March 14, 2021
Video meetings don’t have to be boring. Communications Expert and Professional Actor/Director Michael Allosso shares tips on how to transform your daily video calls from a drab to fab production, avoid Zoom fatigue and make the most out of each virtual interaction in the latest episode of The 19: Entrepreneur Edition. From introductions to mic-drop closures and the micro-messages in between, learn how to transform the obstacles that come with video conferencing into opportunity in Part One of our podcast.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:00:05] This is The 19. In 19 minutes or less game-changing insights from Orange Label, the leading response marketing agency for established brands that are driven by a fearless entrepreneurial mindset.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:00:22] Hello and welcome to The 19 Entrepreneur Edition. I’m Rochelle Reiter, president of Orange Label. In the past few episodes, we talked with experts who had to transform their business models in 2020 and today is no different. Michael Allosso, master communications expert, self-awareness, specialist, professional theater and film director and actor is going to be chatting with me today. He has led award winning You On Your Best Day® workshops for leaders and sales teams all over the world and is a much sought-after personal coach. His current You On Your Best Zoom Day trainings provide communications and awareness skills to maximize virtual presence and impact. He’s a dynamic presenter and entertainer who brings results and life to any in-person or virtual event. Michael, welcome back to The 19.
Michael Allosso: [00:01:12] It’s great to be with you to do the podcast scene! Today is my lucky day with Orange Label The 19! Whoa-ho Rochelle. I hope your listeners can inspire us! How we can get through this darn coronavirus. mm-hm.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:01:38] Oh, wow, I have never had that sort of a welcome. That’s fantastic. Thank you, Michael. So it’s been about two years since you were the guest on The 19 edition of the podcast. And we’ve seen our world completely change in how we communicate. What do you see as the biggest shift in the way we effectively communicate in business?
Michael Allosso: [00:02:02] Today is Steve Job’s 66th birthday. Can you imagine he would have been 66?
Rochelle Reiter : [00:02:07] Wow
Michael Allosso: [00:02:07] He said this cool thing where he says innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. And what I’ve noticed is people who stay the same, who are trying to crank out the same, they always did. Most of them have failed. And anyone who’s thought about being creative and using that overused word, pivot, have been successful. Obstacles are put in our way so that we create opportunities from them. So to me, the single biggest magic is learning how to turn obstacles into opportunities. And I think that’s what we’re going to be discussing for 19 minutes.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:02:46] Absolutely. Absolutely. And with the shift from in-person to virtual, how has that changed the environment?
Michael Allosso: [00:02:55] Any deficiencies we have in-person, Rochelle, only get magnified when we translate that to the screen. So we’re going from being theater actors to TV actors. And think about Rochelle when you go to the theater, the first act, what, an hour-fifteen minutes, hour-ten minutes, hour-twenty minutes. You have time to grow into things. TV Oh man, I’m going to the bathroom after six or seven minutes. I’m grabbing for popcorn after eight. So the immediacy of the screen is a major change. Now, if you’re sloppy coming out of the gate, you don’t get away with it. If your ending isn’t a mic drop ending, you don’t get away with it. If you’re vocally homogenize, you lose your audience in seconds. If you’re static physically and don’t envelop the camera, know how to use the camera, know how to use the frame, people tune out. So it’s that major transference from being a theater star to a TV star.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:03:53] Sure. Well, let’s talk about some of the basics. How do you set the stage physically to be on a Zoom or a virtual meeting?
Michael Allosso : [00:04:02] You have to start by being a designer, so you have to start with the externals, Rochelle. So before I never thought about set design, lighting design, sound design, maybe costume design. I did think about the other three design elements somebody took care of for me, virtually. No, I’ve got to be all those people. All right. So I’ll still stay in my zone with costume design and many people are struggling with that right now because they’re seduced by the emails that say, oh, wear your pajamas to a meeting. Loungewear is a new normal. No, it isn’t. That’s not appropriate business attire. So, all right. Maybe I don’t dress exactly the same way I did in-person, but I still got to bring it. I still got to look good in the frame. Lighting design, wow. I mean, I don’t know how many Zooms I’ve done so far this year, and I’m somewhere around two hundred and sixty five since the lockdown, virtual workshops and keynotes. And very frequently someone’s in the dark, they’ve turned on their camera and they’re in the dark. So what we learn is that the light source has to be in front of us or on top of us. And as soon as we put a window behind us, we go away, set design. What are you putting behind you? You have to really think about what does that look like? What do you want to put behind you in the screen? And you have to make intentional choices about that. And then sound design. I’m wearing a headset right now. Well, I have a dog who barks. There’s construction two houses down. I want to make sure the sound is of good quality. Didn’t have to think of those things before. So those pragmatics, you have to start. That’s all in the prep. That’s even before you have said a word or begun the meeting. You have to put thought into that.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:05:42] Yeah, that’s good advice. How do you maintain the energy in a virtual meeting? That’s a lot easier for me in-person, but how do you keep it up during the meeting?
