Presence Matters

Bronwyn Smith
2 min readApr 14, 2021

Feel like you are working extra hard to stay focused and present on video calls these days? Me too. It could be that the WFH novelty has worn off, that it’s camera fatigue, or that every day feels the same.

I know what it feels like to be misaligned with the person or people on the other end of the call — where one is very focused and working through the agenda, and others appear to be picking dandelions out in centre field. I don’t want that to be the experience I’m creating when I’m on a call, yet it’s so tempting to keep working on that-thing on your side monitor, or turn your video off so you can direct your attention to what is more important to you.

©HappyAlex — stock.adobe.com

I felt myself come out of a day of work in a complete daze, not being able to parse out what conversations happened when, or with whom — which is what prompted me to think about how I could shake my presence back to, well, the present.

I tend to collude with myself to dust off a better habit or change a behaviour. Here are five tricks I’ve tried:

  • I’ve closed down every application that I didn’t need to be accessing while on the video call. This reduced the temptation to multitask.
  • I swap between taking notes on Onenote and a good-ol’ combination of pen and paper.
  • I change what I wear. For me, the more casual the clothes, the more casual the attention.
  • I commit to paraphrase or recap after someone has shared a bunch of information. This requires me to pay attention and then synthesize. It makes what I heard sticky to me by articulating what I heard, back to the speaker in my own words.
  • I ask questions.

These tiny intentional shifts have helped minimize the daze resulting in endless video calls and when my collaborators are also practicing some of these behaviours, our connection and productivity goes up. In a time where it’s hard to truly feel connected, these practices can signal, ‘I’m here, I’m listening, I’m present.’

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Bronwyn Smith

Talent and Leadership Development. Co-Active Career Coach. altMBA Alumni.