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How to command a Zoom Room

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How to command a Zoom Room 1

By Karlin Sloan, CEO of Sloan Group International

The rapid change to working from home in 2020 has led to many senior executives contemplating how to influence colleagues through a screen.  Having charisma in business helps to inspire trust and confidence, arguably never more important than now.  But what works in an open plan office or conference room will not necessarily work in virtual meetings.  So, how can you hone your executive presence in a virtual world?

It is particularly difficult to read body language and other non-verbal cues on screen.  However, it’s important to match your voice, pace, tone and posture so that you are communicating clearly and effectively.  Here are some tips to ensure you come across as positive and confident:

  • Relax and open your upper body posture, try not to fold your arms
  • Use your eyes – connect through the lens which means looking into the camera rather than at yourself on screen. This feels odd to start with but gets easier with practice.
  • Use your facial expressions and hand gestures to support what you are trying to convey
  • Avoid fidgeting – when people touch their face or fidget when answering questions they can be perceived as being dishonest or covering something up
  • Nothing beats a smile – smiling authentically is infectious, and people want to feel positivity. Smiling is the easiest way to help others to feel accepted and relaxed.
  • A webcam saps charisma, so you need to be bigger and more expressive in your performance. If you are chairing a meeting or presenting an idea, change your set up so you can stand up – this immediately improves your energy levels and conveys more dynamism.
  • Make sure you are well-lit and fill the screen with your head and shoulders, invest in a good quality microphone and camera
  • Work out what you want your colleagues to feel after the presentation or meeting, this will help you to align your style with your message
  • Try and add humour, your team will engage with what you’re saying more positively, remember it and are more likely to take action

    Karlin Sloan

    Karlin Sloan

Now that we no longer meet by the coffee machine or in the corridor, online meetings are even more important and it is crucial to stay focused on your colleague or client.  To boost your mental presence you should:

  • Give your full attention to whoever you are speaking to – if you’re on Skype or Zoom put all other things aside, turn off your email, social networking sites and phone. Silent mode isn’t good enough, very few people can resist looking at the phone when a text notification appears.
  • Focus before and during the conversation – show up and start being present 5 minutes before the online meeting. Physically and mentally put all other work aside.  Listen carefully to other colleagues and ask questions from different angles.

Now is the time to demonstrate that you are learning, unlearning and relearning.  Life has changed dramatically in 2020 and we need to actively seek out knowledge that keeps us fresh.  Don’t be afraid to let colleagues know that you are challenging the status quo so that you can update your organisation’s reasoning and trigger creativity and innovation. Nothing engages others like our own sense of curiosity, it encourages other to develop a growth mindset.

Nobody is 100% confident that they know everything and can handle every situation that arises.  But if you can show that no matter what happens, there are solutions to implement or lessons to be learnt, and that when bad things happen that ultimately we will prevail, you will inspire trust.  That sense of commitment to a positive outcome makes others feel confident in you.  In a year where the world has experienced a global health pandemic and society is politically polarised, this is crucial.

Demonstrate to your colleagues that you try to take every situation as a chance to learn, grow, change or develop.  This gives you the capacity to weather many storms in life and work. That attitude of resilience provides a strong foundation for influencing others to be more effective and fulfilled. It also gives us the inner strength to engage others to solve problems, face challenges or changes with their own best efforts.

Having charisma is not about the way you look, particularly in a virtual world, it’s about the way you make others feel.  Focus on making people feel confident, cared about and inspire them to want to make a positive impact and you will gain their trust and willingness to follow – vital in these times of uncertainty and change.

Business

Euro zone business activity shrank in January as lockdowns hit services

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Euro zone business activity shrank in January as lockdowns hit services 2

By Jonathan Cable

LONDON (Reuters) – Economic activity in the euro zone shrank markedly in January as lockdown restrictions to contain the coronavirus pandemic hit the bloc’s dominant service industry hard, a survey showed.

With hospitality and entertainment venues forced to remain closed across much of the continent the survey highlighted a sharp contraction in the services industry but also showed manufacturing remained strong as factories largely remained open.

IHS Markit’s flash composite PMI, seen as a good guide to economic health, fell further below the 50 mark separating growth from contraction to 47.5 in January from December’s 49.1. A Reuters poll had predicted a fall to 47.6.

“A double-dip recession for the euro zone economy is looking increasingly inevitable as tighter COVID-19 restrictions took a further toll on businesses in January,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.

“Some encouragement comes from the downturn being less severe than in the spring of last year, reflecting the ongoing relative resilience of manufacturing, rising demand for exported goods and the lockdown measures having been less stringent on average than last year.”

The bloc’s economy was expected to grow 0.6% this quarter, a Reuters poll showed earlier this week, and will return to its pre-COVID-19 level within two years on hopes the rollout of vaccines will allow a return to some form of normality. [ECILT/EU]

A PMI covering the bloc’s dominant service industry dropped to 45.0 from 46.4, exceeding expectations in a Reuters poll that had predicted a steeper fall to 44.5 and still a long way from historic lows at the start of the pandemic.

With activity still in decline and restrictions likely to be in place for some time yet, services firms were forced to chop their charges. The output price index fell to 46.9 from 48.4, its lowest reading since June.

That will be disappointing for policymakers at the European Central Bank – who on Thursday left policy unchanged – as uncomfortably low inflation has been a thorn in the ECB’s side for years.

Factory activity remained strong and the manufacturing PMI held well above breakeven at 54.7, albeit weaker than December’s 55.2. The Reuters poll had predicted a drop to 54.5.