Michael Allosso: [00:05:52] It is super, super hard. I am more exhausted at the end of these days, Rochelle, than if I flew to New York and did a morning presentation and then ran to LaGuardia or Kennedy and flew to LAX, met a client for dinner, went out to the theater, I’d still have energy to go back to my room and write. Now it is exhausting by suppertime. Rochelle, all I want to do is sit down, have dinner and watch Jeopardy. It’s just I have nothing left that energy that it takes to look at the screen. So things that have been working for me is ritual, is making sure that I have a morning ritual. The temptation, again, because the screen is in our home is to roll from one room to the next and I’m going to roll onto the screen. No, what’s a morning ritual? I have a five point morning ritual that includes getting out the second the alarm goes off, doing physical exercise, praying. I’m doing a vocal warm up and connecting with Peggy, my wife, on some level. That’s my five pronged warm up, if you will. And I do that every morning and that helps to get in the zone. Secondly, my energy level has been crazy high my whole life, as I said, Rochelle, this has been the most challenging. So what I’ve had Sarah my assistant do is actually build in half hour breaks between any two meetings. I’ve never done that in my life. you know if I go into a company, do one-on-ones, I don’t need any breaks. Just bring them in one right after the other. So I say to Sara, a minimum of 30 minutes. So I had a minimum of 30 minutes before this podcast, and I’ll have a minimum of 30 minutes after it. Now, you know how that goes, Rochelle. Often that isn’t really thirty minutes, right? If someone has a crisis, you’re not going to say, well, I’m on my break now. You stay later and you always have to be early, virtually, because always things go wrong.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:07:43] Things go wrong, yes.
Michael Allosso: [00:07:44] You must be there. And then you do get an emergency text. You do. You’re human. You have to eat, use the restroom. So I’m finding that those 30 minute breaks are hugely helpful to me. And what I will also say is you have to be very sensitive about length of meetings.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:08:17] What is acceptable time frame?
Michael Allosso: [00:08:20] Rochelle, do you know the numbers is fifty-five, eighty? And don’t say that’s the speed limit in Massachusetts or what Michael drives because that is that is correct. Rochelle. Actors Equity Association, the union which governs stage actors. When I’m directing a union play at fifty five minutes the stagehands will say, Michael, you got to take a five. Now, if we are all into it. We’re deeply immersed and no one has to use the bathroom. She lets me go, but then at 80 minutes I have to give it ten or I have to pay everybody overtime. Rochelle, every keynote speech I do is between fifty-five and eighty minutes. If a client wants me to go longer, I say with pleasure. But we need to give a break. We need to let people leave the room, come back, whatever it is that we do. Some psychologist somewhere, Rochelle, figured out that the human spirit can only endure 55 to 80 minutes before we need a break and we sometimes get and feel that our material is so special that we go longer than that. And you watch it, Rochelle, at eighty-one minutes, you’ll see people start to go away.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:09:18] Right. What about taking notes, would you say? Oh, at the start of a meeting, I’m going to be taking notes. If you see me looking down, that’s what I’m doing or?
Michael Allosso: [00:09:25] That’s a frequently asked question. Rochelle. Absolutely. You must take notes in this virtual world it’s necessary, and I very much can tell the difference between someone who’s taking notes and someone who’s writing, because when you watch and you you refer to them by name and they do something like this, they’re not taking notes.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:09:49] Yeah.
Michael Allosso: [00:09:49] And certainly you can do your method. I’ll be taking notes. I’m going to assume that everybody’s taking notes. I give everybody the benefit of the doubt.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:09:56] Okay.
Michael Allosso: [00:09:56] If they’re taking notes while I’m telling a story and there hasn’t been a data point recently, I start to get a little suspicious. Are they really writing down my story? Are they having a stream of consciousness? And then if they do something like this, they’re writing and then they look over here and then they write and then they do this and then wait a minute, you’re not taking notes of what I’m saying.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:10:19] Right.
