Does Zoom Fatigue have your audience snoozing, or is it you?
We’re breaking down the habits you need to avoid if you want to keep any virtual audience engaged.
With the recent influx of virtual meetings and presentations taking place all across the globe, a new phrase has quickly been added into the mix: Zoom Fatigue. Have you heard of it yet? Let us break it down for you…
Zoom Fatigue is used to describe the feeling that seems to overcome people who have been sitting in on too many virtual meetings. They suddenly find themselves feeling tired, lethargic, irritable, and headachy with a shortened attention span, and before you know it, completely zoned out. If you’ve spent a whole day sitting through Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting, then you probably know exactly what we’re talking about.
Getting into the theory behind Zoom Fatigue, it’s no surprise that it simply burns too much energy to be staring at a screen while sitting at a desk, trying to pay attention to multiple video feeds, struggling to focus, think, or learn, all while resisting the temptation to start scrolling through social media.
Of course, on some level this is true. Attending virtual meetings day in and day out does certainly use up energy in a much different way than when compared to an in-person setting, but it doesn’t necessarily use more energy.
Presenters and speakers often reference Zoom Fatigue as the reason they struggle to hold an audience’s attention during online presentations. And while this is a convenient excuse, we hate to break it to you but it’s not actually the problem!
To be honest, we aren’t completely sold on the idea of Zoom Fatigue. Sure, when it comes to a virtual setting there is definitely a slight drop in people’s energy. That’s unavoidable when comparing it to a real live event. But we still weren’t convinced Zoom Fatigue was all that real. So once we dug a little deeper and started studying many of the world’s most successful speakers, we discovered the actual problem… A classic case of dull, boring presentations!
Our revelation came to be when we picked up on the fact that while some speakers were complaining about having trouble keeping their virtual audiences engaged, others were actually experiencing more success in the virtual world than they ever had from a stage. How could this be? If Zoom Fatigue were in fact such a universal problem, how was it possible that different speakers and presenters were getting different results?
We then discovered that there were some common missteps among the speakers who were complaining about their participants suffering from Zoom Fatigue—just some habits they got into that weren’t really serving their participants, especially from a virtual standpoint.
So to help ensure you don’t repeat the same missteps and avoid fostering any potential “bad habits,” here is a list of what we noticed inflicted Zoom Fatigue and some tips to help you avoid it:
This was one of the most common habits we picked up on from the speakers who complained that their audiences were experiencing Zoom Fatigue. They chose to give their presentations sitting down in front of their computer… We have one question, “Why?!” Sure, sitting can be more comfortable for you, as the speaker, instead of standing for a long period of time, but since when has public speaking been about being comfortable? Would you ever step on stage and sit for the entire presentation? Nuh-uh.
If you review a brain scan of someone who has been sitting for a long period of time versus someone who has been standing, you will pick up on a stark difference. For the person who has been sitting, you will notice very diminished brain activity. Alternatively, the person who has been standing will have a brain scan that’s lit like a Christmas tree, showing tons of brain activity.
Think about the world’s most well-known speakers—it’s rare you’ll ever see any of them sitting down while they present. Imagine someone like Tony Robbins, Eric Edmeades, or Simon Sinek walking on stage, only to sit for the entirety of their presentation… Hard to picture, right? That’s because it virtually never happens. The best of the best know their audiences feed off of their energy. So if they’re not standing up while sharing their talk, they can’t deliver with the energy they need to keep an audience properly engaged (and honestly, the energy any audience deserves). Even Sir Ken Robinson, who had a disability that made standing very difficult for him, stood while he delivered his TED Talk—which went on to become the most viewed TED Talk of all time.
The biggest takeaway here is you need to stand up when you’re delivering your talk—whether it’s from a stage or through Zoom—in order to keep your audience captivated and energy levels high.
Elevate your computer, invest in a standing desk, even just prop your laptop up on a chair on top of a table. Get crafty! It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you stand up to deliver your presentations. By doing this simple action, you will find your audiences are more likely to stay engaged through the entirety of your presentation, and you will be less tired by the end as well.
Using the wrong microphone
If you’re a speaker who’s using the built-in microphone on your laptop, then we hate to break this to you, but you’re falling victim to the next most common misstep we noticed. While this certainly does the trick for a quick video chat every now and then, it just doesn’t cut it for a high-level presentation where you want people to pay attention.
