Online meeting, virtual meeting, webinar, conference call, whatever you call them they will now account for most of your contact time as businesses move their operations online to ensure productivity and continuity. I’ve organised and participated in many of these to varying degrees of success. Here are a few hints and tips following my own experiences on how to organise and get the most out of your online meetings.
How to Prepare
Send login details at least a day in advance where possible to allow yourself and participants to check the following:
• connectivity issues
• download any software or updates
• microphone and camera functionality on devices (particularly sound levels and how to turn them on/off, and finding a flattering camera angle. No one wants to look up your nose!)
Circulate the details of an offline method (i.e. telephone number) should there be any issues, and suggest participants log in to the meeting five minutes early to test connectivity. Ideally you should use a laptop rather than a phone as it is easier to make notes. You are not an octopus.
If you’re intending to present data, decide the best platform to share it on as what you may have used for a ‘live’ audience may not translate well to a virtual audience. Smell-o-vision has not yet been created, much to my disappointment when watching the Great British Bake Off. But probably good news if you’re watching an Attenborough special on skunks.
Try to minimise background noise and disturbances such as checking e-mail and texting and keep the meeting as short as possible. You may also want to consider turning off or muting noisy notifications or pop-ups. Avoid wearing striped clothing and sitting in front of busy backgrounds as both can be visually distracting. Try not to eat or drink in case questions are aimed at you. Choose your moments to chow down.
If possible, try to have a neutral backdrop. Double-check your background in case there is anything in the frame you don’t want to share with others. Your questionable collection of Mills and Boon? Maybe move to another room.
Have a quick re-cap at the end of the meeting in case anyone lost sound or connectivity part-way through and missed any important instructions, decisions or action points.
Remember: speak clearly and keep body movements minimal. When speaking, look into the camera, not the screen (raise your webcam to eye-level if you are able) and dress appropriately (at least the parts that can be seen!). Not only will you look professional but you will also be in the right frame of mind. Don’t carry on side conversations and interrupt other speakers, and don’t wear “noisy” jewellery or striped clothing. Most importantly, be yourself and have fun!