By Laura Penn, Ph.D.
Too many virtual meetings these days are stuck in debilitating inertia. The same-old, same-old status quo of predictable behaviors, passive interaction and tired practices is sucking the life out of our online interactions. The endless parade of over-crowded PowerPoint slides narrated by monotone voice-overs, drains our energy. The severe, self-imposed limitation of not moving our bodies and sitting hunched over our desks, paralyzes our ability to express ourselves. And the bleary-eyed, dazed stares of our colleagues’ “head-shots”, numbs our connection to them.
Despite these threatening warning sings, be aware! Inertia is seductive. The status quo seems to offer a haven of security. In inertia, our routines are stable and predictable. We don’t want anything to disturb the peace.
We want to lean-in to the tried-and-true, conserving our energy and making as little effort as possible.
Inertia is natural, uncomplicated and totally accommodating.
Why not surrender to it?
Because if you do, you are going to get stuck in a virtual haze where you lose your connection to humanity. Your life-force will leak out of you with every online conversation that you have. Disconnection, lethargy, boredom, lack of energy, detachment from purpose, fatigue, loss of creative drive, dread, and burn-out, are only a few of the hazards waiting for you in the black hole of inertia.
If this is ok with you then please finish reading this article here. This is your stop, it’s time to get off the bus.
If on the other hand, it’s not ok with you, and you’re being called from deep inside your bones to do something about it, then please read on…
Folks, it’s time to go from online inertia to online activation and here’s how to do it:
Begin by listening to the voices of inertia
When it comes to your online meetings, do you hear yourself saying:
“Why change what works?”
“This is the way it’s always been done.”
“This is what everyone expects from me.”
“I am not the leader so it’s not my responsibility to change anything.”
“I don’t want people to think that I’m rocking the boat.”
“I don’t want to stand out.”
By listening to the voices of inertia, you begin to acknowledge that you’re in this state in the first place. As you recognize its grip on you, you can confront it head-on, literally. Your body is designed to move and the easiest way out of inertia is to start moving it.
Before your virtual meeting, warm up *
Put on your favorite music, stand up, rhythmically shift your body weight from right to left, walk around the room with attitude and shake your whole body out. Wake up the groggy sleep-walker and let your body move to the sound of the music. Flow, stomp, twist, turn, and find your own groove. Release into this movement for as long as your body needs it. Then, get on your call.
* Budget time for this warm up in your schedule
While on the call, shift between sitting down and standing up
To keep the energy flowing in your body and to defend yourself against the death-grip of inertia, don’t stop moving. If you do, you will return to a lethargic state and may be defeated by a feeling of drugged passivity, similar to what it feels like when you binge-watch a Netflix series.
To be clear, this is not an invitation to randomly move around fiddling with things, it’s a suggestion to alternate between sitting down and standing up. And to shift from “closed” body language, where your arms and legs are crossed, to being in “open” body language, where nothing is crossed. It’s also an invitation to listen to your body. When it tells you that it is feeling tense and uncomfortable, do something about it. Move!
Besides using movement, defeat inertia with imitation
Imitation allows you to reach outside of the fixed boundaries of the status quo. It enables you to extend yourself into something brand new. When it comes to speaking online, imitate good ideas from others and incorporate them into your own repertoire. For example, if you like the way someone else used mixed-media, try doing the same thing. If you were inspired by how someone initiated audience participation, use the same method the next time you’re running a meeting. Or, if you enjoyed how someone delivered their presentation, copy them! Give yourself permission to imitate others so that you can amplify yourself and thus move farther away from the greedy, grasping claws of inertia.
Finally, to totally conquer inertia, activate your imagination
Nothing can vanquish inertia like the bombastic life-force of creative energy. On the spectrum of natural forces, they are on extreme opposite sides of each other. Activating your imagination is about switching yourself on and being fully present. It’s about trusting your intuition to do what’s right. It’s also about having the courage to experiment and innovate, thinking outside of the virtual box and trying new things.
In this state, you go past your own edges and surrender to the infinity of your imagination.
This is where your message will come alive and be remembered. This is where you will create a sense of community and shared purpose. This is where connection, joy, pleasure, thrill and humanity will happen. And this is where you will fully defeat inertia and show up as the best version of yourself every time you speak online.
Dr. Laura Penn trains global leaders from the world’s most recognized companies, academic institutions, and not-for-profit organizations how to speak in public. As the Founder of The Leadership Speaking School, world-class speaker coach and three-time TEDx speaker, featured on TED.com, she supports leaders who are hungry for the skills that they need to vastly improve themselves as speakers. Based in Switzerland, she is disrupting the status quo for how we speak in front of audiences both in-person and online.