Have you ever listened to a radio station that was plagued with static? Probably not, because as soon as you hear the static, you change the station. Listening to poor-quality audio is genuinely exhausting, even if people don’t necessarily notice it right away, they’re straining to just listen to a single sentence you’re putting together. A choppy video connection can be tolerated to a certain point, but when it comes to poor audio quality, audiences tend to be much less forgiving.
Not only does poor audio quality make it exhausting and challenging for your audience to really listen to, it also subconsciously tells them that you didn’t care enough to properly check your quality levels, and therefore must not care very much about them. Okay, this sounds harsh, but bear with us. Times have changed. Today it is so easy and affordable to upgrade your audio system that when you clearly choose not to, it shows your audience that you aren’t invested in giving them a world-class experience.
Upgrading your audio doesn’t have to be extravagant, even a pair of earbuds with a built-in microphone is better than the built-in microphone on a computer. There are even a multitude of affordable USB microphones on the market that will enhance your delivery by giving you crystal clear audio with ease.
If you want to make sure your audience doesn’t succumb to Zoom Fatigue, invest in a good-quality microphone and take the time to learn how to use it. High-quality audio will work wonders to keep your audience from falling victim to Zoom Fatigue, and as an added bonus is sure to help you come across as much more professional during your presentations.
By now we assume the majority of Zoomers have been on a call that starts with the presenter saying, “Okay, I’m just going to share my screen here… Can everyone see it?” Any version of that very sentence is a phrase that sparks a silent groan of disappointment throughout the audience. Why? It’s not like they have to turn their camera on or anything. It’s a case of the dreaded slide voiceover they’re being trapped in for the next 60 minutes that fuels their upset. What could be worse?
If you want to keep your audience engaged and help them avoid Zoom Fatigue, there’s no question about it, you need to let them see your face. People on virtual meetings are already starved for human connection, so don’t make it worse by making them stare at boring slides the whole time.
As a speaker, it’s your responsibility to connect with the audience and share information. One of the most effective ways for humans to form connections with each other is through face-to-face contact. It builds a level of trust and credibility that is substantially more difficult—if not impossible—to create when your face is hidden behind a shared screen of slides. The more people can actually see you, your facial expressions and your energy, the more they will feel like they are engaging with you as an actual human. This is a key element to keeping your audience focused and therefore lessen their chances of experiencing Zoom Fatigue.
We’re not saying don’t ever share your screen. Sometimes it’s a helpful tool! We are simply suggesting to use screen sharing sparingly—or even better, use a virtual camera tool to superimpose your camera and slides together. There are a number of ways to do this, and it’s a great way to make you look way more professional than you would by just clicking through slides on a shared screen.
If you take your presentations seriously, it’s definitely worth taking the time to learn how to use tools like OBS, Stream Yard, Many Cam, or the plenty of other virtual studio softwares available to help take your Zoom presentations to the next level.
If you haven’t picked up on our point by now, it’s simple: Zoom Fatigue isn’t the basis of the problem.
While the presenters who are struggling to keep their virtual audiences engaged are pointing toward Zoom Fatigue as the culprit, it’s clear there are often other factors at play. The real problem is boring, disengaged, unprofessional presenters. There, we said it!
If presenters like Tony Robbins and Eric Edmeades can hold the attention of digital audiences made up of hundreds of people, over 8+ hours each day, at 3-5 day events, you can too! It’s just going to take some effort on your part. Don’t fall into the complacency trap of thinking that, “It’s just a Zoom call” so you can roll out of bed, get half dressed and then log in.
Just like speaking from a live event stage, it takes practice, preparation and equipment to pull it off in a memorable, engaging, world-class way. Zoom Fatigue is not the problem, but the quality of some people’s virtual presentations definitely is.
One of the other ways we recommend exploring in order to manage Zoom Fatigue in your audience is to make sure your presentation is so captivating and so strong that they can’t help but hang on to every word you say. People can sit through entire seasons of TV shows in one binge session, so they’re definitely capable of sitting through your presentation just as easily.
One of the most effective ways to do that is to commit to practicing your craft as a speaker and remaining focused on becoming an absolute master at what you do.
To help you through the process (because it is a process) we’re sharing a 2-part video series from Eric Edmeades that takes an in-depth look at exactly what it takes to master the art of public speaking.