i have a cheat code in video meetings (well, honestly, any meeting, but definitely true in video meetings).
First off, a bit of neuroscience. You have a bias, and it’s a weird, kinda silly one. It’s called Enclothed Cognition, and basically it works out to how you present yourself can lead to changes in how much authority people give you. (i liked to a fun podcast episode about it and i do encourage you to listen to it.) Basically, if i give you a white linen jacket to wear and refer to it as medical garb, most people will lend you more credibility than if i had you wear the same jacket and presented it as an artist’s smock.
To that end, i tend to wear button down oxford style shirts when i have my camera on, but i’ve discovered it’s more than that. i also wear a wired headset with a surprisingly good microphone, that i run through a noise suppressor so that my voice quality is very clean. i also balance my mic levels and have recorded and listened to my own voice enough to have even pacing, clear enunciation and diction that can be understood by non-native speakers. i try my best to look, act, and sound professional. In short, i’ve developed a Voice of Authority.
It’s an absolutely horrible hack. It’s why newscasters all sound the same. It’s a skill that a lot of folk might recognize as “code switching“, and i’m doing it.
Why do i do it? Well, for one, folk often cede control of the meeting to me, which lets me set agenda and make sure that folks are heard and present their ideas.
- i can do things like when folk are doing introductions, i can start, and then hand off to someone so that folks aren’t wondering if they should say something.
- i can keep a list of folk who’ve not said anything in the meeting and make sure that they get an opportunity to speak.
- i can keep folk on topic so that we’re not wasting time.
- And most importantly, i can ensure that the goal of the meeting is addressed so that we can stop having the meeting and i can go back to blissful quiet.
(Hey, fellow introverts! Hate meetings? Want them over faster? Gain control quickly so you can do exactly that.)
Granted, i don’t always do that. i’m more than happy to let someone more qualified or needed to run a meeting. If i think that someone is struggling or feeling overwhelmed, i’ll send them a note via a back channel and ask if they want help, and then make damn sure to defer to them as much as possible. They’re still in charge, i’m just there to keep things on track as long as they need me.
i honestly suggest that you try doing it yourself. Wear a headset with a boom mic instead of using your computer’s crappy built-in microphone. Consider getting foam wind screens to cut down on breathing noises. Use noise filters to limit outside sounds. Record and then listen to yourself. Pretend you got hired by NPR to read the news or give a report about soy futures. Listening requires effort, and folk can tire quickly if they have to struggle to understand you. Even if English is not your first language, getting a quality audio setup can make a HUGE difference. Also, don’t try to sound like an American from the Mid Atlantic region. Speak slowly, clearly, and with authority and no matter what your dialect, you’ll command attention.
And now, let’s go to Bob with the Sky-13 traffic…