COMMUNICATION: face-to-face vs. Zoom

Whenever I said something which my grandmother felt was blindingly obvious she would say:

Paul, everybody knows thaaaaat!‘  (yes, that last syllable would be drawn out to have maximum impact).

It was her none-too-subtle way of saying ‘tell me something I don’t know’.

So here’s something which would irritate my grandmother:

The Covid-19 epidemic has led to an unprecedented use of online meetings. Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc. give us the opportunity to communicate (privately and professionally) in ways we could only have dreamed of 20 years ago.

Everybody knows thaaaaat‘.

Well here’s something less self-evident:

For all their undoubted advantages, many remote meetings are frustratingly ineffective and impersonal … people talking over the top of each other, confusion, a lack of focus, poor outcomes.
This short video (by Tripp and Tyler) wonderfully sums it up for me:

Initially I felt this was a problem which people will simply ‘figure out’. I’ve now changed my mind: people are not going to figure it out anytime soon without support and training.

Humans have been communicating face-to-face for 50,000 years and it’s still a work in progress; it’s easy to forget that Zoom was founded only 9 years ago!

No, we cannot simply copy / paste the best practices from face-to-face meetings and think they’ll work for remote meetings; remote meetings are different, they require different techniques, different protocols … a new way of doing things.


  • Paul Stevens

    CEO, Mayflower College, Plymouth, UK

    Paul has been involved in English language training and testing for the past 30 years, specializing in Aviation English, Maritime English, Academic English and Business English. His latest project is, looking at the communication process 'from the other side', at how native-English speakers can filter and simplify their English and have a better understanding of the challenges ESL speakers face.