Given that 62% of U.S. employees have worked from home in some capacity this year, videoconferencing has seemingly become a part of everyday life.While an online meeting offers a useful, flexible way to keep work moving forward, many people struggle to avoid distractions and maintain professionalism when meeting remotely.
Learning how to conduct an online meeting — and how to be a good web meeting attendee — is crucial. Online meetings sound intuitive, but you may be overlooking a number of important things. To make your next work gathering a success, consider the following remote meeting tips.
1. Choose an online meeting app
There are many online meeting apps. All of them operate fairly similarly. Chances are you’ll use one of the more popular communication apps out there, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams or WebEx. Note that your employer may require that you use a specific program to run your meetings.
If you have the option to choose your own online meeting app, take the opportunity to review its features and see whether it fits your needs. Screen-sharing and chat functions come standard in most apps; however, other services might offer different, more effective features for your meetings.
For instance, maybe you’ll need a virtual whiteboard for mapping out planning notes. You may want to give meeting-goers the ability to get the presenter’s attention with a “raise your hand” button. It’s also a good idea to use an app that can protect your information with quality cyber security.
2. Test your hardware and connection
Mechanical difficulties can be easily navigated during normal, in-person meetings, but they can leave presenters helpless and derail discussions in remote situations. If you’re leading the meeting, encourage invitees to show up a few minutes early to make sure all of their technology is working properly. Have everyone test their microphone, camera and internet connection, then make sure every person can see and hear one other. Reserving a small amount of time before the meeting can make a difference.
3. Follow meeting etiquette
In essence, there aren’t many differences between virtual meeting etiquette and how you would behave in the office; both settings require that you conduct yourself in a professional manner. The main changes stem from the way you’re communicating. With this new technology in mind, here are 10 etiquette rules to keep in mind when videoconferencing:
1. Blur or change your background
Sometimes the items that appear behind you on screen, such as posters, artwork or plants, can be a distraction to your co-workers. Blurring or changing your background during a video meeting can help keep the focus on you and what you’re saying.
2. Join meeting from a quiet area
Computer microphones are more powerful than you think. Chances are good that the sounds of the construction site across the street are getting picked up in your meeting. Whenever you can, join your meeting in a spot that’s as far away from noisy areas as possible.
3. Be on time
Being on time to your meetings is just as important in your home office as it is in your normal one. If this proves difficult when you’re working remotely, try setting up meeting alerts with your company’s calendar application or on your phone.
4. Look at the camera when speaking
You can simulate eye contact with meeting participants by looking directly at your camera when speaking. This will help others to be more engaged and better understand what you’re saying.
5. Mute your mic when you’re not speaking
Since we’ve determined your microphone can pick up the most distant of sounds, it’s vital that you go mute when you’re not speaking. Even just a small cough or sneeze can derail a meeting momentarily.
6. Pause after asking a question
Unfortunately, web meetings don’t always allow for seamless, fluid conversations to take place. So when you pose a question to the group, make it a point to pause and not follow up too quickly. This will give everyone time to absorb what you said and develop a proper response.
7. Don’t talk over others
It’s easy to talk over others when you can’t see certain social cues in person. Try to allow every person to finish their statement before you talk. Also, be polite if you and another person start talking at the same time. If they defer the time to you, show your appreciation.
8. Use the chat function
Sometimes you may come up with a comment or question you want to bring to the group, but you don’t want to interrupt the conversation taking place. That’s where your meeting app’s chat function can help. In the chat, you can line up subjects to discuss later without losing track of where you are now.
9. Look presentable
Meetings are always professional obligations. Though you may not be expected to wear business formal attire when working remotely, you should count on looking presentable and ready to work.
10. Pay attention and don’t multitask
Being on your computer full-time for work means you’re probably combating a lot of temptation to deviate from the task at hand. When you’re in a meeting, make an effort to devote your attention. Avoid checking your email, texting, and other distractions during meetings.
4. Engage meeting participants
Interactive meeting ideas can be hard to come by in a virtual environment. That said, there are ways to keep meeting participants engaged. One way is to use polls or questionnaires before or during a meeting. These don’t necessarily have to be on topic, either; they can just serve as a means to break the ice and create casual conversation (think of questions such as “What’s your favorite breakfast food?”). Also, if you’re leading the meeting, simply calling on participants at various points can be a great way to make sure everyone is attentive and heard.
5. Avoid remote meeting fatigue
No matter how they’re held, long meetings cause mental fatigue. It’s even worse when attendees are staring at a screen the entire time. To prevent this, try to keep your meetings as short as possible — ideally, no longer than an hour. Providing an agenda or any relevant contextual notes for participants to review before the meeting can focus and streamline discussions.
As businesses increase remote work flexibility for their employees, it’s important to ensure teams are working safely and securely online. Make sure your business is following measures that prevent cyber-attacks. See how small business insurance can help protect your digital operations.
“U.S. Workers Discovering Affinity for Remote Work”(April 3, 2020)