06 August, 2020
Virtual meetings have become a lifeline during COVID-19 and an essential tool for connecting with other humans besides the people living in your household. Whether you are using Zoom, Microsoft Teams or one of the many virtual meeting platforms to connect with your work teams, it is important that your meetings continue to deliver the desired outcomes and keep participants engaged and productive.
Here are some of our top tips to ensure your future virtual work meetings are more comfortable, engaging and effective –
- Choose a comfortable meeting space: Back in the office, you wouldn’t have a meeting at your desk. So why meet at your desk at home? If you have the opportunity and equipment to do so, choose to have your meeting in a different space other than your normal workspace. This may be the back patio, the lounge room or even the couch. If you need a table to write on, set it up informally.
- Set up your camera properly: If you’re using an external web cam, position it at the top of your screen so you’re looking towards the camera and your screen at the same time. That way, others will be looking directly at you while you are looking at the screen. Avoid placing your camera on the side of your screen where you may have to awkwardly turn frequently from camera to screen. Position the webcam at the right angle so your complete head and shoulders are in frame. Ensure your face is not too close to the camera –no one wants to see up your nostrils!
- Be prepared: Before a meeting is scheduled to begin, ensure you are prepared with any resources required. If you’re presenting and need to share your screen, have your document opened and ready on your desktop so you can easily click share when it’s your turn to present. A goal of a virtual meeting shouldn’t be any different to a face-to-face meeting. Make sure there is an agenda for the meeting and that expectations and outcomes are clear. Don’t forget to grab a coffee or glass of water so you’re kept hydrated (or awake) during your meeting.
- Control unwanted noise: Participants should be on ‘mute’ mode unless they need to speak. This will reduce unwanted background noise and keep participants engaged. For optimal audio quality and to reduce distracting background noise, use headsets or earphones rather than the speakers from your laptop or PC.
- Ensure adequate lighting: Ensure you have sufficient light in the room so other participants can see you clearly. Poor lighting or too much background lighting can be distracting. A handy feature offered by most online/virtual meeting tools is the ability to blur your backdrop. This feature is particularly handy if you’re the presenter and want to reduce any distracting background clutter.
- Ask permission if recording meetings: Virtual meetings can be recorded so they can be shared with others who couldn’t make it to the meeting or for later reference. If you plan to a record a meeting, there are privacy rules you need to adhere to. Ensure you ask permission from everyone in the meeting before you begin recording and allow participants to opt out if they choose not to participate.
- Schedule a quick break: If your meeting is expected to run for more than a couple of hours, schedule a short break so participants can have a short stretch, refill their water (and coffee!) or even quickly attend to their inquisitive children or pets!
- Stand up: Take the chance during meetings to stand up. This might mean placing your laptop on a filing cabinet or your kitchen bench for part of or the entirety of the meeting.
Lastly, virtual meetings don’t need to be mundane and tedious. Consider scheduling five minutes to interact socially with colleagues to refresh and emulate how you would interact with your colleagues in the office. Tell jokes, share personal stories, enjoy a virtual bickie together or have fun themed meetings.
The pandemic has certainly changed the way we connect with people. Perhaps even after life returns to some normality, virtual meetings will still be a popular method of connecting with our colleagues, clients, business partners, family and friends.
But for now, get comfortable and enjoy your next virtual meeting. We may have to get used to it for just little bit longer.
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