A DETAIL GUIDE TO VIRTUAL MEETINGS
It’s a strange new work-life we’ve woken up to. Gruelling morning commutes have been swapped for a quickstep from bedroom to study, homes once deserted between the hours of 9 – 5 have become buzzing co-working spaces and we’re scratching our heads trying to work out what constitutes an appropriate WFH outfit.
One of the biggest adjustments for our team (and the majority of businesses) during the age of COVID-19 has been a sudden shift to online meetings. While essential to keep in touch with clients and ensure we’re ticking off our actionable items – suddenly, we all started to feel a little camera shy.
Following a steep and rather rapid learning curve, we thought we’d share our tips on how to ace your virtual meetings.
Allow 15 minutes to set up your equipment prior to the meeting. This will allow enough time to check sound, lighting and work through any pesky technical glitches. Once you’re ready, open up Zoom and click on Preferences – this will allow you to do a final check of sound and video before the meeting kicks off.
WORK THOSE ANGLES
Like a selfie, we all have our best Zoom angle – so take the time to work out yours. A trick to maintaining good virtual eye contact is to prop your laptop up on a stack of books, which will lift your line of sight as though you were sitting face-to-face with the other attendees. Avoid getting too close to your camera. Your full head, shoulders and upper torso should fit comfortably in the frame.
HOME IS WHERE THE… VIRTUAL BEACH IS?
Now is the time to look at your home ‘office’ with fresh eyes and check if there’s any unsavoury conversation starters that might end up in your Zoom frame. It could be as mundane as the unpaid speeding ticket on your fridge, or as spicy as the nude portrait hanging in the study (just us?).
While we’re on the topic, the standard virtual backgrounds (including the tropical beach with rolling waves) are distracting for other attendees and aren’t appropriate for 98% of meetings… but so is an unmade bed. If your bedroom is now doing double duty as your work space, consider setting up a simple, non-distracting virtual background.
DRESS FOR WORK (AT LEAST ABOVE THE WAIST)
If you wouldn’t wear it face-to-face, reconsider it for Zoom. HINT: It’s a hard ‘no’ to activewear! For online meets, keep it business on top (even if there is a party on the bottom). A collared shirt, crisp t-shirt or smart jacket will suffice to ensure your on-screen look is professional.
Like any real world meeting, tardiness won’t do! Refer to Step 1 and give yourself sufficient time to set up, familiarise yourself with the topics to discuss and switch your phone to silent before everyone dials in.
EYES ON THE SPEAKER, EARS ON THE VERBAL CUES
Avoid looking at yourself (we can tell) and stay focused on the speaker. Once the meeting has started, stay put and don’t touch your screen. A Zoom meeting is not the time to boil the kettle or relocate to the recliner.
Listen in for the speaker’s verbal cues as this will signal when they are coming to the end of their point or posing a question to the group. Consider how you can use intonation and hand gestures when speaking to improve the flow of conversation.
A free Zoom meeting is capped at 40 minutes, so it’s important to keep the objectives and required outcomes top of mind. Stick to your agenda points and don’t waffle. Avoid answering emails or doing other work during the meeting – again, we can tell.
On this topic, we’d recommend treating yourself to a Zoom subscription. It doesn’t have quite the same benefits as the pilates memberships we’ve had to forfeit, but it will allow you to have longer meetings and will also improve your streaming quality. Highly pixelated faces are about as distracting as the virtual beach background.
TO MUTE… OR NOT TO MUTE?
This one’s a game of numbers. If you’re involved in a meeting of six or less – avoid muting. This will keep you engaged and allow you to chime in where appropriate.
For a larger meeting or seminar – if you’re not an active speaker, mute yourself to ensure sound coming from your microphone isn’t picked up as this can be distracting to those presenting.
In general, avoid making noise if you don’t have the floor. Zoom uses volume as the key indicator for who to put in focus i.e. on the big screen. Coughing, typing or loudly slurping your tea will put you in the big window faster than you can say ‘let’s circle back’.
If your once quiet home has become a buzzing hive or activity, notify other members of the household you have a meeting to avoid unexpected cameo appearances. Consider an early warning symbol, something on the doorknob or a ‘Do not disturb’ sign.
KEEP IT LIGHT
With the majority of us now working from home, meetings – even the virtual type, help maintain a feeling of connection with our colleagues and clients. Enjoy the opportunity to catch up and be sure to have a tid bit, joke or funny video to keep the virtual vibes high. Once all the participants have joined – get to it, it’s easy to lose people otherwise.
One last, very important thing. Do NOT… we repeat DO NOT use the Zoom chat feature to send private messages to co-workers. If the host has opted to record the meeting for future reference, your private chat messages will be included as part of the transcript.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Word: Charlotte & the Detail team
Imagery: Sarah Langley & Claire McGowan
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