Make your online conversations count

November 15th, 2020

briars group jon hammond

Avoiding the new plague: ‘International Zoomitis’! – make your online conversations count

Do you remember the days when you could have a chat around the water cooler and exchange stories with colleagues, without having to be two metres apart?

When you didn’t have to try and understand what people were saying through several layers of mask, and when you could hear the latest gossip in a huddle of hushed tones?

I don’t think the famous philosopher George (Michael) would have been as successful, if his lyrics were more like ‘Time can never mend, the careless shouting of a good friend’ but whispering is now very 2019!

Wherever you are in the business world, the Covid Pandemic is having an impact.

Whilst working from home is being encouraged in many parts of the world, several hours in front of a screen every day is having a negative effect on workforces.

Whilst we might not realise it, our cognitive load is increased having to process all the non-verbal signals such as facial expressions, gestures, posture and the tone and pitch of the voice that we would subliminally process when face to face.

It can be exhausting – and the new word that sums it up –  ‘Zoomitis’!

But with many of our conversations now taking part ‘online’ and likely to be that way for the near future, have we changed our approach and process to get the best outcome?

This is especially pertinent when the virtual calls are international, and cultural differences can be highlighted in a different way.

Simple expressions can mean a totally different thing.

Having had personal experience at board meetings in the US, when to ‘table’ an item means to come back to it later, whereas in the UK, to ‘table’ an item means to discuss it now.

This one word can have huge financial implications for success or failure of a project.

One of the many pitfalls of virtual meetings, is also the insistence that we stick to doing things the same way we have always done.

For example, PowerPoint presentations complete with huge amounts of written information on each page, do not naturally lend themselves to a multi hour Zoom meeting if we want our audience to stay awake!

Yet many organisations stay with the same format rather than rethink their content and delivery style to suit the online outcome.

If you don’t believe me, have you found yourself recently mentally drifting off during a Teams or Zoom meeting?

Thought so!

And then there are the distractions that can ruin our ability to concentrate.

I was recently having a conversation on Zoom with a client, when her cat decided to jump onto the bookshelf and chose that moment to clean himself in his more intimate parts!

Luckily, we have a great friendship, so we laughed it off, but what if you as a leader were trying to get an important message across. Would it be the content of your message that became the topic of conversation afterwards or the CAT!!

So, what can we do to change?

Perhaps take a moment to look at the background that your viewers will see, and especially the first impression you will make.

Will what’s sitting on a shelf behind you, distract your viewers eye away from you and perhaps onto the horrendous vase, left to you by Great Aunt Maude?

And what about the people who are out of focus, lit from behind so we can’t see their face, and sounding as though they are ‘broadcasting’ from the rest room?

The technical kit should be making you look and sound great – Don’t settle for average!

Whilst cameras and microphones that are inbuilt into laptops are OK for short periods, they were never designed to give the same effect as we expect from our TV screens.

In many of the ‘virtual makeovers’ we are helping clients with, investing in a better camera, decent microphone, some simple lighting and a plain backdrop can make a huge difference to both perception and reputation.

Our virtual world has moved from ‘all in this together amateurism’ to a need for professionalism.

From great impactful and visually stimulating content, to technical kit that shows we mean business.

The virtual future can look very positive.

The other aspect to consider, is the right mindset in front of the camera, which is a subject I will cover in a future Briars Group newsletter.


Jon Hammond DL is an executive leadership coach with an impressive track record as a reputation saver and reputation builder. He has spent many years in TV and Radio relating to people through a lens and engaging with unseen audiences, and now shares many tips tricks and techniques to use in the virtual and real world to re-enforce leadership reputation

He helps businesses around the world with communication strategies, creating remote studios, effective message delivery and teaching leaders to have presence and to reach their full potential.

Contact him at or

Kate Jolly

Kate co-founded Briars in 1991 with Andrew Brierley. She specialised in tax law and today continues to advise clients on international operations, particularly land, expand and exit! In her spare time Kate is a Past Master of the City of London Guild of Entrepreneurs and a Director of CCARHT (Cambridge Centre for Applied Research into Human Trafficking).