An index measuring output which feeds into the composite PMI fell to 54.5 from 56.3.

But despite strong demand factories again cut headcount, as they have every month since May 2019. The employment index fell to 48.9 from 49.2.

As immunisation programmes are being ramped up after a slow start in Europe optimism about the coming year remained strong. The composite future output index dipped to 63.6 from December’s near three-year high of 64.5.

“The roll out of vaccines has meanwhile helped sustain a strong degree of confidence about prospects for the year ahead, though the recent rise in virus case numbers has caused some pull-back in optimism,” Williamson said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Cable; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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Volkswagen’s profit halves, but deliveries recovering

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Volkswagen's profit halves, but deliveries recovering 3

BERLIN (Reuters) – Volkswagen reported a nearly 50% drop in its 2020 adjusted operating profit on Friday but said car deliveries had recovered strongly in the fourth quarter, lifting its shares.

The world’s largest carmaker said full-year operating profit, excluding costs related to its diesel emissions scandal, came in at 10 billion euros ($12.2 billion), compared with 19.3 billion in 2019.

Net cash flow at its automotive division was around 6 billion euros and car deliveries picked up towards the end of the year, the German group said in a statement.

“The deliveries to customers of the Volkswagen Group continued to recover strongly in the fourth quarter and even exceeded the deliveries of the third quarter 2020,” it said.

Volkswagen’s shares, which had been down as much as 2%, turned positive and were up 1.5% at 164.32 euros by 1158 GMT.

Sales at the automaker rose 1.7% in December, at a time when new car registrations in Europe dropped nearly 4%, data from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association showed.

Like its rivals, Volkswagen is facing several challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic as well as a global shortage of chips needed for production.

It also sees tough competition in developing electrified and self-driving cars. The merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot-owner PSA to create the world’s fourth-biggest automaker Stellantis adds to the pressure.

Volkswagen said on Thursday it missed EU targets on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from its passenger car fleet last year and faces a fine of more than 100 million euros.

The group is expected to release detailed 2020 figures on March 16.

($1 = 0.8215 euros)

(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Mark Potter)

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Global chip shortage hits China’s bitcoin mining sector

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Global chip shortage hits China's bitcoin mining sector 4

By Samuel Shen and Alun John

SHANGHAI/HONG KONG (Reuters) – A global chip shortage is choking the production of machines used to “mine” bitcoin, a sector dominated by China, sending prices of the computer equipment soaring as a surge in the cryptocurrency drives demand.

The scramble is pricing out smaller miners and accelerating an industry consolidation that could see deep-pocketed players, many outside China, profit from the bitcoin bull run.

Bitcoin mining is closely watched by traders and users of the world’s largest cryptocurrency, as the amount of bitcoin they make and sell into the market affects its supply and price.

Trading around $32,000 on Friday, bitcoin is down 20% from the record highs it struck two weeks ago but still up some 700% from its March low of $3,850.

“There are not enough chips to support the production of mining rigs,” said Alex Ao, vice president of Innosilicon, a chip designer and major provider of mining equipment.

Bitcoin miners use increasingly powerful, specially-designed computer equipment, or rigs, to verify bitcoin transactions in a process which produces newly minted bitcoins.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co and Samsung Electronics Co, the main producers of specially designed chips used in mining rigs, would also prioritise supplies to sectors such as consumer electronics, whose chip demand is seen as more stable, Ao said.

The global chip shortage is disrupting production across a global array of products, including automobiles, laptops and mobile phones. [L1N2JP2MY]

Mining’s profitability depends on bitcoin’s price, the cost of the electricity used to power the rig, the rig’s efficiency, and how much computing power is needed to mine a bitcoin.

Demand for rigs has boomed as bitcoin prices soared, said Gordon Chen, co-founder of cryptocurrency asset manager and miner GMR.

“When gold prices jump, you need more shovels. When milk prices rise, you want more cows.”

CONSOLIDATION

Lei Tong, managing director of financial services at Babel Finance, which lends to miners, said that “almost all major miners are scouring the market for rigs, and they are willing to pay high prices for second-hand machines.”

“Purchase volumes from North America have been huge, squeezing supply in China,” he said, adding that many miners are placing orders for products that can only be delivered in August and September.

Most of the products of Bitmain, one of the biggest rig makers in China, are sold out, according the company’s website.

A sales manager at Jiangsu Haifanxin Technology, a rig merchant, said prices on the second-hand market have jumped 50% to 60% over the past year, while prices of new equipment more than doubled. High-end, second-hand mining machines were quoted around $5,000.

“It’s natural if you look at how much bitcoin has risen,” said the manager, who identified himself on by his surname Li.

The cryptocurrency surge is affecting who is able to mine.

The increasing cost of investment is eliminating smaller players, said Raymond Yuan, founder of Atlas Mining, which owns one of China’s biggest mining business.

“Institutional investors benefit from both large scale and proficiency in management whereas retail investors who couldn’t keep up will be weeded out,” said Yuan, whose company has invested over $500 million in cryptocurrency mining and plans to keep investing heavily.

Many of the larger players growing their mining operations are based outside of China, often in North America and the Middle East, said Wayne Zhao, chief operating officer of crypto research company TokenInsight.

“China used to have low electricity costs as one core advantage, but as the bitcoin price rises now, that has gone,” he said.

Zhao said that while previously bitcoin mining in China used to account for as much as 80% of the world’s total, it now accounted for around 50%.

(Reporting by Samuel Shen and Alun John; Editing by Vidya Ranganathan and William Mallard)

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