How to Use Humor to Conquer Zoom Fatigue

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Bonus: How to Energize Your Presentations —

Working remotely is no longer something reserved for freelancers or those on special assignment. Many major companies have said they plan to accommodate remote work indefinitely. In fact, following the pandemic, more than half of Americans say they want to continue working remotely, while two-thirds of companies say they may make their current work-from-home policies permanent. 

What does this mean for millions of employees? Namely, that virtual meetings are here to stay, and that a new phenomenon, known as Zoom Fatigue, will become more prevalent. 

ZOOM FATIGUE

Hop onto any virtual meeting these days and there is little doubt that Zoom fatigue has set in; even the most well-intentioned remote team is facing lower work standards, missed deadlines, rampant interruptions by those on the call, and numerous home-office interruptions. There is an acceptance of lower standards, often with a shrug. “What can I or anyone else do about it? It’s all so exhausting!” That’s Zoom fatigue. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a secret weapon you can easily employ: Humor!

From the old knock-knock jokes we told as kids to amusing stories that make light of the workplace, everyone loves a good joke. Using humor is one of the best ways to build rapport and get people engaged. As Dwight D. Eisenhower said: A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done. 

When you add a witty quip or funny story to your virtual presentations, you let listeners know your meeting won’t be entirely dry and serious. Humor connects us and influences others. It helps us get our point across, and adds perspective to even the most critical challenges.

7 TIPS FOR USING HUMOR 

In your quest to battle Zoom fatigue, a little humor can go a long way. Here are 7 tips to help you create and deliver office-appropriate jokes that tickle the funny bone, bring people together, and work well on any virtual platform. 

Tip #1: Know your audience: Analyzing your audience is important for any presentation, but you have to be especially tuned in when using humor. In other words, tell the right joke to the right crowd at the right time. For example, you may have a funny story about your kids, but if your younger audience doesn’t have children, it will fall flat. Likewise, if you make a joke about a meme, the older crowd might not get it.

Tip #2: Explore a variety of humor formats: Once you know your audience you can select the right format. Your “joke” doesn’t have to begin with “A lawyer, an accountant, and a banker walk into a bar…” In fact, forget the typical joke structure. You can be funny in numerous ways. Sharing an anecdote, using a quip, making an observation, and giving a witty response can bring a smile to even the most serious group and help chip away at Zoom fatigue.

Tip #3: Use the classic joke-telling formula: Once you decide what kind of humor to use, begin to craft your words. This is a two-part structure that includes the set up and the punchline. Be specific in developing the set up—name the characters, describe the place, use colorful imagery, and develop an action sequence. These details help us envision the elements of the story you are telling: “My friend Anne went for a hike in the woods yesterday and ran into a mountain lion strolling along with her cubs.” Yeah? And then what happened? 

Tip #4: Put punch in the punchline: The ending is why people listen, so make sure to craft the punchline with care. The funniest punchlines are completely unexpected—they disrupt expectations with the “I didn’t see that one coming” twist. And while they seem spontaneous, they are tightly scripted and rehearsed.

Tip #5: Build your “timing” muscle: Timing is knowing when to stop speaking so you can allow your audience time to react. All appropriate audience responses are determined by timing. Practice your timing in various ways: How does a 2 second pause differ from a 3 second pause? What happens when the audience doesn’t respond right away? Then, when you land the punchline and end the joke, take it all in. You might not be able to immediately hear the laughter across the screen (especially if people are muted), but you will see smiling faces, nodding heads, and mouths wide open with delight. That’s what a Zoom laugh looks like. It’s physical. And that’s when you know you nailed it.

Tip #6: Practice your vocal delivery: For most comedians, this is the fun part of being funny. Speak, revise, and repeat until your delivery is perfect. Be deliberate with your word choice, enunciate clearly, use inflection and pitch, speak in short sentences, and pause often. Intentional practice is the best way to internalize the timing of your vocal delivery. And make sure to pause 1-2 seconds before delivering the punchline. Those few seconds of anticipation can result in the biggest laughs of all. 

Tip #7: Polish your physical delivery: When giving a virtual presentation, it’s vital that you make your physical skills match the story you are telling. Practice your eye contact, (look at the camera), facial expression (smile), posture (sit up straight), gesture (use small gestures sparingly), and appearance (look professional from the waist up). Those are the skills that will help you project energy and confidence. Finally, if you think your joke is funny, laugh at it! That’s right. Your response gives listeners permission to respond. It tells them it’s okay to enjoy the moment even if they don’t think your joke is hilarious. 

