How To Combat Zoom Fatigue

Citibank’s CEO, Jane Fraser, made a splash with her last year announcement of Zoom-free Fridays for employees, “to combat the ‘Zoom fatigue’ that many of us feel.” This is no knock on Zoom, or online meeting software in general, which has proven to be remarkably effective during the pandemic. The problem isn’t software, it’s people.

What causes Zoom fatigue?

In Nonverbal overload: A theoretical argument for the causes of Zoom fatigue Professor Jeremy Bailenson of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab suggests several reasons why video calls are so tiring.

  • Eye gaze at a close distance. People appear to stare at you far more intrusively than they would in a real meeting. And you’re doing the same to them.
  • Cognitive load. It takes a lot of mental effort to understand what’s going on without the nonverbal cues that make face-to-face meetings so much more engaging.
  • Stress caused by looking at yourself all day. Studies show that seeing a reflection of yourself tends to make you more self-critical. “Zoom users are seeing reflections of themselves at a frequency and duration that hasn’t been seen before in the history of media,” Berenson writes.
  • Reduced mobility. People are comfortable in face-to-face meetings moving around, stretching, making notes, refilling their water glass. In video meetings, most of us try to sit still and look interested, which is work. Of course, ignoring the camera can be problematic.

Turn off the video

It’s common practice to fight Zoom fatigue in internal meetings by starting out with your video switched off, hoping you won’t need to switch it on. But this can be counter-productive in situations like sales or education where you’re trying to build trust and determine how much of what you’re saying is getting across.

3 ways to reduce Zoom fatigue

  1. Move away from the camera. Positioning the camera so that others can see your upper body and arms makes better use of the screen, and of your communication skills, too. Obviously, you’ll also want to be well-lighted and look comfortable in your environment.
  2. Show and tell. A colleague of mine tells me that her family Zoom calls have gotten much livelier since they suggested that everyone bring a show-and-tell item. Salespeople know that showing the product on camera can make a big difference. In both cases, it’s not just the thing itself, but also the relief of looking at a thing — instead of an array of faces — that makes the meeting go better.
  3. Switch to a different channel. Given that a Zoom meeting is basically a sort of weird TV show known to cause fatigue, it follows that switching to something more normal — like an informative video clip — will be welcome relief. Imagine how energizing your Zoom meetings would be if each participant brought a piece of video worth watching.

Note: this article is adapted from its earlier publication in Biznology.


Do a short videos need narration?

More show, less tell

Have you given any thought to how much video these days gets watched without audio? More than you think, probably, because LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube all autoplay videos with no audio by default. Now consider the short videos you’ve created to explain and promote your products and services. If the viewer doesn’t listen to the voice track, how much of your message is getting across?

Social media viewers have become accustomed to being carried along by animations and imagery supported by subtitles, headlines, and other text elements. They’re happy to watch entire videos without the need for sound, as long as they get something out of it. Publishers are crafting more and more videos to work without audio.

Consumers have long relied on videos to see how to use a product, how it’s put together, and what people are doing with it. B2B buyers, on the other hand, often get their information from short videos based on messaging documents that are not primarily visual. In today’s environment, B2B videos that emphasize “show” over “tell” can gain a competitive advantage.

Rethinking the script

In a typical explainer video, the story is built around those problems that can only be overcome with your company’s solution. But if you want to get the most value out of video production, construct the script to be broken out into pieces.

For example, if the story revolves around “a day in the life” of troubled characters presented with several problems during the day, a short video can show how a single problem was solved. It requires editing and the addition of text — but it doesn’t require narration as long as the it’s clear what the character is doing. On-screen text, subtitles, and speech balloons and thought bubbles can substitute for narration, too.

In some cases, rather than make two-minute videos to summarize complex solutions, it is more efficient to craft longer, more deep-dive, explainer videos scripted to be broken down into snackable, “silent” segments for social media.

