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How to Feel Heard During Video Meetings

Remote
Meetings
Internal Communication

5 November, 2021

Sydney Russakov
Sydney Russakov

Senior Product Manager at LinkedIn

Sydney Russakov, Senior Product Manager at LinkedIn, shares how she made sure to make her ideas get the attention they deserved during Zoom meetings.

Problem

Last year during remote work, I was dealing with imposter syndrome and had difficulty speaking up during Zoom meetings. I talked to many people within the organization about this, and it has been pretty standard among many others. I found it rather challenging to find my voice during remote meetings, which is unsuitable for PMs. I was starting to see this become more common among women than men in the company, and speaking up in large rooms can be intimidating.

Actions taken

A part of the whole process was to be blamed on remote work. You can get many signals from people in person, as a lot of our communication goes by our body language. When you sit at a desk or in a Zoom meeting, most parts of your body are cut off, making it hard to read the reactions. So, when we first started, I figured out that many people didn’t have the proper Zoom etiquette.

Usually, in a meeting room, there are many more interactions that make it feel more conversational. Among the bunch of faces on the screen, I found myself being one. Of course, it felt rude to mute or cut someone off when they were talking. When in-person, we can raise our hand or make a gesture to show that we want to be heard. Being more comfortable in jumping into conversations evolved me into second-guessing myself.

I started feeling that I did not get the opportunity to speak up as I wasn’t jumping much into those conversations merely because it felt awkward. No one was passing the baton, which is something that came into my notice. So, now that I conduct meetings and when I have the floor to myself, I pass the baton to ask others about how they are feeling. It could be their first time speaking up in a video meeting, but they at least need the chance to do so.

Someone I closely worked with dominated the meetings, and after a certain point, I talked with the person. It was an uncomfortable conversation, and I was slightly nervous about doing so, but others gave me a couple of pieces of advice to talk it out. I had a 1:1 with the person, and I did tell them that I was having a hard time finding my voice during the meetings and how I should be contributing. I also suggested whether they would be comfortable in giving me the autonomy to conduct meetings.

When I had the opportunity to talk in meetings, I would pass it on to someone else who would not, or did not, feel as represented in the discussions. I advocated for myself as well as for others who were on the same page as I was.

I found it a little difficult for me to find a mentor initially, but once I started talking to people, it became apparent. I started talking to women who got promoted from IC to a manager and people who had been in my position. Joining a “women in product” cohort made it easier for me to understand the dynamics.

Lessons learned

  • Talking about your problems helps a lot. It would be monumental for your personal development if you can find a mentor to talk to about these things. It normalizes the way you might be feeling while getting some actionable advice.
  • There are plenty of online and offline resources, and all it takes is a simple Google search. Don’t leave any stone unturned when it comes to redefining your goals.
  • Stop questioning yourself. You are in your role because people believed in you.
  • Don’t be afraid of advocating for yourself, whether you are from your management chain or your peers.
  • Zoom calls can be pretty awkward. If you feel the need to jump into conversations, just do so.

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