How to Combat Zoom Fatigue During Virtual Depositions

CSI - Courtroom Sciences Inc.

While it may seem difficult to believe that a virtual meeting where one is seated most of the time could cause fatigue and exhaustion, these encounters require participants to be hyper-focused, much more so than they would be during an in-person meeting. In the absence of many non-verbal clues, witnesses may feel that they have to make more effort to appear interested in the proceedings, with an intense focus on words as well as sustained eye contact. To prevent fatigued-based witness errors during depositions, defense attorneys have long practiced having witnesses take a break every hour, but this frequency is not enough to combat Zoom fatigue. 

The lack of non-verbal cues, the obligatory constant gaze required at a computer screen, and even anxiety regarding the reliability of the technology, are all contributing factors that lead to an earlier onset of cognitive fatigue. This extensive amount of focus and attention requisite for online meetings is simply not necessary during face-to-face communication. Therefore, as witnesses experience faster levels of cognitive fatigue in a virtual setting, it becomes imperative for trial attorneys to ensure more frequent rest breaks in order to combat Zoom fatigue and prevent errors that could disproportionately impact settlement and trial outcomes and result in a nuclear verdict.

How does witness performance differ between virtual and in-person depositions?

Witnesses appear differently on video platforms than they do during in-person depositions, with some personalities thriving in a virtual setting while others do not. With a view of only a witness’s head and shoulders, trial attorneys may find it more difficult to engage witnesses. Additionally, an uncooperative witness may find it easier to thwart manipulative questions since they are not physically sharing a room with opposing counsel. It’s also important to keep in mind that time is perceived differently in a remote deposition as opposed to in-person, with pauses seeming to take longer, which can be interpreted as evasiveness. 

Reasons Why Virtual Depositions Cause Zoom Fatigue

In order to combat Zoom fatigue, it’s first helpful to understand a few of the most common reasons why it happens in the first place. 

Close-up Eye Contact

Eye contact is a natural part of most conversations; however, when these interactions are translated to a virtual environment, many people struggle as the close video focus places greater emphasis on both facial expressions and eye contact. Virtual depositions demand such an unnatural level of eye contact that the brain may interpret them as an intense situation, and a witness who spends an extended amount of time in this high-pressure situation can quickly become fatigued.

Performance Pressure

Viewing oneself, a feature most video platforms have, is an unnatural experience compared to face-to-face conversations. Virtual depositions may cause witnesses to be more self-conscious, with a heightened awareness that they are being watched. This performance pressure may cause witnesses to be more self-conscious, taking their attention away from the task at hand. Ultimately, keeping up a high level of performance on screen will lead witnesses to experience video call fatigue. 

Higher Cognitive Workload

During virtual depositions, witnesses have to work harder to communicate. With interactions limited to a small square on the screen, a witness's cognitive workload increases as they strive to give appropriate non-verbal communication, detect non-verbal communication, and make any behavior adjustments as needed. Lengthy virtual depositions may place witnesses at a greater risk for committing errors that can devastate your case.

Ways to Combat Zoom Fatigue

While it is known colloquially as Zoom fatigue, the same phenomena can and will just as easily occur on any video conferencing platform. 

Preemptively Eliminate Distractions

The more a witness can prepare for and eliminate distractions the more focused they will be during the deposition. Before beginning a virtual deposition, a witness should close out any extraneous website tabs, silence phones and email, and try to identify any other potential distractions. 

Manage the Screen 

Depending on a user's monitor size, faces may appear unnaturally large on-screen, making eye contact even more uncomfortable than necessary. By adjusting the size of the window to minimize face size, as well as positioning the screen itself at a comfortable distance, witnesses may be able to replicate a more natural setting. It may also be helpful for witnesses to practice turning off the self-view in order to limit performance pressure. 

Schedule Sufficient Breaks

Seemingly, the most important method for combating Zoom fatigue is scheduling sufficient breaks. In a face-to-face deposition, Courtroom Sciences recommends that witnesses should be provided a break every 45 minutes and that this break should last a minimum of 10 minutes. 

With evidence indicating that witnesses experience faster levels of cognitive fatigue in a virtual setting, trial attorneys should be prepared to provide even more frequent rest breaks, perhaps every 30 minutes, in order to prevent cognitive fatigue from impacting the performance of their witnesses. During these breaks, the witness should have an opportunity for a change in environment, stepping away from the virtual environment and allowing the witness to feel replenished before beginning again. 

Courtroom Sciences understands that it’s critical to take preventative measures in order to combat Zoom fatigue during virtual depositions. With the right precautions in place, witnesses will be more fully prepared to remain calm, deliver effective testimony, and optimize their virtual deposition performance. Discover how our psychology-based witness training program can help you secure a positive outcome for your case. Speak with one of our experts to get started. 

Key Takeaways

●  Virtual depositions require participants to be hyper-focused, more so than they would be during an in-person meeting, leading to fatigue and exhaustion. 

●  Colloquially known as Zoom fatigue, the same phenomena can occur on any video conferencing platform. 

●  Close-up eye contact, performance pressure, and a higher cognitive workload are all contributing factors to Zoom fatigue. 

●  With witnesses experiencing faster levels of cognitive fatigue in a virtual setting, scheduling sufficient breaks is essential to combat Zoom fatigue. 

●  The psychology-based witness training program at Courtroom Sciences will prepare witnesses to be poised, confident, and persuasive during a virtual deposition.  

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