When you get on a group Zoom call at work and find that you are one of eight or nine people on the screen, you’re likely to discover that it affects your ability to focus. You may continue to make an effort to listen but find that you no longer care about following what is said or making a meaningful observation.

Several articles help leaders conduct more effective virtual meetings and offer sound advice. Still, participants listening in virtual meetings need help understanding how to retain their focus. It is hard for leaders to run good virtual meetings without focused listeners.

The Ringelmann Effect is a behavioral trait describing the tendency among members of large groups of workers to not put in their best when they feel they are an unimportant part of the whole. – this may be why large Zoom meetings tend to command lower levels of focus among participants. Individual participants tend not to be clear about how they contribute to the whole and, feeling unimportant, tend to allow themselves to zone out. People who are distracted also tend to feel less than satisfied with themselves, according to some studies.

How do you ensure you are more present in your Zoom meetings?

Ask yourself beforehand why the meeting is essential to you.

Before a large Zoom meeting begins, ask yourself how it will likely be of value to you. For example, what important information are you likely to learn, and what critical knowledge do you hope to offer your colleagues? Identifying how you will gain from a call and offer value will help strengthen your ability to pay attention.

Frequently acknowledge what others say.

Participants in virtual meetings sometimes interject as someone else speaks to make a point of their own. Often, they do this without acknowledging what the previous speaker just said. Speakers who do not feel interrupted may waste time repeating themselves in the hope that doing so will help them get their point across. These behaviors in virtual meetings can lead to situations in which people talk over one another. It can help participants to engage in active listening. When you’re an active listener, you make it a point, at times, to repeat what you just heard from the last speaker, to help them feel understood. It brings greater clarity to the conversation and helps other listeners who may have let their minds wander.

Make valid observations.

It can be hard work leading a Zoom meeting. Participants interrupt one another to say what is on their minds now and then, and it can be hard to keep the conversation advancing smoothly. As an active listener, you can listen for themes and ideas and offer them for everyone to pay attention to. You can also reflect on the ideas you have heard and put them into your own words. These actions can help all participants grasp the larger dynamic. You can help simply by being the person who connects the dots. In the process, you can find yourself becoming engaged in the meeting.

Note down your distracting thoughts.

If your mind wanders off despite your attempts to corral it, it can help to pay attention for a moment to the wandering thoughts and quickly write them down. When you write an intruding review down, your mind tends to be satisfied that it dealt with the idea and recorded it safely to keep it from being forgotten.

Ask to be brought up to speed.

Sometimes, when you get distracted in a Zoom meeting, you may find when you get back that the conversation has gone off in a new direction, and you missed the change. When this happens, rather than faking it and pretending to understand the conversation, it can help to apologize for being distracted, admit that you do not know where the conversation is headed, and ask for help catching up. Not only are you likely to win the respect of your colleagues for being up-front about being distracted, but you are also likely to help anyone else who may have been distracted.

Being a careful, active listener is not just the right way to gain from a Zoom meeting. It is also an excellent way to raise your status in a meeting and ensure that everyone respects you enough to pay attention to you when you decide to speak. It can take a lot of practice to get used to virtual meetings, but striving to be an active listener is one of the first steps.