Video conferencing has taken over as the main mode of communication for many who have switched to remote work in recent weeks. While straightforward enough in concept, the world of business video conferencing comes with its own set of rules and considerations. Read on for some tips on how to have the most successful virtual meeting you can.
Know your platform.
Choosing the right platform for your meeting is essential to making sure it goes smoothly. While many platforms offer similar perks, they are not all equal in all situations. For example, Google Hangouts may be great for small group discussions, especially if you are already using the GSuite, but talking to a larger group is difficult because you cannot choose to see everyone at once. Make sure the capabilities you want are available on the platform you have selected before you set up the meeting.
Make sure you test your setup before your meeting.
Understanding the tools and features available through your video conferencing software before a meeting saves time and confusion during the meeting, so you can get straight to business. Most conferencing platforms include features like screen sharing, participant muting, and recording. Knowing how to navigate to and recognize these features streamlines the conversation. In addition, testing your speakers, camera, and internet connection 20 minutes before the meeting can save you from a technological hiccup that derails your plans.
Pay attention to the image you present.
Camera angle is extremely important in video conferencing, especially if you are leading the meeting. An unflattering angle (pointing too low or high, or angled to capture the background more than you) can be extremely distracting. Participants in video conferences have no where else to look, so making sure you are centered in the screen is very important. Try to position your camera at eye-level and avoid looking at yourself while speaking. Eye contact, or the suggestion of it, is still important! In this vein, your environment matters as well. Bright light streaming in through a window behind you can make it hard for participants to look at you, while piles of messy dishes can draw attention away from you. As with any in-person meeting, a thoughtful and professional environment is key for productive conversations.
Mute your microphone – and remember to unmute it!
Even if you are alone in a quiet apartment, background noise has a way of creeping in. A steam radiator or a car horn can disrupt a meeting out of nowhere, so be sure to mute yourself whenever you are not talking. That being said, there is nothing more frustrating than chiming in with a response only to realize you were still on mute. Pay attention to your meeting settings and learn shortcuts to mute and unmute yourself quickly. Here’s a link to some helpful Zoom shortcuts.
If you are the host, be sure to communicate clearly.
Communicating an agenda and the tools you will be using throughout the meeting is an important step to keep everyone in attendance on the same page. Layout the meeting plan at the beginning and remind listeners where you are as you progress; lapses in internet and platform malfunctions can happen without you knowing, so it is best practice to check in with participants and to situate yourself throughout the meeting.
It is also important to be clear about what tools are being used throughout the meeting. For example, let everyone know if the meeting is being recorded, and explain what that means (is it just an audio recording, or audio and video?). Tell participants if you plan to mute them—and be sure to tell them again before unmuting.
Know how to block interlopers.
From yoga classes to college seminars to community meetings, Zoom-bombing has become a threat. Any publicly shared meeting can be joined by participants with bad intentions. The key here is to make sure you are setting up the right controls before the meeting starts. Screening participants and creating a unique meeting ID are just a few of the ways that you can protect your meeting. This guide has a complete rundown of the methods you should know.
Video conferencing is a new mode of communication for many, and we all have different learning curves. Do your homework so you are as prepared as possible and be patient when others are not as prepared as you are.
Also, working from home comes with a variety of factors for different people, and we are all trying to do our best with what we have—a child or pet in the background is not necessarily ideal, but it is not the end of the world. Roll with the interruptions and respond with understanding.