And, if you create appealing characters to tell the complex story, you can re-use them as animated gifs and spokespeople to extend your brand’s reach in social media.

Better digital selling with short videos

Another reason to create a library of short videos is that discrete feature-benefit stories can be used to enliven online meetings without seeming to “take over” from the live presenter. And, because the video works without sound, the presenter can choose to talk over it. In any case, with or without narration, video is always preferable to PowerPoint.


Digital Selling with Video in 2021

The most influential tool for sales success in 2020 was video conferencing — a key element in digital selling. According to Hubspot, “74% of leaders who outperformed targets this year said virtual meetings were “as or more effective than face to face meetings.” In the same article, a spokesman for Zoom assures us that video is 34X as effective(!) Anyway, we can all agree that video is effective.

More show-and-tell

People involved in the sales process are much more comfortable turning on their webcams than they were a year ago, because putting your professional self out there can increase trust. They are using better lighting. They are paying more attention to what’s in the background. In 2021, the most successful presenters will add more show-and-tell — beyond PowerPoint — to the mix.

Anything that moves — video clips, whiteboard scribbling, objects held up to the camera, household pets (used judiciously) — can liven-up a meeting.

Digital selling and content management

It didn’t take long for “Zoom fatigue” to enter the lexicon in 2020, and there’s no reason to think that people will be eager to take on a heavier schedule of teleconferences in 2021. So, to keep up a schedule of sales nurturing, more content will be needed. Especially if you’re selling to IT, the more information you can offer buyers, the better.

Obviously, video is a great type of content to share, and it’s easy to share short videos on a schedule. Just make sure they communicate valuable information.

Video FAQ galleries

Product pages, especially those for technology solutions, often list features and benefits alongside videos summarizing the same product features and benefits.

A better approach — more browsable for customers and useful for sales communication — would be to create a video explaining each feature/benefit clearly and concisely. They needn’t be expensive or elaborate. Animation is a relatively inexpensive way to break down hard-to-grasp concepts and show what it’s like to use a technical product.

Make video a competitive edge

In 2020, the pandemic forced everyone to use video more frequently in sales. Most companies found that it worked quite well. So 2021 is likely to be a year in which the companies making the most imaginative use of video in sales stand to gain a significant competitive edge.


How much Sales Communication is too much?

At the top of a recent article titled “Attitudes Toward Information Signal Buying Effectiveness,” Gartner analyst Hank Barnes billboards this alarming (if you’re involved in sales communication) headline

“43% of Buyers Feel Strongly That Volume of Information Overwhelming”

The feeling captured in the headline emerged in Gartner’s studies of how organizations with different psychographic profiles think about enterprise technology adoption.

“Too much information” is something we’re all familiar with. But, besides the overwhelmed 43%, the data also distinguished a group of technology buyers who actually crave more information.

IT-led buying teams want more

What the give-us-more technology buying teams have in common, according to Gartner research, is that they are led by IT, or they exhibit good cooperation between IT and the business. “They want the details; they want to understand keys to successful implementation; they want checklists; and more,” Barnes writes. In other words, when it come to sales communication, they’re not at all averse to getting down in the weeds.

Gartner data shows that sellers who can satisfy this thirst for information are the ones who usually end up with more high-quality deals. The conclusion: “Good information is valuable. Understanding the desire and comfort that buyer team members have with information may be even more valuable.” So, here is also a big opportunity to outshine competitors by providing welcome information more efficiently and effectively.

Varieties of video sales communication

Many companies concentrate most of their video budget on videos with fairly high production values focused on product introductions, testimonials, thought leadership, and branding. Budgets for purely “informational” videos are much lower. Videos that venture into “the weeds” (demos, webinars, tech talks, etc.) consume significant time and effort on the part of subject matter experts, but a lack of visual support results in long stretches of video where there is little or no action happening on-screen. This doesn’t necessarily make them boring or unwatchable. But with less in-person communication, making these video trips into the weeds less of a slog could become a significant competitive advantage in 2021.

