The Truth About Zoom Fatigue
The harsh reality most speakers won’t face, and how you can overcome it.
In this article, you will discover the reality of Zoom Fatigue and how you, as a speaker, can help your audience overcome it.
With the recent explosion in the number of online meetings and virtual presentations going on in the world, a new phrase has begun to enter the popular lexicon: Zoom Fatigue. Have you heard of it?
Zoom Fatigue is a phrase used to describe the feeling people get when they have been sitting on too many virtual meetings. Tired, lethargic, shortened attention span, headaches, irritability, being zoned out… These are all symptoms of Zoom Fatigue, and if you have spent a whole day on virtual conferences, chances are good you know exactly the feeling we are talking about.
Zoom Fatigue is a phrase used to describe the feeling people get when they have been sitting on too many virtual meetings.
The theory behind it is that staring at a screen — sitting at a desk, paying attention to multiple people’s video feeds, trying to think or learn, all while resisting the temptation to click over to a different tab and start surfing social media — simply burns too much energy. On some level, it is true. It does use energy in a much different way than an in-person setting, but it doesn’t necessarily use more energy.
Presenters and speakers often reference Zoom Fatigue as the reason they have difficulty holding an audience’s attention during online presentations. It’s a convenient excuse, but it’s not actually the problem.
We believe Zoom Fatigue is barely even a real thing. Sure, there is a slight drop in people’s energy that is unavoidable simply from participating in a virtual environment, but upon studying many of the world’s most successful speakers, we discovered the actual problem: dull, boring presentations!
We discovered the actual problem: dull, boring presentations!
The realization came when we realized that while some speakers were complaining about having trouble keeping virtual audiences engaged, others were having even better success in the virtual world than they did on in-person stages. How could this be? If Zoom Fatigue was such a universal problem, how was it possible that different people were getting different results?
We did a little digging and found that there were some common bad habits among the speakers who complained about Zoom Fatigue, and there were some common good habits among the ones who were finding great success with virtual presentations.
Here are some of the bad habits we noticed, and some tips to help you avoid them.
1. Sitting Down
One of the most common habits we noticed among speakers who complained that their audiences were Zoom Fatigued was that they chose to give their presentations sitting down in front of their computer. Why would they do that?! Sure, sitting can be more comfortable than standing for a long period of time, but since when has public speaking been about being comfortable?
If you take a look at a brain scan of someone who has been sitting for a while versus someone who has been standing, you will notice a stark difference. In the person who has been sitting, you will see very diminished brain activity, while the person who has been standing will have their brain scan lit right up, showing tons of brain activity.
There is a very good reason that you rarely see any of the world’s best-known speakers sitting down while they present. Imagine someone like Tony Robbins, Eric Edmeades, or Simon Sinek sitting down while they presented. It virtually never happens, because they know that the audience feeds off their energy, and if they don’t stand up, they can’t deliver with enough energy to keep the audience properly engaged. Even Sir Ken Robinson, who had a disability that made standing very difficult, stood to deliver his TED Talk that went on to become the most viewed TED Talk of all time.
They know that the audience feeds off their energy, and if they don’t stand up, they can’t deliver with enough energy to keep the audience properly engaged.
The simple point is, you need to stand up when you deliver. Elevate your computer, invest in a standing desk, even just prop your laptop up on a chair on top of a table. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but make sure you stand up to deliver your presentations and you will very likely find your audiences are more able to stay engaged through the entirety of your presentation, and you will be less tired by the end as well.
2. Using The Wrong Mic
The next most common bad habit we noticed was speakers using the built-in microphone on their laptop. While this works okay for a quick video chat occasionally, it just doesn’t cut it for a presentation where you want people to pay attention.
Have you ever listened to a radio station that was plagued with static? Unless you were incredibly interested in the content being played, it probably didn’t take you very long to switch it off. That’s because listening to poor-quality audio is absolutely exhausting, even if people don’t necessarily notice right away. People will tolerate bad video to a point, but they are much less forgiving about bad audio.
Listening to poor-quality audio is absolutely exhausting.
Not only does poor audio quality make it difficult for your audience to hear you, and exhausting to listen, it also subconsciously tells the audience that you don’t care about them very much. Sounds harsh, but bear with us. In the modern-day, it is so easy and affordable to upgrade your audio quality that not doing so shows the audience you don’t really care to give them a good experience during the presentation.
Upgrading your audio doesn’t have to be extravagant. Even a pair of earbuds with a built-in mic is better than the built-in mic on a computer. There are a multitude of affordable USB microphones available that will give 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 will make you look way more professional during your presentations.
3. Screen Sharing
Pretty much everyone has been on a Zoom call that starts with the presenter saying “Okay, I’m just going to share my screen…” Or some version of that. It’s a phrase that strikes fear into the audience’s hearts. They know instinctively that the speaker is just going to voice over some slides.
If you want to keep your audience engaged and help them avoid Zoom Fatigue, 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, your job is to connect with the audience and share information. One of the primary ways humans form connections with each other is 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. The more people can actually see you, the more they will feel like they are engaging with you as an actual human, this will help keep them focused and lessen their Zoom Fatigue.
One of the primary ways humans form connections with each other is face-to-face contact.
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 can make you look way more professional than just clicking through slides on a shared screen. If you take your presentations seriously, it is worth taking the time to learn how to use tools like OBS, Stream Yard, Many Cam, or other virtual studio software to take your virtual presentations to the next level.
The point of all this is simple: Zoom Fatigue isn’t the whole problem. While some presenters are struggling to hold people’s attention and they want to point toward something like Zoom Fatigue as the reason, there are often other factors at play. The real problem is boring, disengaged, unprofessional presenters. There, we said it.
The real problem is boring, disengaged, unprofessional presenters.
If people like Tony Robbins and Eric Edmeades can hold the attention of audiences with hundreds of people over 8+ hours each day at 3–5 day events, you can too. But it’s 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 on a live in-person stage, it takes practice, preparation and equipment to pull it off well, and if you really want to stand out among the crowd of other speakers, it is absolutely necessary to give a good-quality presentation. Zoom Fatigue is not the problem, but the quality of some people’s virtual presentations definitely is.
One of the other ways to manage Zoom Fatigue in your audience is to make sure your presentation is so captivating and so good they simply hang on to every word. People can sit through entire seasons of TV shows at once, so they should be able to sit through your presentation just as easily. One of the ways to do that is to practice your craft as a speaker and become an absolute master at what you do.
To help you along, we have a two-part video series from Eric Edmeades that takes an in-depth look at exactly what it takes to master the art of public speaking.