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How to Eliminate Zoom Gloom

February 08, 2021 1:31 PM | Rick Pollak

How to Eliminate Zoom Gloom

Virtual meetings don’t have to be boring. Concise and compelling content is what captures and keeps the attention of a remote audience. This blog post will show you successful strategies to run virtual meetings that leave the participants energized instead of exhausted.

Two of the major causes of Zoom gloom are:

  1. Lack of direction
  2. Content overload

Here’s how you can improve both the management and presentation content of your remote video meetings.

A Made in Maine Success Story

Marty Grohman and Adelaide Taylor at the Environmental & Energy Technology Council of Maine (E2Tech) have successfully pivoted from in-person meetings to virtual events. Their expertise in hosting live events with multiple panelists and Q & A sessions helps them plan virtual meetings that keep their audience engaged.  

E2Tech meetings have multiple speakers in multiple locations. To avoid communications glitches, they plan practice rounds with each speaker using the setup they’ll be using during the meeting. The speakers also rehearse sharing their slides to prevent surprises the day of the event.

Marty and Adelaide also coach their speakers on how to become effective remote presenters. They make sure presenters have their webcam at eye level, their phones muted, and their pets and kids far away from the camera and microphone.

Their advance direction results in virtual sessions that replicate the “buzz in the room” of their live events.

How to Declutter Your Virtual Presentations

Direction isn’t enough to cure boring presentations. The secret to giving an interesting virtual talk is to distill everything you want to say into just what needs to be said. Cutting the information clutter and making your point quickly and concisely will engage your audience more effectively than asking poll questions or asking for “thumbs up” emojis. 

Your slides need to be visually appealing and easy to understand. Putting only one idea on a slide is a good way to keep your audience engaged. Showing a barrage of boring bullet points on a single slide will tempt your remote audience to check their e-mail or head to the fridge. Once you lose their attention, you’ll have a hard time getting it back.

When I’m coaching speakers for TEDx talks or business presentations, I ask them to define their big idea and call to action (CTA). Here are two questions to ask yourself or your speakers to help structure a compelling talk:

  1. If you just had one thing to tell the audience, what would it be?
  2. When you finish your presentation, the audience will (fill in the blank)

Once you’ve determined your big idea and CTA, the next step is to work the three “cons” into your presentation.

Connection, Context, and Contrast

Here’s how to use connection, context, and contrast (the three “cons”) to develop a presentation that makes your audience care, remember, and act.

Connection is an effective way to give your audience a reason to care. When you explain “what’s in it for me” from their point of view, you’re letting them know you understand and care about their situation. When your material focuses on the audience instead of yourself, you’ll build trust and get them to remember and care about your big idea.

Context is a powerful tool that helps your audience understand your big idea. Using analogies and metaphors that reference a concept familiar to the audience are a good way to explain your material. When Steve Jobs announced the Apple iPod, he didn’t mention the size of the unit or the number of gigabytes in the hard drive. Saying “a thousand songs in your pocket” was a successful use of context to explain his big idea and get people excited enough to follow his CTA to buy the music player.

Contrast and context are a dynamic duo. Once you’ve established context, you can use contrast to differentiate your solution from the status quo. The stronger the contrast you show between before and after, or with and without, the higher the probability the audience will follow your call to action. If your contrast isn’t compelling, chances are they won’t act on your big idea. Presentation materials (slides and stories) that effectively contrast your big idea with the status quo will help convince the audience that following your CTA will help them achieve their goals.

Are you using all three “cons” when you’re presenting? Are the speakers in the meetings you’re running connecting with the audience and using context and contrast to explain their big idea?

Your Call to Action

There’s a lot you can do to eliminate Zoom gloom. Using the strategies in this blog post will help you run virtual meetings that engage your participants. If you provide direction and help speakers declutter their content, you’ll end up with a smooth-running virtual meeting with clear, concise, and convincing presentations.

Rick Pollak is the founder of Presentation Medic, a consulting company specializing in curing boring virtual presentations. He coaches speakers for TEDx talks, executive presentations, and technical workshops. Rick is a member of ACE, and president of ACE’s sister organization, Boston-based Society of Professional Consultants. He can be reached at

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