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Video conferences are the way of the new world for most of us. You control some of them. In others, your bosses, colleagues or outsiders call the shots. All of those sessions probably suffer compared to face-to-face meetings, which of course rarely win applause anyway.

“The advantage of meeting face to face is that a good deal of group solidarity and level-setting gets expressed in a very efficient way," Nick Morgan, a consultant and author of Can You Hear Me?: How to Connect With People in a Virtual World, writes on his blog.

“New people can learn the culture of the team, for example, with head shakes, eye rolls, and laughter. In a virtual meeting, that sort of bonding happens much less consistently or not at all. The research shows … more than 60% of the participants are doing something else, so that even simple exchanges of overt information are often missed or misunderstood.”

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To compensate in virtual meeting, he recommends:

  • Shortening the length of the meeting if at all possible: Because participants are less engaged or engaged elsewhere, attentions spans are shorter. So get what you can from people and then get out. Try 10 minutes or less, increasing the odds they will be engaged for that period.
  • Establishing a different meeting time for socializing: Team meetings are a chance for socializing and bonding. But if, as is common, you leave the socializing to the first five minutes, when everyone is beeping in, it will be feeble. Instead, deliberately set aside some other time – at the end of the meeting, or on another special call – for this important aspect.
  • Making the fun stuff formal: In the office, informal fun happens, usually spontaneously. That’s harder on video or audio conferences. “So you may need to formalize the fun and games through trivia contests, impromptu polls on current events, and other such game night frivolities. Give out prizes. Enroll your team’s sense of competition by creating sub-groups and ongoing competitions. Or simply assign people the task of coming to the next virtual meeting prepared to talk about their pets, or some other similar, safe, non-work trivia,” he writes.
  • Using differences for bonding rather than division: Your virtual team may be spread across the country or even the world. The resulting cultural differences can make it harder to bring everyone together. So turn that around, assigning team members to report on some aspects of their culture, taking turns over time.
  • Never assuming silence involves consent: People are often quiet in virtual meetings because they are on mute or are uncertain when to break in. So when it comes time for a decision, formalize the process to determine buy-in. Go around the virtual room and give everyone a chance to comment.
  • Designing the set you’re filming on: Depth perception is difficult on a two-dimensional screen, so you should set up depth-perception cues for your viewer. Put something close to your face, something behind you and something at the far wall to give indications of size and distance. Use a potted plant, coffee mug, wall calendar or a poster.
  • Putting some life into your voice: When there’s nobody in the room with you, it can be easy to drift into a monotone, he notes in the book. So try to have somebody nearby, to encourage conversation. Or stand up, which also helps.

Quick hits

  • Take the longest route you can to work. That’s Spanx founder Sara Blakely’s advice, since it gives you more time to think. She gets up an hour earlier than she needs to and creates what her friends call a “fake commute," driving aimlessly around Atlanta to let her mind drift and sift ideas.
  • Busy is a four-letter word, insists consultant Kevin Eikenberry. Busy is an excuse. Busy is a justification. Busy focuses on the wrong thing – activity rather than accomplishment. Busy is a barrier to achievement. Don’t celebrate busy; instead, banish it from your vocabulary.
  • We’re repeatedly told that one-page résumés are ideal, but a new study by Resume Go found that recruiters are 2.3 times as likely to prefer a two-page résumé over a one-pager. And, yes, they will take the time to read it, the study found.
  • Frank Shamrock, four-time undefeated mixed martial arts champion and coach, created a system to develop fighters quickly and effectively that he calls “plus, minus, equals.” Farnam Street blogger Shane Parrish, in his newsletter, advises you to copy it in your career: Work with someone better than you, someone who you can teach and someone equal to you.
  • The top meditation app, according to experts canvassed by WomensHealth  magazine, is Insight Timer – and it’s free.

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