Michael Allosso: [00:10:19] So what I tell folks to do is if if you think there’s going to be any doubt that the speaker is someone vulnerable who needs that affirmation, make sure you write the notes and look back into the camera lens, do a nod, do an affirmation and write. And I’ll tell you one thing that I do with notes. I have three pens. You got to turn obstacles into opportunities. So for me that I’m on camera, well, that means below my chest level you can’t see. Wow. So right now, Rochelle, on this desk, I have twelve pages of notes. I have Martin Luther King Jr. inspiring quotes. I have things that you’ve said that I wanted to remember that you said and I have a black pen, a blue pen and a red pen. And what I do is when anything narrative I write in the black pen, when you do something that I love and I want to remember to tell you about it, I write it in blue. And if you tell me the name of somebody that’s working with you, that’s in your family, you refer to I write it in red. So now having this vat of notes in front of me makes me much more present in the meeting. It also helps my focus.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:11:29] Sure.
Michael Allosso: [00:11:30] Even non-virtually I find one-on-ones are the most exhausting, Rochelle, because you’re right there with somebody of no escape. And I find the act of taking notes actually keeps me more alive. Taking notes actually keeps me even more alive in the moment to take the notes. If you feel like you’re making someone insecure, lift your head, smile, nod. Remember, we call those micro messages. Right now virtually you must be very, very intentional with your micro messages.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:12:00] What are some of those that you haven’t mentioned?
Michael Allosso: [00:12:02] Yeah, so for new listeners, micro messages is everything other than content. So Dr. Albert Mehrabian, maybe 60 years ago came up with this theory. Psychologists had said only seven percent of communication is content. The other ninety three percent is everything else. And so back in the old normal, that would include the car you drove, what you wear. Well, guess what? What you wear is still a micro message. Taking notes is a micro message. Calling someone by name is a micro message. Rochelle, the biggest complaint I’ve heard are from sales teams who claim now I can’t make that great relationship with somebody that I formerly did. Really? Well, let’s turn that obstacle into an opportunity. Are you calling the person by name? Micro messaging. Do I look at what’s on your background and ask you about it? Micro message. What do I put in the background? Micro message. Am I snarky and sarcastic? Micro message. Do I cross my arms, frown and glare at the camera? Micro message. Do I put it on mute? This is a real one Rochelle. This summer I was doing a meeting and one guy was in Southern California meeting. He was in his backyard in his gym shorts and tank top on mute, but the whole time waving his arm and yelling at the kids in the pool while I’m speaking. That might be a macro message.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:13:28] Right, right
Michael Allosso: [00:13:29] Yeah, that might be smiling is a big one and nodding and remembering things. People say sarcasm is a big micro message. Asking questions even is a micro message. Laughing. You know, I started with a song today. I often start with the song. Micro message, like four people will applaud after the song. Four people will look like what? That was the stupidest thing I ever heard.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:13:55] Uh huh.
Michael Allosso: [00:13:55] Frowning, furrowing their brow. Now, remember, Rochelle, that micro messages can lie. The people applauding might be sarcastic. And that was the stupidest thing I ever heard. And the people frowning might be thinking, oh, my lord, what a creative, innovative human being. So remember what we have to be careful of virtually because the micro messages are right in our face, is that the two paradoxes? One is that a micro message can lie. A person smiling might be having some serious Gaspé, but we call those universal truths. And so the other paradox is, do I take just one micro message from you, one micro message from Kelsey? No, I take an amalgam, so I have to take many micro messages. For example, leaning in close is a great micro message virtually because it says, wow, man, I’m into you. But that person may have a bumpy thing on their chair where they can’t put their buttocks properly on the chair. And that might be why they lean forward. Yeah, they do lie. There are universal truths, however, where we make some assumptions and again, by taking the whole big collection, we can evaluate somebody on how they’re responding to us. Did I understand your question properly, Rochelle?
Rochelle Reiter : [00:15:14] That’s perfect. That’s perfect. So to sum it all up, what are the top three tips you would give our listeners about effective virtual meetings?
Michael Allosso: [00:15:25] Hot opening! What is that very first thing you do coming out of the gate? That would be number one. Number two, how can you maintain an energy level that is so present and so committed every single moment? And item three, what can you do to honor people on the screen? What can you do to make sure whether it’s two other people on the other side of the screen or two hundred other people to make them know they’re seen and they’re heard.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:15:56] Awesome. Thank you so much, Michael. I’m very much looking forward to having you back on part two of our series. And so for now, I’ll say bye, but we’ll be seeing you real soon.
Michael Allosso : [00:16:07] You got it boss.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:16:13] Thank you for listening to The 19 Entrepreneur Edition with Michael Allosso. To learn more about Michael, check out our show notes or visit michaelallosso.com. If you have any additional thoughts on this topic, send us an email. You can send questions, comments and more to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rochelle Reiter : [00:16:42] A special thank you goes out to our contributors Studio Manager Kelsey Phillips, Micah Panzich, who edits our show, and Ashley Ruiz, Content Writer. Be sure to subscribe to The 19 on iTunes and Google Play, and, if you like what you heard today, leave us a review!