Shifting to home offices is the new normal, and if you are new to working from home it can be difficult figuring out how to stay connected in a different environment. When you dial-in to virtual meetings, it can be easy to multi-task and stray from the purpose of the conversation. There is also a tendency for one or two attendees to run the show while others tune out. (1)
However, you can easily run virtual meetings more effectively using a few best practices and readily available technology. Here’s how:
Use Video (but don’t neglect the audio)
Video conferencing is a great way to make people feel like they’re all at the same meeting in a way that traditional conference calls do not. So, make video-preferred your new normal, but don’t forget dial-in options for the audio. This avoids lag due to weaker internet connections and includes those who might not have the opportunity to join via video at that exact moment.
Bonus Tip! Services like Zoom, Skype and GoToMeeting have personalization options that can help conversations feel more engaging. Be sure to fully fill out your profile, add a profile picture, use a virtual background to show your personality and research tips and tricks for your preferred video conferencing provider.
Take a Test Run
Don’t wait until the meeting start time to test your technology because taking the first few minutes to get things working sets a negative tone for the rest of the conversation. Make sure you are comfortable with the relevant features and encourage your team to do the same.
Casual brainstorm sessions may not need a lot of prep ahead of time, but if it’s an important meeting, prepare as you would for an in-person event. Set clear objectives, practice, use an agenda, establish meeting rules, take notes, have breaks and outline next-steps at the end of the meeting. (2)
Presenting? Keep it Short and Sweet
Make sure your virtual meetings are mostly discussions. To minimize the length of an individual presentation, send background details ahead of time. Be sure to do a check-in before diving in to reinforce interpersonal relationships and break the ice, then use screen sharing to purposefully keep everyone on the same page.
Show Your Face
When people can see each other’s expressions and body language, a meeting is more effective. If you are a meeting host, periodically call on individuals for their input, or “go around the table” – and feel like you’re looking around the conference room – before a decision is finalized. Don’t be shy in asking attendees to turn on their videos and sit close to their camera to recreate that in-person meeting feel. People who opt-out of video at first will likely turn on their webcam next time after seeing how being visible during the meeting is more engaging for the group. (3)
Bonus Tip! Use a webcam cover to avoid showing up on video when you don’t expect it or aren’t ready for it. Keep the webcam cover in place as you log on and then open it when you are ready, just be sure it’s prior to the start of the meeting.
Make Virtual Meetings Work for You
This time is unique in our history as the ability to go on sales calls or meet in-person has basically disappeared. The more you and your team meet virtually, the faster you will become comfortable working this way and the more you will get done.
Don’t be afraid to use video conferencing to discuss complicated issues or topics you’d prefer to go over in person because we don’t know how soon that will be an option. Also, don’t be afraid to hop on a video conference for fun and casual “water cooler” conversations or happy hour at the end of the day. It’s important to do what you can to stay connected and “take the pulse” of your colleagues, team members and clients. (4)
Learn and Grow
Consider devoting some of your work from home time to learning how tech tools can help market your services and/or yourself. Make updates to your personal website, set up profiles on appropriate social media sites or create a YouTube channel and add regular videos to share with your clients. If you are struggling with social isolation, social media can give you a way to interact and connect with industry peers and customers. (5)
Running virtual meetings might feel overwhelming, but working with distributed team members is the new normal so jump right in! Everyone is adjusting and learning and staying connected is more important now than ever.