's writing in the Harvard Business Review that when you're not in the room to help “pull the rope” for a meeting, you may feel less motivated to listen and participate. The less you feel needed, the more distracted and the less you give at the meeting.
There are several reasons why virtual meetings are more complicated than in-person meetings.
1. First, your brain works harder to look for nonverbal cues
The brain will work harder than usual because of significantly reduced nonverbal relationships and communication. Scientists have found that 70-93% of all communication is nonverbal. When we meet virtually, our brains, voices and facial images are together, but our bodies are not. This makes it harder to get the normal amount of information from face-to-face conversations. As a result, we focus more on words and facial expressions, causing fatigue and anxiety from prolonged direct eye contact.
2. Seeing your face and others' large faces is pretty distressing
Some people find this not a problem, but some find it terrible. Associate Professor Marissa Shuffler noted that most people feel watched while on camera. It's like being on stage and looking in a mirror simultaneously.
3. Distractions are harder to manage
In a face-to-face meeting, it's easy to deal with distractions because you can see the situation. But when you're having a virtual meeting, think twice before asking a client or coworker to put down the phone or asking the dog to be quiet.
4. Mastery of the technology and presentation skills is needed
Being disorganised and incompetent will hurt overall credibility. Effective online meetings require mastery of the technology used, thus creating new challenges during the meeting.
7 ways to stay focused during virtual meetings
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels
Here are some tactics you can apply to make online meetings more productive and exciting.
1. Define your value beforehand
Before the meeting begins, take a few moments to determine the purpose of the meeting. What is the essential information you have? What would you like to give your coworkers? Prepare these points in a note.
If you do not have a role in conveying any information, identify what you learned from the online meeting. Knowing the critical points during a meeting will help you.
2. Acknowledging previous statements
Don't jump in to make a point without hearing or acknowledging what was just said. Giving feedback needs rules, so it doesn't hurt each other. Arguing over the wrong way to respond throws the meeting into chaos.
Try to listen actively. Then, before you bring up a new topic, repeat the previous point and ask the speaker if you have defined it correctly. This will help the discussion run more smoothly and make people listen to what you have to say.
3. Connect the dots
Listening is the most helpful ability in virtual meetings. For example, some participants mentioned that the client wanted to change the concept. You might say, "I heard the client wanted to change the draft. I wonder if you have any thoughts on why they want to change the concept?" Notice that you are not providing any new information. By listening first and then connecting the dots, you can help your coworkers understand the meeting and guide the discussion in a productive direction.
4. Bring your attention back
It's natural for your mind to wander during a discussion. That's fine, but try to bring your focus back by writing down what you're thinking. After that, you can leave it on paper and come back when the meeting ends.
5. Don't be afraid to ask a question
Sometimes when your mind wanders and returns to focus on the meeting, you may miss some information. Give yourself time to get back on track, and don't be afraid to ask clarifying questions.
6. Take notes
Don't underestimate small notes during a meeting. The presence of small notes makes it easier to focus. The information in the notes will also help you remember after the call. Do not forget to provide details of the meeting time in the notes.
7. Set a designated workspace
As simple as it sounds, having a dedicated workspace for remote workers always helps. Workspaces will make it easier for you to switch in and out of "work mode" and allow you to focus more. We know it's hard to work in a place with people milling about.
In conclusion, it can be challenging to stay focused and engaged during virtual meetings. But with the right strategies, you can improve your focus and get the most out of your virtual meetings. The 7 proven ways to stay focused during virtual meetings that we discussed in this article are easy to implement and can help you boost your productivity and performance.
Remember, the key is to find what works best for you and make it a habit. With the right mindset, you can stay focused and achieve your goals during virtual meetings.