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Checking for engagement when the camera’s off!

While it continues to be a difficult time around the globe, I’ve been inspired by the way our clients – whilst many of them are used to operating virtually – are rising to the challenge of working from home – whether in isolation or alongside partners and children. In a series of free webinars I’m currently hosting, I’ve been sharing how people can use I.D. to be at their best and collaborate effectively, in these very circumstances. It’s been great to learn from people’s experiences and hear their insights and tips.

In one session, I was asked a great question: “How can I check if someone I don’t know too well is engaged – when I don’t know their I.D. AND their camera is turned off?” Just as on a phone call, in this situation, the visual clues that show we’re connecting and resonating with others are missing. And, as we know instinctively, or have learned through experience, words alone aren’t always the message!

Here’s a summary of the things I think we can all do – video on or off – to check-in with ourselves AND the other person, to determine how an interaction’s going – and course-correct as needed! They also apply to face to face – it’s just that without visuals, we need to turn things up a few notches.

Checking in on yourself

Be in-stride: The more you get yourself into a good place before a call or meeting, the more you’ll be present and able to focus your attention on the other person. You may not be able to immediately resolve a significant issue that might be pulling you out of stride, but ensure you have what you need to be OK for the conversation – which could be; set your intention, get data, talk it through, or walk in the garden!

Be authentic: Whatever you’re talking about, ask yourself if you genuinely believe it. Is it what you would say, do or recommend regardless of, e.g. of any money involved or anything in it for you?

Speak from the heart: This way, you’ll bring honesty and vulnerability to whatever you’re sharing. Clarifying your intentions for the conversation upfront can help to ensure you get this happening.

Assume positive intent: This way, you’re less likely to get let your own concerns or insecurities side-track you. You’ll listen objectively, rather than make comparisons with what you would say or do in the same situation. You’ll also be less likely to default to critiquing what someone is saying AND to begin to second-guess why they’re saying it.

Techniques for the interaction

Listen out for their authenticity: If they’re in-stride, it’s more likely they’ll sound energized and confident, and that you’ll have a positive and genuine interaction. To check this out further, don’t just move on after their first response – follow up, e.g., ‘…so tell me about that’. People will usually reveal more, sharing ‘the reason for the reason’, and you’ll uncover a much deeper level of truth.

Ask questions: The less you’re talking, and the more you get them talking, the more effective the dialogue is likely to be. It’s also good if a person is asking questions – take this as a sign of curiosity.

Ask them what they need: Invite others to tell you what they need for a conversation, meeting or proposal to be effective. Or ask about the outcomes they need. Throughout my career with I.D., I’ve discovered talking about what people need – not what they want or desire – invokes a much more instinctive response. Try it! See if you have the same experience. The chances are that instead of an aspirational wish-list, you’ll get a more grounded reply that better helps to move things forward.

Is the conversation driving action or light-bulb moments? If the discussion drives agreements and actions, there’s a good chance people are engaged. Emotional ‘ah-has’ will also tell you that things are going well, e.g., ‘Oh, I totally get it now’ or ‘Right, I see exactly how I can use this’.

I hope you’ll experiment with using these tips as a quick check-list for your interactions, especially when working in ‘camera-off’ situations. Let me know how you go!

To get I.D. strategies to help you be at your best when working virtually at home at this challenging time – and to register for future webinars – please visit