Have you had one too many Zoom calls? Are you experiencing Zoom burnout or finding it difficult to keep your team engaged during weekly meetings? By now, most of us are experienced Zoomers. We’ve played with video conferencing backgrounds, we’ve found the perfect Zoom shirt, and we have the perfect angle on our devices so that we show our faces and not the tops of our foreheads. 

It’s not likely that Zoom calls will be going away anytime soon. It’s already gone from a brand name to a noun, verb, and work method. And we know that Google, Facebook, and others have already extended their work-from-home policies through the end of 2020, so video conferencing is going to be the norm.

Global Workplace Analytics is predicting that around 30% of the workforce will be working from home permanently. And Uri Berliner, writing for NPR, sites studies predicting up to half of the workforce moving to a permanent remote work model. It’s already shifted beyond Silicon Valley. Berliner explores the future of work, citing Nationwide Insurance, based in Columbus, Ohio, that announced their plans to close five regional offices and support a remote workforce.

So when a colleague, Don Heymann, shared this meme, I laughed out loud. And then I started thinking about how The Muppet Show may hold the key to avoiding Zoom burnout.

The Muppet Show theme song, which aired from 1976-1981, has been stuck replaying in my head ever since.

It’s time to play the music
It’s time to light the lights
It’s time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight.

It’s time to put on makeup
It’s time to dress up right
It’s time to raise the curtain on the Muppet Show tonight

There’s a lot we can learn about Zoom calls from The Muppet Show

As we become more accustomed to working from home and communicating through Zoom and other video call platforms, we may need to zhuzh up those calls.

Make an Entrance

Get your participants’ attention on video calls by making a grand entrance. What if we start our zoom calls with an announcer, with equal energy and panache to Kermit, introducing the call? Instead of all showing up in what someone (who?) decided is zoom etiquette, sitting up straight and not moving for the duration of the call, what if we all made a little more fanfare about joining the call?

Play the Music

One of the things I first realized when I saw the meme, is that zoom calls – and callers – can benefit from some music. It doesn’t have to be on the whole time, but I say play some kind of entry music, and two minutes before the call is scheduled to end, turn the music on again in the background to signal the show is coming to a close. Have all closing comments made over the music.

Light the Lights

Lighting really is important on a video call. While none of us is expected (although we’ve all invested in lights and placement of our cameras, so who are we kidding?) to be part-time film directors during the pandemic, having an appropriate setting for your conference calls is important. If you have bright light directly behind you, you appear as a shadow on the screen. Too much light in front of you and you’re washed out. Soft lighting or natural sunlight that fills a room can help you be more visible and engaging on camera.  

Put on Makeup

You need to be visually ready for the call. Brush your hair, take a quick peek in the mirror before the call starts to make sure your teeth are clean, your eyebrows are under control, and your lipstick is on. According to Paula Weiner, a high-level executive recruiter, we should all be doing this before any meeting or interview, and we should remember to do it on camera too. 

Dress Up Right

John Krasinski may have made a joke of dressing in a suit on top and everything from swim shorts to a pink tutu on the bottom, but it’s usually best to dress for the call – you never know when you’re going to have to suddenly stand up on camera (or knock the camera over). Of course, it depends on who is on the Zoom call with us and what the purpose of the meeting is (in other words, please get dressed appropriately for a job interview) but if it’s colleagues, friends, people we can be more relaxed with, I believe we have earned the right and deserve permission to be more creative in how we dress on zoom. Some of us prefer to dress up, even putting on dress shoes and perfume, while others prefer to dress in their favorite outfits, whether it’s a sailing shirt or a favorite band t-shirt, now that we’ve gotten over backgrounds and our over-grown hair.  Our outfits and accessories – no ties, please – are a great icebreaker and insight into our personalities.

John Krasinski

It’s Time to Get Things Started

We should all be introducing ourselves, so come prepared to introduce yourself with your full name and say something relevant to the call. Or volunteer to run the meet and greet and send the intro you’d like everyone to use. Be sure to send it ahead of the call with time instructions, so people have time to prepare and stick to a 10-15 second intro.

It’s Time to Raise the Curtain

Let’s think of the zoom call as a show. Not only with music, but everyone on the call is a star and has a role to play. Video calls will continue to be an ongoing part of our lives and most workdays. Luckily, The Muppets are here to help guide us into our “most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, muppetational” calls. The Muppets do know how to level it up.

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