Video Meetings and Multitasking

Have you ever watched the news? It’s fascinating because while it looks like the news anchor is looking directly into the camera, telling you about what is happening in the world, they’re actually looking slightly off to the side, where they’re reading a teleprompter.

As we all settle into the new world of days filled with Zoom meetings, calls, and the overall dynamics of working from home, I found myself thinking about the biggest differences I was experiencing – and that took me down the track of meetings.

If you’re meeting someone in person, they can see where your attention is, and specifically, they can see when your attention isn’t on them. Whether you’re checking your watch, looking at your phone, or simply staring out the window, it’s obvious whether or not you are focused – the physical cues are unmistakable.

Now, everyone is on video conferencing, and you can’t really be sure what someone is looking at. First, you don’t know where their camera is relative to their screen, and second, you don’t know how many monitors they have. Compound that with the issue that even fully engaged participants don’t tend to look at their camera, and instead look at the screen to keep an eye on the others, and themselves. The worst (and seemingly growing) situation is when people turn off video altogether.

What does this mean? It means keeping people’s attention is much harder remotely, and they are likely going to end up multitasking, but without you ever knowing. In person, you can use the visual cues to pivot/change your approach, to skip boring sections, and to adjust your presentation – in a remote world, all those cues are gone. Ask yourself this question honestly: how many calls/conferences have you been on recently where you’ve been checking your email?

There is, however, a silver lining. While people are sitting on those calls, getting distracted, they are likely at their computer – and while they are at their computer, they are likely doing one thing more than anything else: checking their email. So while your client is on a call, they have a lot of capacity to consume and respond to emails you send them.

Six months ago, everyone was optimizing all content experiences for mobile – whether emails, web sites, or portals – as mobile usage was rapidly accelerating. I don’t have any data points, but I have to think with everyone stuck at home, and even more so, everyone stuck on video and conference calls, desktop usage will see a rise. People are just less mobile.

What can you do with this information?

Spend more time communicating with your clients over something asynchronous like email. Clients are slammed with ‘calls’ all day, but those calls (which usually include too many people) leave lots of space for multitasking and distractions. Additionally, while people are stuck at their home office desk, they are more likely to deeply engage and read emails, vs. the mobile strategy of “marking unread to come back to it later”. Take advantage of how easy it is to multitask during a video or conference call.

The rise of video meetings is awakening the newscaster in all of us – while we seemingly are paying attention, we’re reading something just off-screen. Take advantage of the new distractions, and use the time to get in front of clients, and reach out while they’re available, in the medium and structure that makes the most sense for these times.

Working from home continues to change the industry in nuanced and unpredictable ways, now it’s up to those who can adapt and take advantage of them.

As always, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions,

Blair Livingston
Street Contxt

Hit The Street

Cut through the noise and avoid information overload.