Skip to main content
🔖 Read in 5 mins ·

Technology, like our cell phones and computers, used to be the biggest BARRIER to real communication.

But suddenly, with the Pandemic, it has become the ONLY way to stay connected!

The isolation has been incredibly challenging for everyone, but what about people whose primary love language is TOUCH? We felt like those people, in particular, might be struggling the most. So on March 20, 2020, Jan Keck decided to help by creating the World’s Largest Virtual Group Hug. And thought he might just get into the Guinness Book of World Records, to boot!

But what actually happened took Jan by complete surprise! Watch his virtual TEDx Talk at TEDxCalgary here:

5 Tips on how to be More PRESENT with Others on Zoom

Have you been craving deep, meaningful connection, but on the computer you just don’t FEEL all that connected? Yeah, it can be challenging, for sure. The good news: WE ARE HERE TO HELP!

Here are 5 handy tips to help you be more present and connected with others on Zoom, and how to beat the dreaded Zoom fatigue.

#1: Remove Distractions

This is number ONE for good reason: if you are distracted, it’s hard to really be present and get the most out of your interaction with others. Two of the MAIN sources of distraction:

Turn off your cell phone  📵

These innocuous little devices are SO addicting!

Turning your phone off may kick up some major resistance, but face it: if that notification beep goes off, you are going to be jonesin’ to check. Just a quick, teensy peak. Cuz you will be so distracted wondering who just said, or did, what. (OMG – did you see the epic pole vaulting fail Sasha just posted? Heeeeelarious!)

Be strong and TURN IT OFF – you can do it!

And to remove that ever-present, niggling temptation, it’s probably best to just HIDE your phone out of view – in a drawer. Or, better yet, just leave it in another room.

A 2013 research study discovered that having a cell phone present and visible, while study participants visited a coffee shop, actually reduced the quality of conversation and their ability to empathize. Apparently, just having the phone visible divides your attention – even if you aren’t actively looking at it! Crazy, huh?!

Put your computer in “Do Not Disturb” mode 💻

The computer is another major hotbed of distraction, but unfortunately, you can’t turn it off, doh! But you CAN turn notifications OFF and CLOSE any other tabs. If possible, put your computer in “Do not disturb” mode. True, you’ll have to wait to like Bertrand’s latest cat video on Facebook, but it’ll keep.

#2: Hide Self-View

Constantly looking at ourselves is not only WEIRD (thanks Pandemic!), but also super distracting and energetically draining.

No doubt you’ve heard the term “Zoom Fatigue” – turns out it’s a REAL thing! A Stanford University professor has identified four primary reasons why video chats can be so tiring. Guess what made the list? SEEING yourself!

So – yes, definitely check on your thumbnail image before joining the meeting: Is there sufficient light to avoid looking like a creepy, secret FBI informer? Did ALL of your face make it into the frame? Have remnants of your spinach salad been removed from at least your front teeth? Great! If you are generally presentable (and you ARE!) – go ahead remove that darn MIRROR!

How to hide self-view:

  1. Hover over your thumbnail image
  2. Click the three dots in the upper right corner
  3. Choose “Hide Self-View”

Pheeeew! OMG – that feels sooooooo much better!

If, at any point, you want to see yourself again (if, for example, you are NOT having a good hair day and need to check), follow these simple steps.

How to show self-view:

  1. Click on [View] in the upper right of your screen
  2. Choose “Show Self-View

And, voila – you magically reappear!

#3: Enter Full Screen

Shifting to Full Screen removes the visible notifications, tabs, and clutter on your screen, so you can put ALL of your focus on the other person and are less tempted to multi-task and peak at social media or zip off a quick email response.

#4: Listen Deeply

All too often, when someone is sharing a personal story, we tend to think about ALL of the things WE could say in response. (“Ooooh, that reminds me of when I fell into an open crevasse, barely escaping death, too – I can’t wait to share!”)

Ideas pop into our head, as we look for the first opportunity to interject – which totally distracts us from REALLY listening.

What if you set your response aside for a bit and asked follow-up questions to get a better sense of the other person’s experience. Keeping the focus on them creates a deeper understanding and connection. You’ll get your chance to share when a natural pause occurs.

By listening deeply, they’ll feel valued and acknowledged and you’ll feel closer. It’s a win/win!

#5: Make Eye Contact

Back when we could hang out in person (remember that?), making eye contact was pretty straightforward. You were either looking into someone’s eyes or you weren’t.

With Zoom, however, it’s tricky.

If you are looking at the screen, you can see everyone just fine. But from their perspective, your eyes are looking down slightly, NOT at them. Ironically, looking directly into the camera gives the impression that you ARE making eye contact, when, in fact, you can’t actually see them at all.

Jeez Louise! So, what to do?

Well, the best middle-way solution is to alternate between looking directly into your camera and looking at the screen. Not ideal, but until an affordable tech solution comes along, it’s the best we can do for now. Experiment with this at your next meeting – just a little bit of perceived eye contact can go a LONG way!

Curious to learn more about the power of eye contact? Check out this awesome Virtual Eye Gazing Experiment.


Share this blog post with your friends and family and the next time you are on Zoom together, test them out. I bet you’ll feel much more seen and heard, present and nourished by the connection.

It’s amazing how seemingly small adjustments can make such a BIG difference!

Jan Keck, Cheri Anderson

Jan Keck, Cheri Anderson

Jan’s mission is to help people feel less alone, so by creating experiences, workshops and programs he is fueling the movement for deeper human connection.

His work has been featured on TEDx, CBC News, Breakfast TV, Cityline and HuffPost and he is currently building a community of facilitators that design the MAGICAL HUMAN MOMENTS online.

Cheri is a Facilitator and Cuddle Connoisseur who creates safe spaces, where people can explore consensual, platonic touch with Portland Cuddle Arts.

She is also a graduate of the Virtual Facilitator Training and a founding member of the Deep Connectors Collective.