Physicalize Your Online Presence

Physicalize Your Online Presence

Aug 28, 2022

As summer ends and we gently ripen into Fall, I'm glad to say that recording for Season 4 of the Write Medicine podcast is underway. I use to record, a pretty straightforward process that produces both video and separate audio files for each participant. This makes for a better sound experience—I hope you agree!

One of my guests mentioned at the beginning of a recording last week that he was going to be situated at his standing desk, with feet firmly planted on the floor. Standing, he feels, is a more grounded way to relax and immerse yourself in the conversation.

White woman with long hair typing on a laptop at a standing desk

Photo by TheStandingDesk on Unsplash

I completely agree.

I've used a standing desk since 2015 (from what used to be, but is now and I love it. It encourages me to move frequently, I love to feel my feet on the floor (I'm usually barefoot), and standing really helps me maintain energetic presence and be more present on Zoom calls with clients and students.

Zoom fatigue is a thing

I've been using Zoom as my online meeting platform since 2018 and I really like having the option to see the people I'm talking with. For someone like me, who has worked from home since 2006 and regularly meets with people across the US and Europe, having a video option for communication is an asset.

But the back-to-back virtual meetings that are part of many people's working lives also creates a kind of weariness that can feel very energy depleting.

One way to mitigate energy depletion is by physicalizing your online presence.

Blurred picture of woman dancing with dark background

Photo by Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash

Physicalize your online presence

Eleanor Handley, a communications expert in New York, notes that communication requires movement and a degree of physicality that we take for granted in daily life.

We literally imprint information with our bodies. For instance, in a physical work environment, as we move through different spaces and scenarios (from one office to another, from work-desk to coffee room) and talk to different people in those spaces, we not only break up the day with movement but process and store social and emotional information in what Handley calls our "mental filing cabinets." When we are not moving from one physical space to another—in the work-from-home alongside partners, roommates, children—that information is not being efficiently processed.

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Handley offers 3 tips for optimizing your online communication and reducing the mental and emotional stress of virtual overwhelm.

1. Use Your Body to Emphasize What You Want to Say

Consider standing when you are in an online meeting. When you stand to speak, you gesticulate more and so move the body—an important consideration when we are all sitting for even longer than in our pre-COVID worlds. You also use your breath more efficiently when you stand versus when you sit. This combination of subtle movement and breath efficiency can help you more effectively make the points you want to say. I stand a LOT in my office, especially when I am interviewing folks for qualitative studies or subject matter experts for CME/CE projects. Standing helps me stay grounded and alert, practice active listening, and vocalize clearly.

2. Use Voice Only

Not all meetings need to be online. In an online video environment, it's easy to become distracted by the myriad visual cues (the multiple boxed heads, the virtual screens, the dogs/cats/children in the background). This can be exhausting in itself and make it really challenging to listen and contribute to discussion in a meaningful way. No wonder we feel overloaded. Sometimes audio is better than being on video, depending on the goals of the meeting. Using voice only meeting options or the phone (remember the phone?) can increase your attentiveness and ability to listen actively (see #1).

3. Practice Out Loud

Whether you are making a phone call or participating in a video meeting, if you have key points you need to make or want to contribute, practice saying them out loud first. Handley calls the ear an incredible editor and notes that practicing out loud is a great way to build muscle memory and imprint information. It's also a terrific way to test how succinct your communication style is.

In an online context, succinct is sweet.

You can hear more of Handley's tips here in her conversation with Ilise Benun on the Marketing Mentor podcast.

How do you physicalize your online presence?

Until next time, go gently,


Write Medicine Season 4 begins September 5, 2022

I teach medical writers the skills they need to grow a rewarding CME writing niche. I'm a writer/qualitative researcher who creates + evaluates education content for health professionals. Podcast host—Write Medicine. Adjunct faculty—University of Chicago Medical Writing Professional Certificate Program

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