Virtual meetings are now the go-to way to communicate for businesses: internally and with external clients and vendors. They’ve been an increasingly popular medium for many years; however, they’ve naturally increased in popularity since the year’s lockdown began.
Having spent several months (or years) navigating the world of virtual meetings, even the least tech-savvy amongst us have gotten the hang of the basics. However, there are still several mistakes people make, as well as some fixes which they aren’t aware of. Therefore, to transform from a virtual meeting amateur to a pro, follow these five tips.
1. Fix your lighting
If you’re anything like the rest of us, you haven’t gotten around to putting together a swanky office. Perhaps if you have space, you’re dreaming of a stylish outhouse, overlooking the garden, where the light can pour in. However, that’s still some way in the future. In the meantime, you find yourself stuck in a cramped corner, devoid of natural light. For most day-to-day work, this will do, but for a virtual meeting, you’ll look a gloomy figure on video—shadows cast across your face, and a sombre demeanour.
Instead, brighten things up. Find a room with lots of natural light and use it for your call. You want the light to be facing you or to the side. If behind, you’ll naturally be silhouetted. Do a quick camera check before the meeting to test out your spot.
2. Use a virtual background
If you’re roaming the house looking for the best light, you’re unlikely to get the most professional backdrop. Kids toys, washing hung out, or even a backdrop of books can be a distraction and unprofessional. Rather than hanging sheets to hide your home, use the latest in green screen technology. These virtual backgrounds for Zoom by Hello Backgrounds, allow you to replace your home with a natural scene or expensive boardroom. There are hundreds of choices from which to pick.
Additionally, it’s not just your backdrop that needs touching up. If you’re using Zoom, use their beautify tool to smoothen any imperfections, wrinkles, or blemishes. Head into your settings, under ‘My Video’, click the ‘Touch up my appearance’ box. So, no bother spending hours in the bathroom. Let the software do the arduous work.
3. Set an agenda
As with everything in life, it’s always easier with a plan of action. Back in the day, people often had an idea of what needed to be covered in a meeting. However, the boost of in-person social interaction frequently carried a meeting—a free-flowing conversation allowing the direction of the meeting to flow along.
In the virtual world, everything is different. Conversations are often stilted, as no one wants to be the one to speak. Or conversely, if people do speak, they often get locked in a conversation about the minutiae. Seemingly forgetting ten other people are listening.
Therefore, an agenda is more vital than ever. Set the critical goals of the meeting, any item to be discussed, and who will be doing any presentations. That way, if the meeting does get off track, you can use the agenda like a road map, to get back on course.
4. Break it up
We’ve all got a finite attention span. And we’ve all sat through the two-hour slog-fest, of heavy eyelids and pages of doodles as we strain to maintain our concentration. Often nothing ever gets resolved, as people are too disinterested or distracted to focus. In a virtual meeting, their problems are dialled up to eleven.
Do the smart thing: break the meeting up. Ideally, for each point on your agenda, allot a ten-minute slot. It will help focus minds on solving the problem in the timespan. If you have more than five or six points, then either split the meeting up or schedule a break. It will give people time to nip to the bathroom, make a drink, or check their messages. So, everyone can come back distraction-free and focused.
5. Engage the participants
Finally, try to engage your participants. You can achieve this in numerous ways, first, by asking direct questions to people who don’t often contribute. The risk of a question will naturally spur people to pay more attention and become more engaged. However, you can also have various parts of the meeting led by different attendees, using screen sharing to assist. Or use the virtual whiteboard to run a brainstorming session.
If you really want to try something unique. Have everyone split into small groups to discuss a topic, possibly using Slack or Microsoft Teams to communicate. Then meet back up and share what was discussed.
The more engaged your participants, the more impact the meeting will have.