Regular readers will be aware of my membership in narration in presentations and I’ve written on more than one occasion about the power of a good story, well told. The trivia in particular is a great way to personalize dull material, build empathy with your audience, and leave a short, crisp impression.
In a face-to-face meeting, an anecdote is easier to come up with for the simple reason that you can read the play and its mood. There is also a certain amount of idle time normally built into the time slot. In contrast, video meetings have hit the ground running and that downtime is normally wasted waiting for a few people to join in. When this happens, most people pretend to be busy rather than wasting time saying something that they may need to repeat when everyone is present.
So here’s a suggestion. If the room and the atmosphere are obliging (don’t start the next exercise with the AGM!), Make the conscious decision to fill this “waiting” period with a short anecdote. Make sure your story is at least vaguely relevant to the content (or context) of the meeting, and make sure you set it up to be successful – something like, “ As we’re still waiting, I’ve thought to share something you might find interesting …. It’s a good way to introduce the anecdote.
Elevator presents your anecdote
There are a few tips that will help ensure your success. First, your timing is important. I’m not talking about your comedic timing (like I’ve said many times before – if you don’t do comedy… don’t do comedy!), But the countdown to a videoconference room. Aim for an anecdote that looks like a summary in seconds that is, 30-60 seconds, with a well-formed introduction, middle and conclusion. It means eliminating unnecessary details and getting to the point quickly.
Second, you should think about “owning” this video room! As the format naturally focuses on the head and face, take a moment to re-evaluate what you’re doing with your facial expressions. Do you give them enough emotion and give them the essential qualities of assurance, confidence and energy? On this point, I noticed the advantage gained by those who operate from a standing desk, which gives a little space, freedom and even balance to involve more body language. If you don’t have a standing desk, a lectern will work just as well as long as you have a laptop.
Remember that an anecdote is very malleable. To illustrate, the next time you have a story to tell (“something funny happened today” / “you wouldn’t believe what happened to me” etc.), be aware of how your story changes as you tell it. With each story, details that you initially thought were relevant will melt away until you end up with a perfectly formed (and concise) story that literally rolls out of the tongue as you tell it. Take this lesson and adapt it to the anecdote in the workplace.
One thing I’ve noticed is that most video meeting attendees are happy to have someone take the lead in the “hold” area because it saves them from having small conversations. It also means these stragglers come to a buzz, curious about what they’ve been missing and galvanized to step up the energy. During this time, you kick off the meeting and, even if you don’t say anything more for the duration, you’ve made a mark!