Making Remote Meetings Work with Karin Reed

Reading Time: 16 Minutes

Today’s guest is Karin Reed, author of the book titled Suddenly Virtual: Making Remote Meetings Work.  Karin is an on-camera communications expert and the CEO and Chief Confidence Creator of Speaker Dynamics.

After the Interview

About Karin Reed

Karin has been teaching business professionals how to be effective on-camera communicators for nearly a decade, and her upcoming book, Suddenly Virtual: Making Remote Meetings Work, seeks to be a definitive guide for businesses looking to make their meetings as effective as possible in the “new normal.” Before specializing in executive communication, Karin earned an Emmy as a broadcast journalist.

Read the Transcript

This transcript was auto-generated from the original video recording using Otter Voice Meeting Notes. While the transcript has not been human edited, we hope it will still help you to quickly find or reference useful information from the interview.


Deliberate Leaders I am your host Allison Dunn, executive coach and founder of the Deliberate Leaders podcast where we’re dedicated to helping leaders build strong, thriving businesses. Each episode we feature inspiring interviews to help you on your leadership journey. And today’s guest is Karen Reed. She is the author of the book titled Suddenly Virtual and Making Remote Meetings Work. Karen is an on camera communications expert. She’s also the CEO and Chief competence officer, excuse me, Chief Competence Creator of Speaker Dynamics, Karen has been teaching business professionals how to be effective on camera communicators for nearly a decade. And her upcoming book, suddenly virtual helps us define provided definitive guides for businesses looking to make their meetings as effective as possible in an ever evolving new normal, which is so true. This topic is so prevalent in our society today. And I’m really looking forward to diving deeper into this conversation. Karen, thank you so much for joining us here today.


Alison, thank you so much for having me. I’m looking forward to it.


So I we are in this online communication component on video, which I think has been a gigantic shift for every professional regardless of who you are, what industry you’re in, and especially as a leader and leading their team.


What do you believe are some of the biggest barriers that are preventing our effectiveness when we’re advocating in this fashion?


There are quite a few of them. You know, just to give you a little bit of background, I’ve been teaching this kind of communication skill set for about a decade. So as somebody who has been an on camera coder for a long time, it’s been fascinating to watch the shift, where everybody has embraced video whether they wanted to or not, as a result of the pandemic. So yeah, oddly enough, had product market shift as a result of the Coronavirus. But it’s been really gratifying to be able to help people to better navigate this sort of meaning modality. So some of the things that really are challenging whenever you’re communicating rather through webcam is that whenever we’re talking to somebody face to face, we’re typically gauging how they’re responding to our message by reading their facial expressions reading their body language. But when you’re talking to a webcam, that camera lens doesn’t give you any feedback. So it creates this barrier to your communication effectiveness. The other thing that really has been problematic for lots of folks is that for the first time, they’re seeing themselves communicate in real time, and seeing themselves on that screen can be disconcerting and distracting. And then there’s also this whole idea that as soon as you introduce a camera into the equation, it feels like you are performing. And the if we perform, we want to be perfect, right? But the harder we try to be perfect, the more elusive it becomes. And here’s the thing, perfection is not what works on camera, what works on camera is authenticity, you just be you. But you have all these barriers to that authenticity.



The conversation that I have a lot with my clients is to help them understand what they’re actually saying. They’re communicating through coaching or when they’re leading. Because this has been a big shift people are actually now seeing like, I think I’m relaxed in the link, but it actually looks like a smirk.


And it’s so funny because your body language sends so many false signals, especially on camera and here’s what happens, sometimes people think well, I’m just going to keep my camera off, because I don’t want to be giving off the wrong message. But that is a huge mistake. Because the way we communicate is not just with our words, it’s not just with our tone of voice, it’s with our whole bodies. And if we take part of that away, we are diminishing our overall communication effectiveness. So even though the nonverbal cues in this environment are fewer than whenever you are face to face, they’re still incredibly valuable, it’s just a matter of being a little bit more aware of how we’ve kind of set ourselves up so that we can effectively communicate through this this medium, and a lot of times it comes down to awareness of how we engage with the camera lens, but also how we take care of what I call our personal production value. And that’s really how you show up whenever you are on webcam.


So let’s let’s dive into it because I know I know a lot of people are struggling with this and they Well, I’m just not, I’m not good at that. But there’s things we can be doing to make better at it. So what are some of the key tips that make a dramatic difference?


