How do you respond when a colleague temporarily drops off a virtual call, before returning in a different position on your screen?

The range of possible responses includes:

  • I don’t notice
  • I might notice their departure or return, but not both.
  • I notice both their departure and return, and stay focused on whoever is speaking at the time.
  • I notice both, and also notice my colleagues shifting positions on my screen.
  • I notice both, and think about the impact of on-screen positional changes on how I am interacting with each of my colleagues.

Your response offers an indication of how attentive you are in the event.

Your attention spectrum
Not noticing is a response more typical of attending a webinar which is not living up to your expectations.

At the other extreme, reflecting on the impact of positional change and adapting your behaviour accordingly, is more typical of an eagerness to impress in an interview panel.

Greater awareness of your attention spectrum can help you to stay engaged at the most appropriate level.

This is important as however crucial the meeting, our minds will naturally wander.

So simply deciding how attentive you want to be at different stages of  a meeting is helpful.

Sweeping the screen
There are other ways to be more attentive and engaged.

For example, on a 3×3 colleague screen layout, I have learned that I give more attention to colleagues positioned on the top row and in the centre.

I have to make a conscious effort to look at my colleagues in the two bottom corners.

Yet these may be the two people giving me the most valuable non-verbal messages:

  • nodding their heads in agreement with what is being said, or
  • looking as reassuringly baffled as I feel, or
  • smiling as finally ‘the penny drops’ for them.

Attending every meeting at your highest attention level and constantly sweeping your screen for colleagues’ body language will exhaust you.  This cognitive overload had been identified by Stanford researchers as a major element of zoom fatigue.

Instead, I suggest:

  • being more aware of deploying appropriate levels of your attention spectrum; and
  • consciously sweeping your screen for valuable learning about what is happening.


If you would like to discuss experiencing more of what is happening in virtual and hybrid meetings, please contact me: steve@coachingtogether.co.uk