Achieve Newsletter - 5th Issue - 2020 - 10

ABWA Perspec tives

SOS for Working Moms
5 Tips to Minimize Zoom Disasters

As more and more mothers are working from home and engaging
in online presentations and virtual meetings daily (all while dealing
with kids and pets underfoot), it's clear that the current set up is
designed to fail. Unfortunately, there are few rules of engagement
to apply when your kitchen table is suddenly your office (and your
child's classroom). And we're all seeing the results of this every day:
crying toddlers in the background of important meetings, the dog
barking at the delivery driver just as the speaker is making a key
point, the offscreen audible whisper of " Mom, can I have a snack? "
... and this is on a good day!

angry and stressed it is hard to remain calm and focused. Do what
actors do-leave your emotions backstage and clear your mind
with this actor's trick: Think of a famous person you admire and
imagine this person sitting next to you in the meeting. How would
you behave if a notable individual like Oprah, for example, were
actually in the room? This tried and true technique will help you
turn potential disaster into success.
4. Use humor to calm discomfort: In more casual online
meetings where there is some level of familiarity with those you
are speaking with, humor goes a long way to help defuse awkward
and uncomfortable situations. If you can be gracious, laugh, and
make a joke of the situation during the inevitable interruptions
( " It sounds like the dog has something important to add to this
conversation " ) you will be better able to take control and show
grace under pressure.

Historically, working mothers experience intense frustration, social
isolation, and lack of support. Now they are not only working from
home, but they are also homeschooling and, in many cases, the
primary caregiver of young children. As such, they are managing
never-before-seen levels of anxiety and stress.
With so few guidelines, many have taken a " let the chips fall
where they may " strategy. But going with the flow only goes
so far in helping you manage the situation and can lead to
deeper frustration. So rather than feel annoyed or anxious about
your online meetings and what others will think about your
professionalism, take the reins and give yourself permission to set
new rules of engagement that work for you and your household
so you can restore a level of control, personal well-being and yes,
even peace.

When your next Zoom disaster threatens to strike, take these steps
to help recover from the interruption and regain your composure.
1. Plan for the worst: First, accept that things will go wrong
and no matter how much you plan, interruptions are going to
happen. But that's no reason to avoid putting a plan in place.
Disasters are more prone to happen when you " wing it, " so at the
very least outline your meeting topic with a reliable beginning,
middle, and end structure. Make sure to include transition points,
so if you are interrupted by a family matter you will have a natural
place to pause. Double down on what you can control: Your
appearance (wear solid colors), lighting (make sure the light is
in front of your face and not behind you), your computer set up
(make sure your stand is stable and your computer raised to eye
level), and timing (be ready in advance).

2. Distinguish between distraction vs. disaster: The dog
barking at the delivery driver is a distraction, not a crisis. However,
hearing a loud crash followed by a piercing shriek from your
toddler is a crisis and needs to be handled immediately. Identify
what family incidents fall into each category so you can prioritize
when and how to take action. Ask your older children to help you
create this list and agree to adhere to it. Keep it in front of you for
every online meeting and don't let simple distractions pull away
your attention. Forewarned is forearmed.

3. Avoid bleeding into the meeting: Your state of mind when
entering a virtual meeting can be a set up for success or disaster.
If you just had an argument with your teenager and are already


achieve newsletter * 5th issue 2020

5. Plan a back-up presenter: For more formal virtual
presentations where the stakes are high, plan a back-up presenter.
Think of it like an understudy-someone in the meeting who
knows the information as well as you do and who can step in at a
moment's notice. This way when your child runs up to you crying
or the smoke alarm goes off from your teen's cooking experiment,
you simply say, " Everyone, Jana is going to cover the remainder of
this point. Please excuse me for a moment. "
But what if you don't have anyone on the call who knows as much
about the topic as you do? Empower a junior colleague with
2-3 questions that you plan in advance so he or she can lead a
discussion during your absence. Plan questions like: " What key
points have stood out for you? " or " What questions do you have at
this point? " Coach your colleague to gather information and brief
you when you return.
Create Your Own Rules

No one knows when in-person meetings will be 100% safe, but
we do know that virtual meetings and online presentations from
home will continue to be challenging. So whatever you do, don't
give up! Try new strategies, be kind and forgiving to yourself and
others, and continue to change your approach until you reach a
level of comfort and control that works for you and your family.
Remember that even the most skilled virtual presenters struggle
with this medium at times. And as a working mother, you have
more on your plate and more at stake. But by implementing these
strategies, you can quickly recover from a Zoom disaster and know
that in this one small area of your work life, you've got this!

Angela DeFinis is President of DeFinis Communications.
The company offers executive speech coaching, presentation
skills training, and virtual video conferencing training. Through
corporate sponsored and open-enrollment programs, the firm's
unique skill building approach helps business professionals
become poised, polished, and powerful communicators capable
of leading effective meetings and delivering compelling
presentations. To sign up for an online session please go to

A publication of the American Business Women's Association, ©2020 ABWA Management LLC

Achieve Newsletter - 5th Issue - 2020

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