So let’s start first talking about performance. So the one thing I would always counsel people to do is if they want to speak with impact, you have to be looking at the camera lens, because the camera is the conduit to your conversation partner. And this goes against a lot of our natural impulses, right? Because what we want to do as human beings is to make eye contact with our conversation partner. But if I would do that, like right now, if I try to make eye contact with you, Allison, what does it look like to you? It looks like I’m not making eye contact with you, right?


So you’re very good at looking at your camera, I will give you that all about making sure you understand, I’m looking at you and I am really looking at you right now and not me.


And then you have to think about what it feels like on the other side where they’re like, wait, what’s she looking at, she’s not looking at me, she’s looking somewhere, you’re off to the side or down. So it really requires you to go against all your natural impulses, you want to speak with impact, you need to be looking at the camera lens. Now, that doesn’t mean that you need to be held captive by the camera. Because sometimes people are like, okay, I can’t look away at all. That’s not the case. Because think about if you’re talking to somebody in person, you are spending less time looking at them as the speaker than they are as the listener looking at you. So you primarily pour your energy towards your conversation partner who is through your lens. But you are also looking away and thinking about what you’re saying Next, you know, maybe you’re looking up and they but you always come back to them. So that means that you can glance down, I can see if you’re smiling, I can see if you’re nodding your head, you know, I don’t need to be staring at you the entire time, I like to make sure that you’re listening to me, it’s a matter of like stealing those quick glances so that you can get a sense of how your message is being greeted. But then making sure that it feels really comfortable to your conversation partner so that you’re looking at them directly into their eyes, which is, for all intents and purposes, the camera lens. So that’s the big point.


I think I am curious is to whether or not we’ll develop a camera that does allow us to actually have the camera at the location of who you’re speaking to.


So that had been asking for this for so many years. And talking to our partners are like, please, please embed the camera in this screen? Because we know it was possible on what like Back to the Future to and that’s in and Star Trek. So like why can’t it happen now? I think it’ll be interesting to Allison to see if if hardware. You know folks respond to that. Because imprecise eye contact is a huge challenge. And so right now we kind of have to cheat it. But it’s frustrating. It truly is. Yeah.


Interesting thing that you’ve brought that up as a topic because I don’t know that I’ve personally ever felt like I was in disconnect on it until I go watch myself after the fact, you know, when it goes live on YouTube, and I’m looking at you.


And it’s even worse if people have multiple monitors and say that they have you know, their camera in a completely different location. They’re spending time like this. Like, where are you looking so that is the way that you can make the biggest change in how you present. The one caveat I would give is you have to think about where you want people to get their information. Sometimes you want them to be looking at you, because you want them to get their information from your face. But there are times like for example, if you were sharing your screen and you want to talk them through information on a slide, at that point, you should be looking at your screen as well. So you kind of guide them with your gaze. If you’re looking at the screen and talking through a data point, then that makes sense to them. But as soon as you’re done talking to the content on the slide, I would re engage with the camera, because that signals to them. Oh wait, I’m supposed to be looking at her again.


Right? Okay. How? How can you train people to do that? Or is it just to have like an exercise like getting used to looking at the lens versus at the individuals.


So it eventually becomes second nature. But while you’re trying to build habit, there are a couple of tricks that you can employ. Yes, the trips, okay, you can take a picture of a family member friend that you put beside your camera lens, just to remind you that you’re talking to a person because we all have had the experience where you felt like we are talking to no one and whenever that goes through our minds. It is very apparent in our faces. We look like we’re disconnected. So you always want to remember that you’re talking to a person Even though they’re not in the same physical room with you, so a picture can help. The other thing that I’ve seen people do with success is have taken like this little post it note arrows, and have them pointed towards the camera. Because it’s just a reminder, this is where you should be looking, this is where you want to direct your gaze. And then another creative example that I heard from one of my clients is, they took little googly eyes, and put it on either side of their camera lens. And it was a fun way to remind them, Hey, this is where I should be looking. So that those are a couple of tricks that you can try.


That’s great. Um, with those out, one of my questions was, what are the best ways to maximize the message that you’re delivering on screen, all of those are incredibly helpful, but doesn’t necessarily speak to how to maximize the message.


