How Not To Communicate!

To effectively communicate and be a fully participating member of any virtual team or meeting, it is crucial that you are both seen and heard. For the past 2 years, I can’t count the number of Zoom calls I have been on where people never connect visually. I find this perplexing, since non-verbal communication is more than 50% of any message.

Prior to COVID 19, most professional meetings, presentations, and sales calls were face-to-face. We got dressed (didn’t attend in our PJs), combed our hair (realized we all have a few bad-hair days), and went to the meeting, fully prepared to be visually present.

Whether we are the listener or the speaker, we communicate verbally, vocally and non-verbally. As a listener, we send the speaker important non-verbal messages, which include showing engagement and understanding. When verbally presenting, our words are only part of our message; body language, facial expressions and gestures enhance the listeners understanding. 

I believe in many cases people have their cameras off because they are multi-tasking; doing personal or work-related tasks while attending the meeting. When your camera is off, you don’t have to be totally immersed in the conversation. No one knows what you are doing. Talking another call. Engaging with your child. Eating your lunch. 

Let’s take a moment to reflect back to a pre-COVID meeting. Would you attend a meeting standing in the hall and verbally participating via text? When I ask people why they don’t turn on their camera, their reasons run the gamut. To me, attending a virtual meeting with your camera off is like coming to a face-to-face meeting wearing a paper bag over your head. I know that no one reading this would ever do that. Yet, many people find it perfectly acceptable to do it when attending a Zoom meeting.

I was speaking at a conference on Leadership Through the Virtual Lens and a corporate leader, who runs weekly virtual meetings, asked this question in response to our conversation about the importance of everyone participating with their cameras on.

 “How do you recommend handling an employee who always has their camera off, their microphone off, and insists on responding via the Chat Box? Every week this person has another excuse, and they are all linked to technology. The rest of the team attends the meetings with their cameras on and their microphones working. Sadly, this person is slowing down the conversation because the team needs to wait for them to type their questions and comments.”

Here is my response:

  • As a leader, be clear about your expectations, whether verbally or in a memo. All team members are expected to have their cameras on and their microphones functioning. Remind the team that your weekly meetings pre-COVID were in-person and their attendance was required.  
  • Provide resources: If there are technical problems, let everyone know that IT or you are available to help sort out the problem.
  • Be flexible: If the time of the meeting creates a problem regarding the use of the camera/microphone, offer to schedule the meetings at a time that is mutually agreeable for everyone. This lets the team know that you are aware that working from home may create conflicts.
  • Lastly, offer additional assistance to anyone who is having difficulty fully participating virtually by offering to up-date their computer, modem, router, or even pay for high-speed Internet Access, if they can’t afford it. The goal is to remove any obstacles. Now, no one has an excuse!

The goal is for everyone to fully participate in all meetings. No paper bags allowed.

I welcome comments or suggestions regarding what you do to ensure everyone is fully present and able to actively participate in all Virtual meetings. Contact me at