The fool-proof guide to virtual meetings

March 23, 2016 |

Managing relationships and projects is an integral part of the professional world. In the digital age, we turn to virtual meeting technology to help us communicate ideas and collaborate over long distances. However, web-based meetings have their pitfalls. Planning a meeting is time consuming enough, so we took care of the small details for you. Here’s your guide to ensuring a perfect meeting.

Try out your technology. Before your meeting, try out your preferred virtual meeting technology. Get any updates out of the way so you aren’t waiting on a Java update while everyone else waits for you. This will also give you the opportunity to play with the options on your preferred meeting technology. Are you able to mute all participants? Is there a functioning IM sidebar? Finally, as the meeting coordinator, send out any links at least a business day in advance so people have time to test their technology compatibility as well.

Check your visibility. If you’re going to be on screen, make sure that you’re visible. You’ll be much more convincing with ample lighting on your face instead of as a shadowed or backlit character. In addition, plan your outfit ahead of time. Loud prints can increase distraction and excessive movement can make any video lag more noticeable. Noisy jewelry is likely to get picked up by your microphone.

BusinessmanWorkingInOfficeUsingLaptop

Be early. When dialing into a meeting, I embarrassingly hit the wrong number more often than I’d like to admit and have to start over. This oddly time consuming process doubles if you have a separate teleconference and video conferences. Dial in a little early. You’ll have time to troubleshoot or email the host if your passcode doesn’t work, and if you dial in smoothly, you can build relationships with the other early callers. Just remember to keep your conversations appropriate! You don’t know who will join the meeting next.

Manage noise. Now that you’ve managed to get in to your virtual meeting, mute your computer. Close your door. Turn your phone on silent. Close any webpages that may pop up with annoying chatter. When the meeting starts, mute your phone or microphone unless you’re speaking. Very few things are more distracting for your fellow meeting attendees than hearing Fido bark in the background or the constant pinging of incoming emails. And whatever you do, don’t put the meeting on “hold.” I was once in a meeting that ground to a halt as someone’s hold muzak drowned out the speaker. If you absolutely have to, drop out of the meeting and then rejoin when possible.

Speak slowly. For the presenter, especially, speak slowly. Build in pauses for lag time. Regularly ask if anyone needs clarification and leave a pause so others can speak before moving on. Without facial expressions and with technology lag, it’s hard to gauge how well your audience is following your material.

Look at the camera. If you’re using a computer webcam, it can be incredibly easy to look at your screen primarily. This can be useful when you have information on your screen, but if you’re talking to your fellow meeting attendees, look at the camera so they feel that you’re looking directly at them. If you struggle with this, I’ve heard sticking a small pair of googly eyes by the camera is a great reminder. (Great news! You can get 500 of them for only $3 on Amazon.com.)

Do you have any tips or tricks for your virtual meetings? Share with us on Twitter @tandtnews