Humor is a powerful addition to almost any meeting, but it’s a lifesaver on Zoom and one of the best ways to combat Zoom fatigue. People expect to be bored during virtual meetings, so surprise them. Make them laugh … and then watch as their energy picks up, they come together, and they get things done.


BONUS ARTICLE: How to Energize Your Presentations

Whether you’re new to working remotely or have been doing it for years, you know one thing is true: Giving virtual presentations via Zoom and other online meeting platforms can be a challenge. Many professionals feel that online meetings lack the excitement and passion that comes naturally during face-to-face communication. And they’re right! 

So, what is the secret to giving high impact virtual presentations? Use more energy! Create a stimulating virtual meeting by infusing excitement into both your content and your delivery. Remember that the purpose of your virtual presentation, just like your live presentation, is keeping your audience engaged and involved. If you focus on the idea that it is your job to keep your audience interested in both the message and the messenger, then you will take the necessary steps to make that happen. 

5 ENERGY-BOOSTING TIPS

Here are 5 energy-boosting tips to keep in mind:

TIP #1: MAKE TIME TO PREPARE YOUR CONTENT
Develop your virtual meeting content the same way you would for a live presentation: well in advance.
Structure your virtual presentation in 3 distinct parts with an Opening, Body, and Close.
When you plan your Opening, start with a “Hook,” establish a clear purpose, and develop an agenda.
Then develop The Body — the “meat in the middle” where the action really happens — by including stories, examples, data, statistics, and graphs.
Bring your presentation to a Close by summarizing what you have covered and asking for action. 

Remember, the way you structure your message is critical not only to helping your listeners follow along but also to keeping them engaged and connected. 

TIP #2: DISRUPT THE PATTERN
Pattern Disruption is a concept that works well in virtual presentations. The idea is to disrupt the normal flow of information so that listeners are taken by surprise or jolted out of their complacency. Because of the flat 2D format, virtual presentations have to be “made” exciting, and pattern disruption is one strategy that never fails. 

What can you do to disrupt the ever-boring nature of the predictable “data dump” presentation?
Tell a vivid story
share a startling statistic
show a mind-altering image
raise your voice
quicken your pace

While you don’t have as many skills and techniques available to use in a virtual presentation, you still have enough; and if you use them in creative ways you can rouse your listeners and hold their attention. Aim to disrupt the pattern every 4-5 minutes. 

TIP #3: PRIME THE ENERGY PUMP
Your physical, vocal, and verbal skills will go a long way in helping you create and maintain energy throughout your virtual presentation. 

Prior to your presentation jump-start your physical and vocal energy by warming up:
speak in a loud voice
practice tongue twisters
sing a song
take a walk outside
walk around your house
go up and down stairs
make faces in the mirror
do anything to get your heart rate and your energy up. 

If you speak loudly and move quickly, you will do more to create performance energy than you imagine. 

And don’t forget to smile and raise your eyebrows right before you sign on. If you’re happy, tell your face!

TIP #4: ORGANIZE AND CLEAN OUT YOUR WORK SPACE
Clutter is energy draining
Organization is energy boosting

Therefore:
Remove all coffee cups, golf clubs, electric guitars, dog beds, dirty laundry, games and puzzles.
Create one area, no matter how small, that is yours and that you can keep organized, neat, and clean.
If you can’t keep a neat space use a green screen background of a faux organized office space. 

TIP #5: WORK WITH OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS TO SET BOUNDARIES ON PRIVATE WORK TIME.
Unfortunately, family or housemates can be a big energy drain when you’re presenting. 

DEVELOP A COLOR CODE SYSTEM

Develop a color code system of Red/Yellow/Green, and announce what kind of meeting you are entering. 

RED is highly important (new customer meeting) and that means everyone needs to be quiet and not interrupt. 

YELLOW is less important (work team meeting) but still quiet is required. 

GREEN (close colleague) means anyone can come into your space and you will not have to apologize to the person you are talking to. 

Setting boundaries with a color code will help everyone know the rules and follow them. When you don’t have to focus on anyone else, you can focus on sustaining your energy throughout the presentation.

When conducting virtual meetings, you simply can’t depend on the stimulating influence of outside energy to give you the boost you need to perform. But you can use the time-tested tools of planning, preparation, and practice to help do the job for you. Use these best practices. And whatever you do, don’t let the cat fall asleep in your workspace. 

About the Author: Angela DeFinis is President of DeFinis Communications. The company offers executive speech coaching, presentation skills training, and virtual video conferencing training. To learn more, please visit https://www.definiscommunications.com/.

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