Yeah, in terms of messaging is all about simplicity. And this is kind of a best practice, whether you’re on camera or off. So I recommend the rule of three, which is actually dating back to Aristotle and his book rhetoric where people are more likely to remember information, it’s if it’s presented in triads. So I would think about having three buckets of information that you want to convey. And then even within those buckets of information, maybe you have like three sub points. And what that allows you to do is you can trim your content based upon the amount of time that’s allotted. So say that you walk in with a 30 minute speech, and you have three main points that you want to make. Sometimes they’ll say, Oh, you know what, the person in front of you went long, can you cut it in half. And you might be tempted to just say, Okay, I’m going to cut out point three. Well, rather than doing that, think about cutting out the three sub points in each of those buckets. And it’s almost like if I think about it as chopping vertically, rather than horizontally in an outline, and that way you can maintain the integrity of your message. But one of the great things about video is it allows you to connect, one of the downsides of video is it is a terrible place to do a data dump, it does not carry a huge amount of information. So I would use video as a way to create connection, and then to guide them to another resource where they can really take a deep dive.


Excellent pieces of advice, very good. What’s our How can our listeners use the camera to their advantage in a world that has gone truly remote?


Well, it definitely will set you apart if you learn to master speaking through a camera lens, because this is not going to go away. All trends indicate that even after the pandemic, people will continue to have virtual communication be part of their corporate communication DNA. So it makes a lot of sense to figure out how to do this well. So I would say you know, first of all, lean into honing your skills, I teach a technique called the MVPs of on camera success, which is having the right mental mindset, using vocal variety and understanding physical factors, which is you know, really how your body language speaks whenever you are on camera. So I think paying attention and investing in building up your skills in that area is a great way to do it. So you know, hooking up with a coach, you know, there are resources online, I actually have an online course, which allows you to become better at it, which is self paced, and that is pretty appealing to lots of busy folks who don’t have the time to, you know, invest, you know, two days straight on training. But so invest in in making you yourself better at being on camera, but then also understand how to set yourself up from a production value perspective. So a lot of folks think, Oh, it’s not a big deal. That’s just people being vain if they want to show up looking and sounding their best. But that’s actually not the case at all. It’s actually a matter of having respect for your conversation partner. Because if your face is in shadows, or your audio is all crackly, it’s equivalent to being on a phone call with somebody and forcing them to deal with a bad connection. It’s irritating, and it’s annoying. So you don’t want to do that to the people on the other side. So I always suggest making sure that you have your face very well lit from the front. I always suggest making sure that your audio input is as crisp and clean as it possibly can be. You know, I use this little lapel microphone, which is very inexpensive that has much better audio quality than the built in microphone on my laptop and make sure that you look behind you. You want to make sure that your background is uncluttered, and it’s clean and there’s not anything that’s going to pull focus because anything that distracts will detract from your message.



I do wonder So, let’s do Use like, I’m looking at your background right now. It’s very, not distracting at all.


Mine might be though.


Unknown Speaker  15:06 

No, it’s not. No, I think that looks great. And I would say, you know, in your case, you have a great conversation starter. You know, I would want to ask you about, you know, what you have over your shoulder here, you know, is there a reason why that you have that back there? And, you know, I think having a conversation starter, which means like, it’s something that pique somebody’s interest in and gets, kind of helps you to foster the relationship and find common ground. That’s a great thing having 10 conversation starters, not so much.


That is perfectly fair.


I know that because so much of our workforce, and teams are remote at this moment in time, What tips do you have for enhancing the collaboration and the connection through video and camera?


One of the really key things is making sure that you’re aware of how many people you have in the meeting and ensuring that they really should be there, because there’s kind of a sweet spot for meaning effectiveness, especially if you’re trying to make decisions, you want to have maybe five to seven people in the room. And that’s, you know, in any meeting, but in a virtual meeting, it’s even more important, because anything beyond that becomes pretty unwieldy. And so you have to have it be manageable from a facilitation perspective. And speaking of facilitation, when you are leading a virtual meeting, you have to be much more proactive in guiding the conversation. So one of the things that I often talk to my clients about that we talk a lot about in our book, suddenly virtual is the necessity to ensure that you are cold calling with good intention, which basically means you need to let people know when they have the floor. Because there’s a lot of stilted and stunted conversation that can occur because people just don’t know when it’s their turn to talk. So as a facilitator, what I try to do is I’ll try to read the virtual room, I’ll look at the gallery view The Brady Bunch boxes that I call them, and see, okay, somebody’s kind of leaning forward, that might be an indication they have something to say, are they unmuting? themselves? Okay, they’re unmuting themselves, they do want to speak up before they even utter a word. I’m saying, Ali, it looks like you have something to say. And you might be like, Karen, I actually don’t I just hit the unmute button by accident. And that’s completely fine. But I would rather have you err on that side, then just have these open ended questions where nobody quite knows if they should be saying anything. And just alleviate that by calling on people by name.


