Q: The whole world is on, about to go on, or just after coming off, a Zoom call. I am far from comfortable on it and that makes me feel inadequate. My company has just announced daily group Zoom calls, as if once a week weren’t bad enough. How can I get over my fears? (AC, email).
A: Yes, like Google before it, Zoom looks to have even become a verb. You’re not alone, AC. I have come across a lot of people who are finding it all a bit daunting, writes Ines Gonzalez, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.
And, yes, there are many others like you, hiding in their little Zoom squares hoping not to be noticed or forced to contribute. You’ve been thrown into this without much choice.
Some of us are more accustomed to being ‘in public’: training, mentoring or managing a team. I spend a lot of my time training and coaching people.
When presenting webinars and meetings on Zoom, I might look confident and in control. I’ll let you into a little secret: there is always a good bit of performance going on. I am trying to look calm. However, like the serene and graceful swan who’s really paddling like crazy underneath, I am desperately hoping for everything to go okay.
AC, please give yourself a break. Be kind and keep things in perspective. Zoom is just a tool, and it’s not for everybody. I think it is important to be clear-minded about what is expected of you in a meeting.
Is there an expectation that you will contribute? And, if yes, exactly how much? In my experience, most meetings are dominated by a few speakers, so you may only need to talk a few times.
How can you make your contributions useful? Rather than wondering if your hair looks okay, listen carefully to what people are saying and see if you can find opportunities to build on their contributions. Other speakers will open up new vistas: can you add value to the meeting by exploring one of those a little more?
Factor out the fear
Is your fear of Zoom a technology thing? Technology can be overwhelming. But it can also be learned. If Zoom frightens you because of all the settings (audio, video, chat, raise my hand, seek help and so on…), locate a Zoom tutorial on YouTube and go through it. Here’s one you might find useful: https://bit.ly/3exTjA6
Practise with a friend or family member: write comments, share screens and use all the available features.
How good is your relationship with the presenter or organiser? Maybe you could explain privately that you find Zoom meetings difficult and ask not to be put on the spot too often – if they’re genuinely interested in running productive meetings, they may help you by giving you advance notice in the private chat box before asking you to speak.
Would they also be happy to accept an email with your thoughts after the meeting? Remember, Zoom is just a means to an end: if the end is to elicit quality information from the team, a follow-up email may be perfectly acceptable.
Build your confidence slowly. Take your time. You will look back in a few weeks and realise how far you have come. You’re not alone so don’t feel inferior.
Ines Gonzalez is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers.
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