While some non-professionals can use today’s video tools to create amazingly entertaining and useful videos at little or no cost, crafting a first-rate video takes editing, skills, and a substantial time investment. It’s not feasible, or economical, to expect salespeople and subject-matter experts to do it consistently.

You may be surprised at how economical it can be to work with video professionals. They can take advantage of lots of experience working with limited budgets to tell stories concisely and visually — even deep “in the weeds.”


Smart budgeting for new video content

If you’re developing your 2021 video budget with a fixed number of productions and a cost estimate for each — there’s a better way. So much of B2B business is conducted via online video today, it makes sense think of the video budget as a resource for boosting your brand by enlivening everything else that you do online — from customer meetings, to social media, to text content like white papers and blog posts.

Cost components of new video content

These costs are common to all B2B sales/marketing videos:

  • Time spent identifying what you want the viewer to take away
  • Time and talent writing, visualizing, and editing the story
  • Time and talent creating, capturing, and editing visuals and sound.

There may also be out-of-pocket expenses like travel, on-screen talent, and production crews, but very effective videos can be made without them.

It’s all in the editing

Did you notice that the cost elements listed above are all editorial? You simply can’t make an effective video without editorial skill and imagination.

If you’re looking for a steady stream of videos to enhance all your online sales and marketing, you need to budget for professional video resources — probably from a combination of internal and external sources. You want people who can translate customer information needs into videos that get the job done, whether the job is clarifying a common misconception, addressing a customer objection, or anything else where speedier sales communication can be a competitive edge.

With today’s video editing software, ‘getting the job done’ may involve nothing more than repurposing video or editing video captured on a mobile device. For an inspiring and fun take on current trends in video editing, watch this explanation by professional video editor Sara Dietschy.

How much do visuals cost?

Of course, there are lots of situations where talking heads and repurposed visuals can’t get the job done. Sometimes you need to shoot on location, which costs what it costs. Sometimes you want to use animation to make unfamiliar ideas look simple and unthreatening. You can get an idea of the relative cost of different animation styles here. The most expensive style costs about four times as much as the least expensive one.

Budget for the opportunity

So when you’re developing next year’s video budget, do so with an eye to supporting sales and marketing opportunistically. You’ll be able to produce more videos, and in return earn their support.


Reaching out with social video

“Social video generates 12 times the shares than text and images combined” has been a favorite stat of video makers since it was mentioned by Forbes in 2017. But what is “social video” anymore, now that socializing with video is an everyday thing for people in business?

What’s not sociable? Commercial interruptions.

Sure, competently produced video marketing messages video stand out compared to text and static images. That’s why “explainer” videos are still around. But customers and prospects who respond to your invitation to a live meeting (or recorded webinar) have almost certainly looked at the top-of-the-funnel overview on your website product page. They don’t want to be marketed to. People watch social video to get detailed information from a knowledgeable human being.

Visuals save time

Lots of things can be said better and faster with pictures — especially moving pictures.  The more jaunty the pace, the better your audience will feel about the investment of their time — especially if their patience has already been tried by an overload of online meetings. As you plan out the meeting, give some thought to different ways of picking up the pace and accommodating short attention spans.

Keep the conversation going with social video

A lot of our business is with enterprise solution providers pitching upgrades, add-ons, and services to IT departments. The purpose of video isn’t to drive orders, it’s to get people to consume more information. Short videos can be very helpful here.

For example, suppose your online meeting is structured around a software demo. And, to vary the pace, you’ve cleverly broken up the demo into interesting stories about how easy it is to accomplish one thing or another (as opposed to a recitation of product features).

This gives your sales team an opportunity to follow up immediately, with

  • a summary of key points in the video
  • responses to any comments or questions raised in the online meeting, and, most important
  • a link to the video that can be shared in the customer’s organization.

It’s a good way to reach out with worthwhile, sociable video that won’t be seen as a commercial interruption.


