Source: Unsplash

It’s hard to read people when they’re all the size of stamps

In this post-Covid world, some 320 million of us use Microsoft Teams. With the average laptop screen size being 14 inches, and most meetings featuring slides, we are now the size of a large stamp.

We have gone from persuading people by standing up pointing at a screen and watching them twitch, move, and itch, to not having the first clue what they are thinking because they are large stamps. A book of large stamps.

Plus, for most people, presentations are now a fabulous opportunity to get some emails done. I’m afraid that the biggest learning virtual meetings have provided is how to do our emails while feigning interest when someone presents.

So, what are the options? Call them out? Yes, possible. “Mark, you’re doing your emails. I can see your eyes reading.” It’s a bit schoolteacher-ish and if you take this option, you need to ensure you never do your emails while watching a presentation – and let’s face it, you will.

Are we all doomed? Possibly. We can now abandon any idea of knowing what the audience really thinks because half aren’t listening. As for the other half, we can barely see them – most don’t even take up the whole stamp or are at a funny angle watching on another screen.

There is hope – but we need to get better at presenting. Meh, I hear you moan. Yep, meh! We were poor at it before, and we’re still poor at it. The only difference is that it has gone from being darn important to critical to career success.

Thinking positively, in a sea of stamps, what if we were the stamp that stood out? The Penny Black. “Roger’s presentations are always worth attending.” Not possible? As Ted Lasso says, “I’m possible”. Could you be ‘Roger’?

If you want to be, you have three options:

  • Get great at creating engaging presentations. Use slides, but do so in a focused way. Watch the Ted Talk ‘How to Avoid Death by PowerPoint’ to understand real focus.
  • Get great at delivering better. Practice. Use pauses more, fewer words, vary your volume, and use different tones. Hardly anyone practices, but it is key.
  • Don’t use slides. I know – shock, horror. Use props instead. Write on a pad and show it to the screen. Use the options Teams offers you – the whiteboard or breakout rooms.

Be like Roger and seize the stamps’ attention.