Why you should treat your Zoom calls ‘like a date’

If you’ve been a top-flight sports broadcaster for ten years, a little thing like a Zoom video conference shouldn’t be a problem. And so it proved, when Doug MacLean was guest speaker at a Canadian Association of Professional Speakers event this week.

Doug (pictured) shared tips and told stories for 90 minutes, even though it was his first Zoom experience.  But then, being a TV broadcaster is very much like hosting, or being the guest, in a large-scale Zoom event.

Indeed, the session was called ‘How to Engage the Audience Through the Camera’.

As speakers, and anyone who makes a lot of presentations, we are coming to terms with a new world where our audience is likely to be staring at a computer screen rather than being in the room in person.

So it was timely to tap into Doug’s expertise. He was a hockey commentator for Roger’s Sportsnet for 10 years before he retired to write his first book, Draft Day.

Before that he coached the Florida Panthers to a Stanley Cup Final. And he was the president, general manager and head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

I was privileged to MC the event, which was organized by the Atlantic Chapter of CAPS but which drew in an audience from Vancouver to Arizona to Philadelphia to Prince Edward Island.

Most of Doug’s tips were very applicable to business owners who use video conferencing apps.

For example, he likened Zoom to going on a date. “On a date, you want to look and sound good. Make sure you dress appropriately for the occasion. Be warm, friendly, funny, emotionally appropriate. Don’t get stuck on one subject too long.” Apply the same principles to your Zoom calls.

He stressed the importance of storytelling. “Storytelling was a big part of my gig”, said McLean. “Fans loved hearing stories about the game. Talk about stories you know. They will resonate best with any audience.”

A massive change for many speakers and presenters is coming to terms with the absence of an audience. With an audience in the room it’s easy to judge when things are going well and when they are going less well.

When you are looking at your audience in little boxes on a computer screen, things get more complicated.

Doug, as a broadcaster, is used to that. He never saw his audience. His solution: don’t try to speak to everyone. Instead, speak to a single person, and imagine that person in front of you.

Doug MacLean shared six fundamentals he believes are essential to a good on-camera performance (so they certainly apply to all of us who are now hooked on Zoom or Webex or any of the other apps):

  1. Know who’s listening and why they want to listen to you.
  2. Pick one person in your mind that you’re speaking to. Perhaps a potential client.
  3. Raise your energy. But make sure it’s not too strong, or you won’t get your point across.
  4. Try to smile when appropriate.
  5. Use the power of the pause.
  6. Start with something that will hold the audience’s interest… an opinion, a big bold statement, a question.