Like every one of my fellow Bears, I’ve made it my top priority to appear smart in my classes, whether they’re in person or on Zoom. Given how big-brained UC Berkeley students are, this task is slightly intimidating from time to time but overall pretty easy. But that’s not to say we don’t have our off days. Sometimes you zone out and start thinking about eating ice cream and putting on pajamas — if you aren’t already in them, of course. When this happens, it’s good to have a backup strategy to fall back on. Here are the Clog’s top tricks for quickly appearing more intelligent in your Zoom classes.
Turn your camera on
Most students have their cameras off during class, even in smaller discussions and breakout rooms. The easiest way to appear smart, however, is to actually appear. “Showing up” allows people to match your voice to a face. It also establishes your presence, and thereby importance, in the “room.” Because so few people do so unless it’s been specifically requested (for example, by threatening the loss of participation points), turning your camera on will leave your peers in awe of how unfazed you are. And even if you’re the only person to do so, your GSIs are sure to appreciate seeing a friendly face.
Have books in your background
Books signal intelligence. If you have a bookshelf near your workspace, situate yourself in front of it. Or use a virtual background and place yourself in a library. If you put yourself in Doe or Moffitt, your peers may reminisce about the wonderful times spent studying there. And if you present yourself as a student sitting in the “library,” they will subconsciously assign you more IQ points.
Use some props
We automatically assume people wearing glasses and with pencils behind their ears are smart, even if they don’t say anything. It’s a trope that’s been reinforced in movies, TV shows and media. If you have glasses, skip the contacts and wear those instead. If you don’t wear glasses, consider investing in a pair of blue light glasses. With all the time we spend in front of our devices, they’re all the hype nowadays. And if you don’t have glasses on hand, you’re bound to have a pencil lying around somewhere. Simply tucking this behind your ear will elevate your intelligence levels (in the eyes of your peers, at least).
Initiate and facilitate discussion
You know that awkward silence that follows after you’re placed in a breakout room with a bunch of people you don’t know? Odds are that everyone is waiting for someone to say something first. And although you tuned out for the past 20 minutes, you can still take advantage of this opportunity to look smart. Ask how everyone’s doing, as you sit in “Doe” with your sharp glasses, and see if anyone knows the answer to that question you’re supposed to talk about. Everyone will appreciate the cohesiveness and direction you bring to the discussion, even if you don’t contribute anything substantive.
Nod when others are speaking
People like to know they’re being heard, just as much as they enjoy talking. Whenever anyone speaks, make “eye contact” and nod intently. Visually acknowledge what they’re saying and show that you’re paying attention. This instills a deep sense of validation and appreciation for you in the opposing party. And doing so may even force you to pay attention if your concentration was slipping away.
Make fun of yourself
As unlikely as it is, your attempts to initiate conversation in a room full of faceless squares may fail. If this happens, make fun of yourself. Admit to the void that you’ve been daydreaming about chicken nuggets for the first half of discussion and that you really have no clue what’s going on. You’ll get a chorus of relieved sighs and “me toos” in response. People love relatable content and self-deprecating humor, especially in the awkward and isolating realm of Zoom. Everyone will appreciate your honesty and be slightly confused by the disconnect between what you just said and your initial appearance, but most importantly, they’ll think you’re the smartest person in the room.
As a UC Berkeley student, you will probably never be the smartest person in the classroom. But this doesn’t mean that you don’t have the potential to look like you are. With these nifty tricks, you are now ready to elevate your intelligent persona and wow everyone on Zoom. You can even carry these tricks back to the real world when we eventually return to in-person classes. And as you finesse your way through meetings, you may just find yourself a little more connected to your peers, a lot more smiley and at least a little more confident in yourself.