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Sometimes you feel like Zooming. Sometimes you don’t.

It can be just too much, what with team meetings and client conversations and networking get-togethers. And then there are social gatherings on top of it all. (I’m crushed that I have to miss my National Speakers Association Chapter’s virtual ugly holiday sweater party this week.)

What do you do about an invitation to a virtual meeting when you’re not in the mood to make yourself presentable one more time?

Some tips from Fast Company first. Then an observation from me.

Offer an alternative.

The experts say it’s legit to propose another way to communicate when you’re not feeling it for Zoom or Teams or Google Meet.

An HR expert, Deb LeMere, says your meeting-mates might appreciate your candor. They’re as likely as not to feel Zoom-aversive too.

LeMere suggests asking them if they’d be open to a phone call instead of video and couching it as a benefit. Explain you’ve been on several video calls today; you’d like to focus on them and what they have to say.

For one-on-one meetings especially, a psychologist says a phone call is almost always fine. When she suggested that, the other person was relieved. They were tired of being on camera too.

Is it time to cut back?

Some managers are scheduling more meetings than necessary out of fear that people will be disengaged while they’re working from home. They want to stay in touch, thinking it’ll reduce stress.

That can boomerang when we worry about how we look on the screen, the strength of our wi-fi, or whether the dog will bark in the background.

Leadership consultant Janeen Gelbart suggests a frank talk with the powers that be about how many meetings are too many, and whether you’ve reached the point of diminishing returns.

You might even say out loud what a lot of people feel: all this Zooming wears you out and makes you less productive, less creative, and slower to finish your projects.

How about this instead …

You’ve likely left a meeting, virtual or otherwise, thinking, “An email could have covered that.” It’s worth suggesting sometimes that we deal with this issue by email instead of spending the time and energy sitting through a meeting on Teams.

Remember the old days when we’d talk over coffee, or maybe meet for a walk to hash out a creative idea? Either one is more stimulating than sitting in the office talking to your laptop.

An author and publisher looking to get the creative juices flowing set up a walking phone call. They each set out in their own neighborhood with earbuds in place and talked as they walked.

Beats sitting in front of a screen, don’t you think?

One thing jumps out at me.

This whole to-Zoom-or-not-to-Zoom question is a particular issue for women. And that goes double for how to switch away from virtual meetings without hurting someone’s feelings.

I posed three questions on LinkedIn:

  • Have you ever said, “No” to a Zoom meeting?
  • What kind of reaction did you get when you said, “Let’s not”?
  • How would you respond if someone else turned down your virtual meeting request?

By mid-day, twelve people had posted answers to my questions. Eleven of those people were women.

And Marti Konstant summed it up for many of us. “I like zoom for a percentage of the time,” she wrote. “And other times a phone call is perfect because I don’t have to look perfect!”

That’s really the crux of it, don’t you think? Yes, we get tired of sitting in one spot most of the day. And too much screen-time can definitely strain the eyes.

I think the big reason we resist virtual meetings is the pressure, as the Fast Company article put it, to be presentable enough to be on camera.

My guess? It’s just not as big a deal for men. They’ll throw on a Zoom-shirt (or not) and sit there in front of their camera as comfortable as can be.

It’s different for women. We know we’re judged by our appearance, always. So naturally, we get concerned. “Is my hair okay?” “Do I have enough lipstick on?” “Does hi-def make me look old?”

I’m not the only one, am I?

I’m not sure what the answer is. Switching to a phone call is one possibility. And we could cut each other some slack about the need to look just-so on the screen.

Or maybe we could get so confident about what we say and how we say it that we can set aside the cosmetic concern about how we look on the screen while we’re saying it.

I think I’ll vote for that. And you can tell me where you stand on switching off the cameras once in a while and finding other ways to connect below!