Everybody Knows.

The now-famous New Yorker cartoon told us “On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog.”

On Zoom, everybody knows.

For the seller, manager or meeting organizer, the conference rooms and offices of olden days could be extremely forgiving environments. Meander through the first several minutes of the gathering? Your audience – feeling both socially and physically trapped – would nod and play along. Fail to get to the point or lead with the client’s needs? You’d still get your polite attention and eye contact. Tell a dumb joke? Someone will laugh.

But not on Zoom. In a screen-to-screen world, we can take nothing for granted. And, frankly, it’s freaking us out. The eye contact is weird. The demos don’t work right. The responses, if we get them at all, are latent and out of sync. Attention spans that once seemed long and durable are now minuscule. You may blame the technology, you may blame the customer, you may curse the stars, but on Zoom it’s your own sales sins that are being laid bare.

There’s a lot to be said about running effective screen-to-screen meetings (I teach a course about it) but most of it really hinges on two ideas.

First, you’re in a brand-new culture now: if you don’t alter your behavior, that’s on you. Second, yesterday’s best practices are today’s survival skills.

Screen-to-screen calls have a different rhythm and cadence. They have to breathe. They’re great for conversation: for presenting dense PowerPoint decks… not so much. On Zoom you have to make people feel included… be the party host, not the entertainment. Give people things to do: ask an open question in chat. Interrupt yourself and ask people direct questions about relevance and interest. Succeeding on Zoom is 5% content and 95% engineering a great experience for your guests.

And about those best practices: it’s always been a good idea to get to the point, talk about what’s important to them, keep the bullshit and posturing to a minimum, keep the slide count low and be the most empathetic person in the room. In a screen-to-screen world, these are the price of entry…your survival skills.

On Zoom, everybody knows when you’re a dog.