I’ve noticed something odd in my Zoom calls, and maybe you have too.
It’s that they sound better when the video is Off than when it’s On. By this I mean the experience is richer and more ‘real’. This may not be as true when there are a dozen square screens of bobbing faces on my computer. But it certainly is with one-on-one calls.
I found this out yesterday when I was on a call with a client whom I’ve dealt with for years. We know each other well, so we’ve built up an informal codebook of words and gestures that we’re barely aware of but that makes our communications faster and more efficient. An eyebrow raised one-way signals “Please explain more”, and raised another means “No way.”
Since this was a ‘catch-up’ call, we both had lots of questions at the start about how our families are doing and if we’re ‘okay.’
I noticed a lag between what I was hearing, what I was seeing and what I was saying. Not just lips out-of-sync, but choppy body-gestures that made it impossible for me to ‘read’ my client’s face and what she was thinking. It felt odd waiting five seconds for her to crack a smile after I said something funny. Maybe it wasn’t funny. Naturally, I stopped saying funny things and cut short the banter because it took so much work and doubt.
We then shifted into a discussion about work. Here, it got worse because we were talking about a complex project with many moving parts and just as many people. Each of us had to repeat things just to make sure we’d made our point.
After 10 minutes of this, and with both of us feeling as if we were over-enunciating the way everyone does when they speak their native tongue to someone who doesn’t, my client said: “Bob, I have an idea. Why don’t we turn off the video on our calls and just make this a phone call?”
“Do you want to reschedule this call?”
“No, let’s keep going. But let’s ditch the video part.”
So we did.
And of course, we instantly understood each other much better.
She was right. This was like a…… phone call!
I remember those!
So what is it that makes no pictures better than slightly out-of-sync ones?
Well, for sure our brains fill in the blanks and listen harder for the underlying signals sent by our voices instead. This accounts for the enduring appeal of radio drama and of many podcasts too. Our minds’ eyes see what our eyes alone can’t.
I also found another oddity with my video turned off.
Freed from someone watching me, I moved around in my chair, fiddled with a paperclip, cleaned off my keyboard. In other words, I relaxed, which I suspect made my speaking more relaxed and easier to fathom.
This is one reason I turn my video off when I’m just hanging out on a webinar with 50 to 100 others. No one else needs to see my unshaven face and unruly head of hair. But more than that, my body doesn’t have to be on its best behaviour.
So…the next time you’re on a Zoom call, and especially one-on-one, turn the video on to say hello and establish Proof of Life, then turn it off for the rest of the call – and see how you feel.
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Get your tickets to the TWO upcoming RamsayTalks Online: May 14th with Jared Diamond, “one of the deepest thinkers of our time,” and May 25th with Roger McNamee who believes tech is too important to operate without adult supervision.