“Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use, do the work you want to see done.” Austin Kleon

Putting your best Virtual self forward.

Unlike the early web days where a virtual friend was more likely to be a sexbot in Second Life or an imaginary friend named Milko who didn’t actually exist; so much of our learning, connecting and communicating today is virtual.

Awesome right?

Also; just a little bit awkward.

We’re all communicating in different languages, using emojis and virtual platforms and connecting in hangouts and channels and slack spaces. For those of us just getting the hang of it, what do we need to know to connect effectively?

Here are a few tips I found useful.

Zoom tips

A couple of tips to help you put your best virtual face forward.

  1. Get dressed. Nothing more awkward than someone who is clearly in swimmers or pajamas and thinks the rest of us can’t tell.
  2. Sit reasonably close to the screen so others can see your expression. We look for others’ reactions to help us connect.
  3. Think about your background. Maybe it’s a good time to move the children’s paintings or your hyrbid road bike which might be distracting.
  4. Get yourself a pair of Airpods, headphones or a conservative big black plastic call centre headset. Proper audio makes a big difference and yelling into your computer is weird for the other people around you, not to mention those of us on screen.
  5. Talk slowly and look at the camera. If you just look at the other faces of the people around you, you’re never looking straight at your audience. Makes you seem kind of shady.
  6. If you’re not talking, put yourself on mute. That way the background noise doesn’t interrupt the speaker and the video doesn’t swing to you every time you cough or move a paperclip.
  7. If you’re listening to someone else talk, act interested even if you’re not. Don’t put yourself on mute and then make yourself a coffee or feed your dog.
  8. Likewise if you’re listening, don’t open up other screens on your computer. Firstly we can tell by your eyes that you’re doing other stuff, secondly Zoom allows the admin user to see who doesn’t have Zoom open as their primary (top of screen pile) app. Awkward.
  9. Saving Chat in a group Zoom . . means whoever saves the chat, also includes any private messages they sent during the chat. So if you’re holding a session (and have privately DM’d someone during it), this will appear in your saved chat. Good to know.
  10. If you want to test whether your Internet connection is fast enough, your headphones work or your metallic green eyeshadow translates on screen, you can test pre-call here : https://zoom.us/test

Hat Tip @taylorharrington for the nudge on some of these.

What the emoji does that mean?!

Being an avid non-user of emojis, I suddenly found myself last year in a situation where I had to use them in order to connect with people I was never going to meet but wanted to communicate with. Once I’d reconciled the idea that they did provide an element of emotional agility in our conversations, I began using with gay abandon. However; some questions emerged.

Does one select the emoji based on the “look” eg. , which seemed to me to say . . “WTF?!”. Or on the actual definition which appears when you hover over the emoji. In this case, the definition is “Flushed”.

And what Hearts? When to use what colour?

  1. Green Heart. Positive growth and renewal.
  2. Red Heart. Classically romantic heart, the most basic & straightforward.

  3. Yellow Heart. Good energy. Happiness and friendship.

    Purple Heart. Compassion or Love.

    Blue Heart. Trust, harmony, peace and loyalty.

Slack Chat & Message Posting

For those of you who are new to Slack, I found this guide online which might be helpful in navigating the channel on your first visit.

You can also share your screen while you’re on Slack. Instructions here.

Let people know that if they scroll up on the chat, it will slow it down and make it easier to read.

When you’re writing messages for a larger group in Slack

Make sure you leave some breathing room in the post . . formatting matters.

  • Are you posting a considered thought?
  • How much do you really need to tell them?
  • Your choice of language matters because it tells people how you see things
  • Leave them room to breathe in the message
  • Don’t overwhelm
  • Ask yourself . . am I “telling” or am I “lighting the blue touch paper”?


  • Don’t give them everything at once
  • Bit by Bit is better than overwhelm in slack
  • If they can find out the info somewhere else – let them.

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