Changes in Sales Models Call for New Video Content

Only 20% of B2B companies these days rely on in-person or field teams — down from 60% last year (source). For many B2B companies “website interactions” has meant redoubling their eCommerce efforts — with good results and with fewer interactions. But it’s not so easy to get online orders for complex and pricey purchases like technology solutions. They’re seeking to make up for the lost engagement with online tools that can all be improved with new video content.

  • online meetings
  • website interactions
  • self-serve interactions
  • live chat agents

The experience of tech buyers

Some intriguing characteristics of tech buying are captured in the chart below, based on data collected just before the pandemic really settled in.

chart illustrating need for new kinds of video content

The prevalence of stakeholders arriving late in the buying process makes a strong case for new video content —like short videos dramatizing benefits for stakeholders  Source:

Buyers appear to put more value on personalized sales materials than you might have thought. Most are making decisions as part of a team, not on their own. 93% reported that a new decision influencer was inserted into the buying process after the vendor’s proposal was submitted. Overall, the tech buying experience outlined here suggests the need for varied content — including video.

New video content to support digital selling

“Personalizing” a video doesn’t mean you need to appear on camera. We’re all getting more used to showing our faces presenting on-camera, but recording worthwhile video messages can take a lot of time. The best way to “personalize” a video is to share it with the right person at the right time. For that, you need a library of short videos that zero in on specific topics. Not high-level overviews, but trustworthy show-and-tell videos that hit the mark. And you need videos that speak directly to different members of the buying committee.

How do you build a library like that? You can edit existing videos. Plan new videos in “chapters” that can stand alone. Get your on-line demonstrators to record screencasts that can be edited into punchy stories. Compile customer comments into animated gifs. Planning and editorial skill can go a long way to “personalize” videos for specific interests and points of view.

Pro Tip (for MacBook and iOS users)

If you’re a MacBook and iOS user involved in online meetings, take a look at the Camo app. Even the free version lets you significantly improve your online appearance by making it easy to use the excellent video camera in your iPhone or iPad in place of the mediocre webcam in your MacBook.


Make your online meeting video televisual

Findings from a recent report on lead-gen strategies from Ascend2:

  • Most marketers think their social media tactics are increasing the quality of leads
  • Most marketers are spending more on social media because of COVID-19
  • Most marketers regard video as the most effective type of content for lead-gen, followed by webinars, and live events/webinars

All these “most-effective” online content types feature moving pictures on a small screen — in other words, they’re all video. Looking at no-motion on the screen for any length of time makes most people antsy.  Consciously or not, viewers expect video to move — including online meeting video.  So, most webinars, especially those that feature software demos, could benefit from added motion, as well as editorial tightening-up.

Video content thrives on motion

Given the ongoing impracticality of “live” events and travel, companies are increasing their investment in webinars.

Here are three simple ways you can add motion to your webinars and online meeting video without spending too much of that investment:

  • Skip Intro. Spend as little time as possible on “housekeeping” details, presenter credentials, and agenda-setting. Most of this info will have been covered in the invitation package. Just summarize it on the title screen so you can get off to a quick start.
  • Use your webcam. Not all visuals are worth seeing in full-screen screen- share mode. In many instances, briefly holding a photo (or even a cue card) up to the camera while you talk, will feel more natural to viewers.
  • Use video clips. This can work especially well in software demos. Think of your demo as an illustrated story in several chapters. You’re the storyteller, and you want strong visual support for each chapter.

Plan how you’ll follow up

As I noted in this article, the key to digital selling is the asynchronous engagement that goes on after the online meeting. The online meeting video clips you prepare are going to come in very handy here, because your sales team can make them the subject of emails in a planned cadence. And they can be contextualized in other ways for sharing in social media, where video is the most effective scroll-stopper.

As companies invest more in webinars and similar productions for digital selling, viewers will come to expect higher production values in online meeting video. Good writing and editing will matter more than ever.