I will share that I’ve done I do a lot of trainings. And the trainings now have been mostly moved to a Zoom Room. Managing the right number of people, but in some cases, we have multiple folks joining that I can’t see them all. Or I don’t know exactly who’s in the room. It’s so it’s  a real challenge. And as a facilitator of getting becoming an expert on knowing exactly who’s in each room, so that you can call on them and read the body language. Where do you see this evolving to for business, and what tips based on the research that you’re working on in your suddenly virtual book that is like the one thing you really want people to be thinking about going forward?


I think it’s important to consider what work looks like, after the pandemic is in the past, you know, people are starting to, to be more strategic now and in the virtual tools that they use for in their collaboration tools they use, which I think is a great first step. But what is going to be really challenging is whenever you have a hybrid workforce, where you have some people who are super eager to come back into the brick and mortar office, and then you have others who are like, you know what this remote work is working for me. And, you know, they may have a very good argument for why they should be allowed to continue to work from home. So as a meeting leader, your job is going to be figuring out how to make folks who are in a conference room, you know, co located, talk and communicate with those who are joining in perhaps another conference room, and also with the five people who are joining from their individual webcams. So you have all these different I would call them networks of people in the same meeting and you have to get them all to converse and collaborate. That is going to be an incredibly challenging thing for anyone to do. Alli I do lots of training as well. And I know when I’m teaching a hybrid setting, it is really hard because you always feel like somebody is getting short shrift. Either the people in person or the people virtual. So having to, you know, figure out how to get everybody to participate evenly. You know how to ensure that there aren’t a lot of like side discussions going on. It requires the meeting leader to be very aware, and to be conscious. And one of the things that my colleague, Dr. Joe Allen, who is the co author of the book with me, who’s one of the foremost leaders and meeting scientists in science, meeting science, rather, he says, you know, there might be this evolving role of instead of just there being a meeting leader, who is the decision maker, actually having a meeting facilitator in there, in addition to the meeting leader, because it’s an awful lot to think about, you know, if you’re trying to ensure, okay, everybody’s talking, we’ve got even participation, you know, also trying to process information so you can eventually make a decision, that’s really difficult to do. So the facilitator would be somebody who wouldn’t have a stake in the outcome of that meeting, but can kind of guide the conversation so all voices are heard.


I think that is a super powerful thing for people just immediately identifying that you do need two people and managing the online version of the meeting as well as the in person portion, because it can become incredibly disconnected and disengaging and not done well. Right, the hard role as the like the primary facilitator, that’s, I think that should be a mandatory requirement for anything that you’re bringing people together in both environments.


Yeah, it’s gonna be interesting to watch.


yeah, it is. That’s, that’s so interesting. Karen, I want to make sure that our listeners know what the best way to connect or follow you online is.


That’s fantastic. Thank you so much for the opportunity to share that with your listeners and your viewers. So the best way to find me and my team is on our website, which is And we have a lot of really great resources on there. Our blog is full of original content, addressing virtual communication, virtual video communication, on camera communication, in person communication, anything that that might pose a problem for you in that regard. And you’ll hear some of the tips that I mentioned today and see them in text form there. You can also follow us on LinkedIn, you can follow us on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram. And I would just encourage you, if you are a solo practitioner, or professional, and you would like to be able to hone your skills, you can go online and take our course, which is a virtual video engagement Digital Learning Path, which allows you to kind of do five to 10 minutes a day, over a six week period of time. And it helps you to build those skills. So you can come out on the other end and it can be a real differentiator differentiator for you.


I highly encourage that anyone who has found that this is not their venue to practice those skills and get good at it because it’s going to be around for a while here and thank you so much for your time today and tips on how to be a better camera communicator. Thank you very much. I When will your book be published or is it the official date when it is in retail is March 9 but yes, so it should be?



Well depending on when this airs Alli, hopefully just in time, perfect.


So look forward on our local shelves. Thank you so much.


Thank you so much Alli. Have a great day.


Transcribed by

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

Join our list for exclusive tips, content and a welcome gift – our ebook on how to engage your team and boost profits.