Stop hiding behind the webcam — get on video

We aim to connect and stay productive during team meetings. | Photo by Aha!

January 28, 2022

Stop hiding behind the webcam — get on video

by Brian de Haaff

Everyone hates a tech fail. Screen not sharing, audio cutting out, poor internet connection. But the most frustrating might be when your webcam does not turn on during an important meeting. Meetings are for in-depth discussions and meaningfully connecting as a team.

Face-to-face time is critical for building relationships and showing teammates that you are deeply engaged.

We all spend time in virtual meetings. They are nothing new — particularly for those of us on fully remote teams. But even onsite teams have had to adjust to virtual meetings becoming a standard feature of the new normal. It disturbs me to hear from people who say that their virtual meetings are essentially conference calls. People clamor to get their voices heard and no one appears on camera.

Hiding behind your webcam is the fastest way to derail engagement. People tend to tune out and multi-task. Some even leave the room altogether. (Yikes.) No wonder no one wants to attend a meeting like that.

At a simple level, staying on-camera encourages better behavior. We are more likely to focus on the speaker and embrace a two-way conversation. But it is more than that. Teammates deserve our full attention — so does the work at hand. Productive meetings keep you connected while driving meaningful progress forward.

Nearly all of the meetings at Aha! are on video. Whether we are meeting with customers or holding our all-hands company meeting every Friday, we show our support (and our faces). Being visibly present is one way we align on our values and respect each other's time.

Decide that you will honor the time and effort of your teammates by showing up on camera during virtual meetings.

Now if you are reading this and feeling over-scheduled, that is a different problem — with a different solution. I am not suggesting that you attend more or useless meetings. But you should create the right parameters for yourself when you do attend. Set time beforehand to get centered on the objective of the meeting. Turn your camera on and be ready to authentically listen and connect. Here is what you will gain:

Deeper relationships

Teamwork requires trust. Before you can build something lovable, you need to build true relationships. And research shows that supportive workplace communities help prevent burnout. Treat face time as an opportunity to get to know people better, understand their communication styles, and invest in creating stronger bonds.

Dynamic conversation

Meetings are not monologues. But it can feel that way if the majority of folks are off-camera and just one or two control the tenor of the conversation. With cameras on, more folks are apt to speak up, ask questions, and pass the baton. Whether you are someone who tends to stay quiet or realizing you might be monopolizing the spotlight, change begins with awareness. Create an inclusive meeting culture where every voice matters.

Better ideation

Time together is a chance to exchange ideas and accomplish more collectively than you could alone. Shared brainstorming is like being on a trampoline — you absorb someone's idea and amplify it with your own. It is the right environment for creative thinking, under the right conditions. When you bring your best, you help your teammates do the same.

Saved time

Focused attention is a prerequisite for productivity and collaboration. Attuning to one another does not happen well if you cannot see each other. And it is simply not possible if you are multitasking off-camera. Trying to answer an email while simultaneously responding in the meeting? Stop. Put your energy towards your teammates and you will find you can make better decisions in less time.

A chance to realign

Tell me if you have been in this situation. You attend the same meeting week after week where no real action is taken. And yet people keep calling in and churning on the same issues. What is going on here? It is time to reset. Sure, showing up on camera will not solve for poorly planned meetings. But body language speaks volumes about how people are feeling. Watch for facial expressions, posture, and other visual cues. Check in when folks seem unsettled or undecided. The quality of your time together will improve — and you will be more quickly clued in when the meeting's objectives or agenda need to change.

Here is a quick litmus test for virtual meetings: Would you do whatever you are doing in an in-person meeting? If the answer is no, then stop doing it. Respect the meeting time and each other.

Try it for yourself and let me know if the simple practice of turning on your webcam improves your team's connectedness in meetings. And if you are feeling the strain of "Zoom fatigue" there is a quick fix. Keep your camera on but turn the self-view off. Now you can concentrate on the team and give them the gift of your attention.

How does your team show up for each other during virtual meetings?

Our team is happy, productive, and hiring — join us!

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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