The Challenge With Virtual Work Meetings/Calls

Have you ever gotten off a Zoom call with your co-workers, closed your laptop, and sighed in disappointment and frustration that you failed to share your thoughts, opinions, or ideas? Are you imagining that situation now? It is frustrating when you are on a call with your colleagues and boss talking about a project you are heavily involved in, or want to be involved in, and you can’t seem to get a word in. Instead you sit in silence and stare at the tiny pixelated squares that make up the people on the other end of the call. Then before you know it, the meeting is over.

You were waiting for the perfect moment to ‘butt-in’ the call, but you thought that moment never came. In reality, you just missed it. And it happens to all of us, that's why it was easy to describe the familiar feeling of defeat. It is so normal, so let that be encouraging that you aren’t the only one still adjusting to this new work world of Zoom meetings.

“Communication, specifically via digital mediums, is no longer a ‘soft skill’ - it is the new power skill that will define your success”

-Erica Dhawan, Author of Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection No Matter The Distance

The average person spends over half of their working hours within meetings, which makes it even more important to know how to draw attention to yourself when you have something to share.

How to Interject In a Zoom Call

I’ll admit, it can be hard to simply know how to approach interjecting in a virtual meeting. So, let’s dive right into these tips to prepare you for your next Zoom call:

1. Go Ahead and Break the Ice

The longer you wait to say something during a work call, the more time you give yourself to isolate yourself from the conversation, leading you to fear and hesitate speaking. Try and make it a habit to contribute to the conversation early on. This does not necessarily mean you have to be the first to speak, but try to be second or third. When going to interject in your Zoom call, remember to remove perfectionism from your expectations. Whatever you may say in a call does not have to be a groundbreaking and original thought, in fact you can even ‘piggyback’ off of another team member's comment too. Using your voice early on will help ‘break the ice’ that may keep you quiet and get you more comfortable with expressing yourself through your computer screen.

2. Use the “Pass the Baton Strategy”

If you know you are going to want to share your thoughts and opinions on a certain topic, let the host of the meeting know beforehand- it won’t even feel like interrupting if you do this ahead of time! If you do this, they can then “pass the baton” over to you at the appropriate time. If you take the time to prepare in advance, it holds you accountable to actually sharing your voice. So next time you are reviewing a meeting agenda and see an area that you want to contribute in, go ahead and let the organizer know!

3. Gauge Timing

When interjecting politely in a Zoom call, it is especially important to gauge your timing. When is the best time to speak up based on your team’s norms? When interjecting in a

Zoom meeting it is usually best to wait for the speaker to pause for a few seconds before you speak up. This way you refrain from cutting off somebody or seem like you are interrupting. If you happen to be on a more fast past call, don’t wait too long to speak because during those silent moments, somebody will grab the attention quickly. Just focus on the norms of your team and what your calls usually look like- and then try and gauge your timing from there!

4. Look for Natural Transition Points

It is common to have team members accidentally begin speaking over each other during a Zoom meeting, and sometimes it can even be slightly annoying. One of the hardest parts of interjecting in a Zoom meeting can be shifting the attention to yourself. In order to have a smoother transition for you and your audience, I suggest interjecting in between topics- and building off of what the previous speakers have shared.

Some examples of this would be:

  1. “Before we continue, I’d like to add…”
  2. “So glad you brought that up, I was thinking…”
  3. “Do you mind if I jump in? I have some thoughts on…”
  4. “Would now be a good time to share something that relates to…”

5. Keep it Brief

When interjecting in a Zoom call or other virtual meeting, remember to be concise. You should not be speaking for more than a minute or two in most cases. It is best to start by sharing your purpose for interjecting, which can be done with efficient transition points. Once you finish, go ahead and hand the conversation back to either the meeting facilitator or whoever may want to speak next. Let’s say you briefly interjected in a conversation that your boss was leading, once you finish sharing, wrap up your thoughts to keep the conversation flowing. For example, “Thank you for letting me jump in, I’ll pass it back to you now”.

6. Grab the Audience’s Attention

It can be challenging to get recognized in a Zoom meeting that has many other people also on the call. Nobody can look at everybody’s body language and signals at the same time. When you are participating in a Zoom meeting, the typical, face-to-face, nonverbal signals become limited.

In order to avoid coming off as disruptive, here are some tips of ways to signal your want to contribute:

  1. Use the “raise hand” button on your Zoom call to let your team know you want to share.
  2. Be sure you are not muted, and have your camera on.
  3. Type in the chat that you have some thoughts to share.
  4. Physically raise your hand gently in front of the camera, then transition into your thoughts.

In some instances, you may find yourself needing to more forcefully insert yourself. When this happens, you can interject by repeating whomever’s name you are trying to jump off of. For example, “Rachel, Rachel, Rachel, can I jump in really quickly?” Hearing your own name repeated gets your attention, so do this if needed! Do not allow yourself to skip over what you may have wanted to share.

7. Loop Back to Your Thoughts

If you have ever spoken up in a meeting, and your thoughts got overlooked, do not hesitate to loop back to your thoughts! It can be discouraging when this happens, but do not let the meeting end with your thoughts getting overlooked, your voice matters. If somebody else speaks after you, dismissing what you wanted to say, loop back and say something along the lines of “I did not get any feedback on my thoughts about …, I just wanted to know if anybody else agreed or disagreed?”

8. Disagree without Being Disagreeable

There are many instances where you may disagree with what a team member previously said. It is important to assert yourself and share your thoughts as well because they may offer a different perspective. Disagreement is a healthy and necessary part of working, and you can disagree politely by using the following examples:

  1. “Allow me to respectfully disagree with you…”
  2. “Let me play devil’s advocate for a minute…”
  3. “I can see where you are coming from, I would like to share this counterpoint to offer a different perspective…”

Be Yourself and Be Heard

It can be overwhelming knowing how to speak up and use your voice via a computer screen. When I recently joined the Candor team, I found it very important to throw yourself right into the mix of it all. Do not be shy, or scared of what others will think of you. It is important to feel comfortable with your team and have a connection with them, which can be difficult to do with a screen of people you may have never even met before. At the end of the day, there are no “rules” to follow when participating in a Zoom meeting, so do whatever makes you feel comfortable and be yourself. Your teammates want to see your authentic self and despite the overwhelming feelings that may come with interjecting in a meeting, it is necessary in order to feel connected to your team and be heard.

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