Making digital selling a top priority

When it comes to digital transformation in B2B marketing and sales, marketing has led the way in recent years. But now B2B sales teams are finding that they need get up to speed with digital selling in a hurry.

“The pandemic makes digital selling absolutely essential to hitting goal,” says Glenn Eckard, head of client success and experience at Journey Sales (a long-time client of ours). Having launched their well-regarded digital selling solution, called Smart Rooms, in 2015, Journey Sales works with a variety of sales organizations, including some of the largest and most respected brands. So Eckard has been uniquely positioned to observe the urgent drive to master digital selling in real time.

The problem now is the pipeline

“What we’re hearing most right now is concern for pipeline,” says Eckard. Our customers have been closing deals, but account managers, who have always relied on ‘walking the halls’ to tee up new cross-sell and upsell opportunities with existing clients are eager to find new ways to extend reach and penetrate the new spaces.”

Reluctance to travel is part of the problem, obviously. “But even if the selling teams want to travel, it’s turning out that many customers don’t want them to visit. Often, this is because the buying team has moved remote and doesn’t want to have to travel to their office for a meeting.”

“Besides that, as they come to recognize the effectiveness of a strong digital selling strategy, businesses are realizing that they don’t need to be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in T&E.”

Beyond “live” meetings: asynchronous engagement

“Digital selling” says Eckard, goes way beyond live meetings using tools like Zoom. Video meetings can be very effective, but “if sales have no way to maintain the engagement after the session, it’s hard to gain real traction.”

The salesperson needs to make their presence felt, and they can’t do it the old way — by just dropping by. Add to that the pressure of closing, say, eight deals right now and simultaneously teeing up eight more for the next quarter. No-one has the bandwidth to do all this with online video meetings alone. This “asynchronous” side of digital selling is crucial for sales.

A branded digital sales experience

“What’s needed,” argues Eckard, “are private, secure, branded digital customer experiences with a continuous flow of relevant content, where customers can invite colleagues into the community, and where and buyer and seller can work together to figure out how the solutions being offered can help achieve the customer’s goals.”

When it comes to delivering the optimal asynchronous digital selling experience, Eckard says video plays a pivotal role with its ability to put across a lot of information clearly, in short order.

When will things get back to “normal”?

Eckard believes that many of the changes the pandemic has enforced on sales, will persist in some form. “Nothing will relieve the pressure to fill the pipeline and close deals,” he says, “but nearly everything about what organizations do to make those things happen will continue to change.”


Make your online video meeting more like “real” video

For many sales professionals, conducting online video meetings is now a big part of the job. And, it’s not something that comes naturally to most of us. Even if you perform well and the group resists talking over one another, attention will wander in online meetings. Multiple talking heads on a small screen? That’s very different from a professionally produced video where everything has been well thought through by a director or performer. Every online video meeting can benefit from more of that.

Visual content that improves online meetings

In talking with our technology sales and marketing customers, we’ve come up several ideas about how to make better use of video in online meetings.

  • No marketing. Avoid commercial interruptions.
  • Technical. People in an online meeting don’t want superficial content. They want to get into the weeds (though not over their heads).
  • Visual. Illustrations, animations, pre-recorded segments with subject matter experts can all add variety and motion. They need to be short. And they need to clarify a key point.
  • Realistic demos. Customers and prospects want to see your solution in action. However, unless they signed up for a comprehensive capabilities demo, they probably don’t want one. But they will appreciate a tightly scripted screencast with a happy result at the end of the click path.
  • Tactical. Many online webinars and demos end with Q&A sessions with no visuals at all. This is odd, since sales professionals are accustomed to anticipating questions and objections. Save some of your good visuals for the Q&A.
  • Reusable. These suggestions all describe well-designed content for meetings. Most of it will also be short enough to be shareable on social media.

One of the most common complaints from employees working from home is about the amount of unproductive time they spend in online meetings. Everyone will appreciate video meetings that run faster and smoother because you’ve gone to the trouble to make them more like “real” video.