Everyone knows that feeling. Fifteen minutes into a VIP video conference call and coffee is calling already. The meeting leader may have been great and the subject more riveting than a tradesman's toolbelt, but something just wasn't right. Welcome to "Zoom fatigue.”
Soon to be inducted as word of the year, this previously unexplained phenomenon has been getting a lot of attention. The good news is the remedy is quite simple.
Cognitive Load - The Science
The human brain can process a set number of inputs. If that number is exceeded, the brain can become over-loaded. It is now commonplace to find that the latest meeting paradigm of video conferencing has created a new set of factors that adds more cognitive load.
These inputs are linked directly to auditory and optical senses, ie. ears and eyes. The brain is very good at filling in the blanks for sound or images. In a video conference call, if the video was turned off and just the sound left on, a person could still visualise who they are talking to if it is a familiar face. If the opposite was attempted, ie. the sound turned down, unless they were a qualified lip reader, they would be lost. The senses work hard to provide a cognitive stream to process and the less stress that is placed on the brain the better. So how can this be accomplished?
Managing Cognitive Load
In simple terms, it’s essential to get a good camera and a good microphone, and also use them properly. If you’re not an experienced operator, it’s advisable to get some assistance.
Next, a judgement needs to be made regarding the type of meeting that is going to be attended or managed. Is it an in-person meeting or a video conference call? It is not possible to have both and expect it to work one hundred percent. The best you could expect may be forty percent. This question also matters to anyone who speaks in a public forum, particularly legal practitioners with a professional reputation to consider.
Given recent travel restrictions, the video conference call has become the new conference or trade show. In the past, it has been fantastic to be able to fly out to an event and have the opportunity to network with colleagues and perhaps tag on some holiday time. Unfortunately, these opportunities have been unavailable for the better part of two years and it’s still uncertain when they may be back for good. Although the general belief in the legal community that "face to face" is still the best way to network, it goes without saying that the precautions attached to a pandemic will always take precedence.
In a courtroom, arbitration or hearing, it is important to stay focused on questioning and response strategy. Having distractions like bad audio and video only adds to an already massive cognitive load. In the instances of a remote connection with bad internet, the video will stutter and the overall sense of contact will be lost.
Ideally, the audience will stay focused on the legal practitioner’s delivery the entire time. The best way to achieve this is to get a professional audio-visual setup. It is not necessary to spend a lot of money, but it is recommended that the investment is more than the $2.50 microphone in a laptop.
- In a video conference, we recommend investing in a decent headset with a microphone so that viewers (clients) can hear clearly, reducing their cognitive load and increasing their focus on the message.
- Also provide a decent camera and lighting so the audience isn't processing the distraction of an irrelevant background.
Law in Order’s eHearing team employs technology specialists in all their hearing, arbitration and mediation engagements. With a combined experience of over 80 years, we can ensure cognitive load for all participants is reduced by providing quality engagement tools. To find out more, contact our expert team.