The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

In the film Cool Hand Luke, Strother Martin famously said, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

In today’s world, everyone’s an actor. Popular YouTubers teach how to look better on video. This makes sense, because how you look contributes more to a positive response than how you sound or what you say. To make sure you look your best:

■ Set your camera at eye level
■ Source light in front
■ Frame yourself so you won’t look too big or too small

But there’s more to learn. Start with the difference between a “meeting” and “webinar.” Webinars are for one-to-many presentations. A meeting is for interaction. Most “meetings” I’ve attended are actually webinars with questions tacked on the end. And they work only when the speaker is dynamic and the topic spot on.

This is lost on most speakers. Unless you’re a podcaster or DJ who can entertain without an interviewee, ramp up interaction. For example, use the polling function. Polling engages and gives something more to do than sit, watch, and listen.

Use breakout groups. Small groups or pairs. Or one then the other. Discuss: What surprised them? What are they still wondering about? Zoom can create breakouts automatically. And there are other ways to engage, attract, and keep attention for as long as the meeting goes.

Speaking of which, why use all the allotted time? A friend who likes colorful language puts it something like this: “Really pisses me off! There’s five or 10 minutes left. We’ve covered everything on the agenda. Then there’s someone who brings up some hypothetical topic that’s never gonna happen, and I gotta pee!”

That is an edited version, but I hear him. Just don’t end early if you promised a Q&A and someone’s waiting with a question. Let them ask! After answering, end the meeting, but not “for everyone.” Those who want to can stay and chat.

We’re on video more than ever, and, just like the Clint Eastwood movie, we’re seeing the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Speaking of ugly, have you heard of the “transcribe” option? It records, in text, words spoken during a Zoom session. One recent speaker said “you know” 15 times in less than two minutes. If he were to see his comments transcribed, he would be right­fully mortified. Toastmasters assigns an “um/ah” counter, one member who reports filler words used by speakers. Imagine how you would feel if this was your last sentence:

“Well, you know, the report we have here, you know, kind of shows how we’re ah, you know, still growing, but, you know, it’s not at all clear, that um, you know, we’ll stay on this positive trajectory.”

That painful example is, sadly, not an exaggeration. It can be infuriating. The most infamous “you know” video doomed Caroline Kennedy’s Senate run. Now, you’re not running for a New York Senate seat, but you are running a meeting. And we’re watching.

Andy Bergin (friend, coach, and founder of communication coaching provider Speaking Virtually) reminded me to remind you: “It’s not the technology that matters—it’s the person using the technology that makes the difference.” So, in your next action role—that is, your next video meeting—be good, not bad and not ugly!

The first three people who write to will receive a free 20-minute live personal coaching session to improve their presence and effectiveness on their next Zoom meeting.

Andrew Silberman is president and chief enthusiast at AMT Group and co-chair of the ACCJ Membership Relations Committee.