If I took a poll of my readers asking, “Have you had a meeting via Zoom, Teams, WebEx, or another virtual meeting platform?” I would bet almost all of you would answer, “YES!”
Virtual meetings are taking over not only our workplaces but our social lives. While I have attended countless virtual meetings, virtual interviews, and virtual seminars- I’ve also been to virtual happy hours, virtual baby showers, and virtual class reunions!
As someone who frequently moderates virtual meetings and teaches virtually, I have learned quite a few tips and tricks to have a successful virtual meeting- whether you are running the meeting or attending.
Some of these tips work for both virtual and in-person meetings, and somehow they seem to slip through the cracks more easily when attending virtually. Here are a few reminders to help us all succeed through this virtual pandemic life we are currently living!
- Schedule your virtual meeting well in advance and use a shared group calendar (like Outlook) to remind attendees about the event multiple times, including just prior to the event. Without needing to plan for travel time, virtual meetings are more easily missed! Consider attaching any required reading or agendas to the meeting invitation to keep everything in one place.
- Have a clear objective, communicate it early on, and stay on task. Do not let your virtual meeting become one of those meetings that, as they say, “Could have been an email.”
- Be welcoming to everyone as they enter. We would not slink into an in-person meeting without saying, “Hi,” to anyone, and that same concept applies to virtual meetings. You can either greet people individually or greet them together. If you are not sure who the attendees are, ask them to be sure their username reflects their actual name. Use a welcome slide so everyone knows, immediately upon logging in, what the meeting is for- and they can make sure they are in the right place. This can be a great time to communicate your preferences with attendees- do you prefer for attendees to keep their cameras on for a more socially interactive environment, or would you like people to keep their cameras off? Communication is key here, and I am not just saying that as a communication professional. 🙂
- Work from a quiet, well-lit space with as few distractions as possible. Seek out a neutral background or use a virtual background. Sit with the light hitting your face and avoid having bright light sources behind you. You can use desk lamps or windows to create the light you want. Sit in a comfortable chair and keep good posture. Perhaps the couch is not the best place for your meeting, despite how cozy it is, and you may need to move to the kitchen table or counter.
- Test your technology ahead of time. If possible, log in early and make sure your audio/video is working and you know how to screen share. Do not forget about the possibility of using a wired connection if hosting (or presenting) and you are concerned about the stability of your wireless internet connection.
- Put your webcam at eye level. It feels more realistic AND helps avoid the dreaded double chin! If your computer/camera is lower than eye level, you can purchase a laptop lift or use something simple like a stack of large books or a box to prop your camera to the right height.
- Dress the part! This is especially important if you are working from home. It’s so easy to slip on something cozy as you shuffle over to your laptop, but putting on work attire helps us adjust our attitude and get into “work mode.” Of course, enjoy the perks of virtual meetings… you only need to look the part above the waist. When I interviewed virtually with my most recent consulting client, I was wearing a blazer on top and yoga pants on the bottom!
- Do not multitask during the meeting. Resist the urge to turn off your camera, unless you are performing a distracting task, like eating or getting a refill on your coffee. If you are not engaged in the meeting, you cannot contribute appropriately. Keep in mind that if you are hosting the virtual meeting, it is your job to keep things engaging so your attendees don’t WANT to multitask! Keep your energy level up, work to be as optimistic and energetic as you can, and keep the meeting efficient and on task.
- Keep yourself muted when not speaking. We have all been on meetings where someone started talking to a housemate or took a phone call while everyone on the meeting could hear them. If you are moderating or hosting the meeting, keep an eye on the participant list so you can mute people if necessary. You never know when a delivery person will arrive, ring the doorbell, and startle the dog… and suddenly, you are the unintended center of attention.
- Do not judge fellow attendees. We are in the midst of challenging times for many people. Some people are working through illnesses, childcare shortages, shared workspaces, or cluttered offices. Attendees may want to keep their cameras off for a variety of reasons, so be as flexible as possible. Virtual meetings are a unique opportunity to be invited into the homes and offices of your fellow attendees, so be as kind and polite as you would be as a houseguest under any other circumstances.
While we are all anxiously awaiting the opportunity to gather in-person for meetings, virtual meetings will keep things running in the meantime. I hope these tips help you as we navigate this virtual world, both with work and with our personal lives.
Until then, I’ll see you in your virtual meeting rectangle!
As always, thanks for reading!
This post is modified from an article I published in the WIAWWA tri-annual newsletter, Spring 2021.