How to ace any zoom call with improv

So. I’ve been reflecting all the virtual communication that I’ve been involved with, Zoom calls, webinars and more. Here are the key things I’ve learnt so far…

  1. Don’t forget to be human! 

It’s a bit weird doing a zoom call or webinar, especially if you share your screen. You are probably sitting in your kitchen, wearing your University leavers’ hoodie, talking to yourself. In this context, it’s easy to become robotic. ‘Just get through your content,’ you think. Big mistake. Gags, stories…and PAUSES…make you warmer, more compelling and ultimately more persuasive. 

This takes effort though. It means we need to spend longer thinking about and designing our comms. It’s worth it. Remember, you are competing for attention with people’s fridge and that guy who keeps doing hilarious videos commentating on his dogs.

  • Over emote! 

There is a dilution effect on video conference. If you want to sound passionate, think how passionate you would be face-to-face and then double it. A lot of this is to do with the tech: you are a stamp. We lose most of your body and therefore a lot of your emotional meaning. Instead, it’s got to show up in your voice and face.

  • Build in ways to listen to your audience. 

This needs some thought, though, as people will turn off their cameras, gaffer tape their mouths and sit on their hands if you let them. Whether that be using Slido to gather questions, doing polls, or even just getting them to wave at the start. 

This works both ways, however. If you are on the receiving end of a webinar or Zoom call…Remember: you are not watching Netflix! The other person is real and live and insecure and can probably see your face. A little bit of interaction, some nodding…it’s appreciated. If you’re there….contribute. 

  • Foreplay counts.

Oooh, bit cheeky! Seriously though gang, imagine you’re hosting a party. FOREPLAY AT A PARTY? You might be thinking. WHAT ARE WE? FRENCH? Chill out, I’m just mixing up my metaphors. If you are host of a party, it’s up to you to get a bit of banter going. To break the ice. Online this is a little bit more awkward, admittedly, but it is an important part of the process. 

This chat foreplay doesn’t just make the conversational sex easier and more fun, it’s an important mode shift for people. When they contribute, the mindset goes from ‘Oh, another webinar’ to ‘Right, I am in this. I am actually showing up.’ When they do this they are more receptive and more likely to contribute. 


Communication is more important now than ever. I’ve written a book full of simple, practical tips for you to become world class at it. It’s been described as, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People for the 21st Century.’ You can pre-order your copy here:

Max Dickins is co-director of improvisation training company Hoopla! Hoopla run improv classesshows and corporate training.

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