I am working with a fantastic team of communicators at the University of Washington, COVID-19 Consultancy through the Communication Leadership Program. We are offering pro-bono communication consulting to nonprofits and small businesses in need. We are here to help you survive and thrive during this pandemic. Interested in finding out more? Sign up for our free half-hour consultation and let us help you during this critical time.
Fri, May 8, 2020
5:30 PM – 7:00 PM PDT
As our first speaker in the COVID-19 Communication Series, Melissa Schwartz will be discussing mindfulness and emotional well being during crisis. Melissa speaks with a raw expertise that allows her to illuminate strategies for mediating crises, especially during times of chaos.
Melissa Schwartz has more than two decades of strategic and crisis communications experience in government, the private sector, and nonprofit organizations. She has substantial expertise in media training, message development, and media relations. Melissa has been teaching communications for the past seven years, four of which have been in the Communication Leadership Masters program at UW where she teaches Crisis Communication, splitting her time between the two Washingtons.
Melissa has managed a number of high profile crises. Tapped by the Obama administration, Melissa managed communications for the federal agency responsible for the regulation and oversight of offshore drilling in U.S. federal waters following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. She has recently represented FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and served on the communications and media team supporting the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as part of the confirmation hearings for now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. She has published chapters in PR News Guidebooks focused on PR Measurement, Crisis Management, Media Training, and Corporate Social Responsibility.
For more upcoming events in this series - visit COVID-19 Consulting!
A third of the global population, approximately 2.6 billion people, are currently experiencing some kind of restrictions to their lives, their work, and their day to day existence. Many of us are sheltering in place with our devices. These screens keep us connected to our jobs, our schools, and our friends and family. It is likely we are spending more time in front of a screen than at any other point in our lives.
Why am I so exhausted?
Part of what most of us are experiencing now is that our homes have become our workplaces, and our screens are the only connection to people outside of our own household. Video services like zoom dominate our day - whether we are conferencing with clients, chatting with co-workers, having a happy hour with friends, or a netflix watch party with family.
The quality of our attention is different when we are online. Video chats require us to work harder to process non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, body language, and the tone and pitch of voices. We become hyper focused on the few available cues we can see, rather than the full range of body language available to us normally.
It is this dissonance, of being together in mind, but separate in body that causes us to feel conflicted. Our bodies long for that energetic exchange, that limbic resonance, that happens with real life interactions. The direct eye contact we normally have during a conversation that makes us feel heard and understood isn’t present. There isn’t a way to relax naturally into the conversation, and this creates conflicting feelings of connection and disconnection to the people we most want to see and hear.
We are also very aware of being watched. There is a performative pressure when you have a dozen heads staring back at you. One of those heads may very well be your own if you choose not to hide yourself on screen. We end up spending a lot of time looking at ourselves, how we appear, and how we are behaving. If you think you look awkward on camera, then you’ll be looking to confirm this bias as you watch yourself perform on screen. This social strain is nerve-wracking and can create unnecessary stress in an already fraught time. Introverts and extroverts alike can feel worn down by all of this high-intensity virtual connecting.
Silence on screen adds another challenge. In normal circumstances, silence is a natural rhythm in conversation. In a video call, it is difficult to tell if the silence is real, or if your internet is lagging or unstable. Silence can make people uncomfortable, and this can lead to anxiety about your technology, and that you aren’t as focused during meetings.
Video chatting doesn’t just drain our brain and our energy, it is also having a serious effect on our bodies. All day we are sitting in furniture that was not designed for long-term sitting. We get aching backs, headaches, and eye strain that can leave us feeling cranky and overwhelmed.
After work and family commitments we are also failing to plan essential downtime, which may be another factor in our tiredness. Some of us are over-performing at our jobs, and putting higher expectations on ourselves due to worries over the economy, furloughs and job losses.
So what do we do? How do we cope with this new reality?
If nothing else, let’s be grateful for this technology that allows us to connect and work. When else will we be able to wear our pajamas to important meetings, or lovingly cuddle our pets while listening to budget predictions from our colleagues? Remember that some of us are in this for the long haul, and it is important to find ways to incorporate this technology into the full spectrum of interpersonal experiences that our new lives include. Pace yourself, be gentle, and practice as much kindness as you can.
Images ©Susan MacLaren - Thanks to Pip for her emotive modeling.
As every small business owner knows, it is important to stay connected to your customers. With Covid-19, that has become a challenge, especially if you were not prepared for this sudden transition to social distancing.
As a small business consultant, I’ve been getting questions about what tools I suggest for easing into an online existence. I decided to put together a few free resources to get you over the technology hurdle of engaging with your clients, staying connected to your income, and most of all, keeping your sanity intact.
Free Meeting Scheduler
I cannot stress how valuable it is to have your clients set their own meeting times without having to interact with you directly. It is a huge time saver. It means less back and forth emails, and availability for more clients. It means setting up your schedule to include sanity breaks for lunch, walking your dog, or simply sitting and staring into space.
The easiest way to set up free online scheduling on your website is with Setmore. I like it because it integrates with all of the platforms I use the most: Facebook, Instagram, Slack, Google Calendar, Office 365, Weebly, and Square.
Setmore has a clean, easy design. It provides auto-notifications and reminders, which means I never miss a meeting. Clients and customers are able to reschedule if necessary, so they never miss a meeting. It also allows you to collect payments upfront, which can bring important revenue to your business.
If you use a Facebook Business Page as your website, you can use the free appointment scheduler they offer. Check here for the handy guide on getting it set up on your Facebook Business Page today.
For online meetings, it is important to use a service that won’t leave you frozen on the screen. Zoom is by far the best video conferencing service I’ve used. It’s free and unlimited for one on one meetings, or free for forty minutes with up to 100 participants.
Participants can choose to call in or use the video chat function instantly, or at a scheduled meetup time. It allows each participant to share their desktop, application, or screen. It also has a texting function if you need to mention things without interrupting the speaker.
Zoom also allows you to schedule a meeting directly from Google Calendar or Office 365. Once you sign up for Zoom, download the extension you need and you’ll be ready to face to face, or face to ear, right from your calendar.
Track Your Time
As a consultant, one of the easiest ways to lose revenue is by forgetting to pay attention to your time when talking with clients. Now that people are relegated to working from home, it’s helpful to have a consistent account of how you spend your workday; for yourself, for your clients, or for your boss.
A great free service for tracking time is Toggl. Toggl has a clean, easy to use interface that is multi-functional. You can set billable rates and track in real-time, manually, or with calendar integrations. You can start the timer on your phone while on a walk, and then turn it off on your desktop when you get home. Toggl allows you to create instant reports for your time - perfect for attaching to those client invoices or to make your boss happy.
In this time of global pandemic weirdness, it turns out technology may be a bit of a savior. Working remotely shouldn’t be a scary endeavor for you, for your business, or for your client base. These free services are just a few of the many available, but they are little life-lines for me, and for my mental health.
Musings, a bit of sarcasm, and things I find interesting.