This article was originally published by IABC Philadelphia.
In February 2020, I had just returned from a training assignment in Indiana. COVID was not yet seen as a real threat, perhaps a bump in the road. One month later my business was essentially shut down, and I began to wonder if I could even keep doing what I was doing.
Like many, I spent a lot of time online. As the weeks rolled by, I noticed something — most of us weren’t looking good. Why? Because prior to COVID, being confident and competent on camera was irrelevant. Very few of us did our jobs on camera. Today, almost all of us are trying to get results through a camera. It’s different. It’s the new essential skill.
Let’s face it, even if COVID went away today, virtual engagement is here to stay. Why? Well, there are some plusses, not the least of which is no commute time. Virtual communication has given many the gift of time, which is really the gift of life. Travel expenses, dining expenses and more plummet with virtual engagement. The ability to be anywhere in the world and talk “face-to-face” with someone at the click of a button is stunning.
Folks, some don’t want to go back. Many don’t want to go back. Virtual is here to stay. Whether you’re leading, selling, preaching, teaching or simply interviewing for a job, being confident and competent on camera is the new essential skill.
Most people are now quite familiar with the term “Zoom fatigue.” Interest in virtual events is waning. Why? It’s primarily because the people on camera are not good on camera. Most of us have been looking at screens for many hours a day for many years. If what’s on the screen is interesting, we’re interested. If what’s on the screen isn’t interesting, we’re quickly fatigued and want to change the channel. Don’t be the cause of Zoom fatigue.
Some of this is just the basics. Make sure you have good lighting and a good camera. Look through the camera instead of at your screen. Do your best to have a non-distracting background. Don’t be afraid to spend a couple hundred bucks if you’re able. As many have said before me, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” What impression do people have of you when your video is on? Some might say, “I’ll just turn the video off.” That is not a solution. “Video off” puts a severe cap on your ability to get results.
“Alright, my video is on and I’ve got the basics covered. Now what?” Get good at storytelling. Almost nothing helps your virtual presence more than the ability to concisely share relevant stories supporting your purpose. That’s a skill, and without putting the “hard sell” on you, I can help with that.
The truth is you only have three options when trying to get results: be some combination of inspiring, convincing and persuasive. Those are high bars, but you can do it, and effective storytelling is a powerful tool. Realize storytelling isn’t about coming up with something to say to get people to do something; it’s about telling the truth. Your true stories, if well told, can inspire. They can convince. They can persuade. There’s no need to make stuff up.
David Horsewood is the owner and principal speaker/trainer with Fire by Light LLC, a training and development company based in Knoxville, Tennessee. He is also the author of “Fire by Light: Real & Relevant Applications.” With more than 20 years’ experience in face-to-face and virtual environments, Horsewood has worked throughout North America on subjects ranging from public speaking and impactful storytelling to leadership, communication, strategic thinking and motivation. His current focus is helping people get better at the new essential skill: doing your job on camera. His sessions emphasize relevance and growth, resulting in improved performance.