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Chances are you have been on either end of an online Zoom call. And if you haven’t, you’ve likely, at least once, talked to someone who has and they’ve mentioned the dreaded Zoom anxiety. The fact remains, video conferencing is not going away anytime soon. Now that it is so common, most calls are conducted remotely. And yet, everyone dreads having to video conference with someone they don’t know well. When faced with the prospect of a Zoom session, we all start to feel some common symptoms of anxiety: sweaty palms, racing heartbeat, and a slimy feeling in the back of our throats. There’s no better time to learn about Zoom anxiety and how to combat it. 

What Is Zoom?

Zoom is the tech tool du jour for meetings. It is a great video conferencing platform for companies that need to collaborate with clients, partners and remote teams. It’s easy to use and can be set up in minutes. The use of video conferencing services has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic, and with good reason. There is no longer a need to travel to meet with collaborators or colleagues. The ability to feel as though you’re in the same room without actually being there has made it easier for people with various work schedules and locations to find common ground. However, one of the more common challenges that those who partake in video conferencing face regularly is zoom anxiety.

What Is Zoom Anxiety?

Video conferencing can be intimidating, especially for new users. If you’ve ever used a video conferencing service — like say Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts — you probably have had a similar feeling. It’s a strange, sudden onset of something that feels like stage fright. It can make you feel out of place, or just plain uncomfortable at the thought of meeting with someone through video chat. 

Zoom anxiety is the feeling of unease or fear you may have about accepting someone’s video chat invitation. It can stem from an existing dislike of the person, a fear of their request, or even just not knowing them well enough. It can also come from a fear of being exposed during the call in some way either through knowledge that this person would be able to see your PC screen and thus know what you are doing at that time or some other exposure-related anxiety cause. 

Symptoms Of Zoom Anxiety

Many people who suffer from zoom anxiety have physical symptoms like nervous hands shaking, muscle tension, hot flushes, increased heart rate, sweating, dry mouth, nausea, and a nearly overwhelming sense of dread etc. The person who has zoom anxiety struggles to think of reasons why they must decline this meeting. Even if they do accept the meeting the anxiety remains as they have a hard time talking and just want the video call to be over. 

Triggers Of Zoom Anxiety

Certain triggers will take you from feeling excited about meeting online to full-on anxiety.

Some of the biggest triggers of Zoom anxiety are listed below:

  1. Not having a defined agenda/plan: Even if it’s just a simple outline, having an agenda for your meeting is key. It makes both the attendee and host feel more prepared and lets them know what they should do at each step of the meeting – whether it’s reviewing a document or setting up for video. Having an agenda also eliminates some of the small talks before the meeting which is one of the most common triggers for anxiety.
  2. Arriving late: This is a big one. Running late is a huge no-no, especially when using Zoom for business (as opposed to personal use). Arriving early shows that you’re ready for your meeting and are not wasting time. It also gives the host time to review your material and prepare beforehand so there are no surprises later on during the meeting.
  3. Not knowing what to expect: Making sure everyone is informed about what to expect before the start of the meeting will make them feel prepared. The host/hostess should also make sure to include the participant’s name at the top of any document that will be discussed, along with who they are when they are making introductions. This helps keep everyone on the same page and prevents confusion or awkwardness.
  4. Not knowing if you have a support person: Knowing that there is someone else in the meeting who knows you can be comforting and gives you a sense of security, especially if you’re meeting for the very first time or if this is a business meeting.

How To Deal With Zoom Anxiety

There are a couple of things that can make you nervous about meeting someone for the first time, and if you’ve experienced Zoom anxiety, you know that it can be painful and distracting. Whether it’s a presentation to a group of people or a one-on-one meeting, here are some ways you can prepare for and alleviate some of that first-time Zoom anxiety:

  1. Practise your presentation: You can improve your delivery by practising, and one of the best ways to do that is using a mirror. Zoom anxiety can be unsettling if you’re used to not being able to control your audience feedback and attention. This will help you practise giving presentations — even before your first one.
  2. Plan on what you want for your presentation: You don’t need to have every last detail planned out in advance, but you must know what the end goal is for your presentation so that when people are asking questions and giving feedback, they’re directed towards achieving it. If the idea of asking questions doesn’t worry you as much, maybe try presenting without a PowerPoint instead.
  3. Be prepared for technological challenges: Many questions may come up during your presentation, so make sure you are prepared to reply on your terms. This may mean being able to give your answers in written format, and on the fly, but ultimately you’ll need to be tech-prepared for this aspect of a presentation. Before you begin the call, make sure your microphone, your audio, and your screen sharing are all working, and check your wifi connection. It’s best to know if they work properly ahead of time so that you won’t have to worry about it while presenting.
  4. Do not allow yourself to become flustered: Everyone has anxiety about talking in public, but if you don’t regulate it by looking at a mirror or an audience member that is already dressed for it, your anxiety will increase over time as you go on.
  5. Warm-up: It’s the best thing you can do before any performance. Just like an athlete or a musician, warming up helps you get into the groove and to calm down your anxiety. 
  6. Take a deep breath: It may sound silly, but it can really help. Of course, once you start talking, you should breathe naturally.
  7. Smile: This will help you relax and appear more confident no matter what you’re doing.
  8. Turn off notifications on your phone: This will prevent distractions from someone sending you a message at the most inopportune time.

Final thoughts

Zoom meetings are being used around the world by students and professionals alike, and they are unlikely to disappear any time soon. In the event that you have difficulty managing your anxiety related to this new remote mode of communication, you may want to consider seeking professional support.

Amaka Odozi

Author Amaka Odozi

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