Video conferencing, especially from home, has become a new norm. Here are six tips to improve your virtual meetings.
- Start on time. Unlike an office setting, people aren't walking to the meeting and collecting attendees on the way. Especially if you are the host, be sure to be on time. I usually suggest that everyone start to sign on to the meeting about 5-10 minutes ahead. The early start gives any needed software updates a chance to load, an opportunity to adjust sound and video settings, and time to address any technical difficulties.
- See and be seen. A benefit of video conferencing is that there is at least some chance you will observe body language and facial expressions. If this is important to your meeting, be sure to turn your camera on, especially if you are the facilitator, to set the example. Your example typically encourages others to follow suit, without an ability to make the camera mandatory.
- Announce if you are recording. If you are recording the meeting, be sure everyone knows. Some systems allow participants and the meeting host to record, so be sure participants know the rules. Some software systems also automatically pop-up participants that are either speaking or have background noise. Check to see if you can control this if you want to maintain a focus on a presenter for the recording.
- Minimize background noise. Avoid embarrassing moments like the flushing sound during a recent Supreme Court meeting. An attendee near an open window or on the street can also make the entire session sound like it is taking place in a wind tunnel. Remind attendees to mute their microphones if they are not speaking. Some video conferencing tools will allow the meeting host to mute everyone.
- Keep secrets secret. Screen sharing is another benefit of video conferencing. Before sharing your screen, check your desktop, open documents, and other things that may be exposed. This practice will avoid additional embarrassing moments and ensure that confidential or secret information stays hidden. Some video systems also allow you to share only a specific document rather than the entire screen, so take advantage of that feature.
- Keep the meeting short. Due to screen time, video conferences can be more taxing than in-person meetings. Try to keep sessions shorter and have more of them if necessary, so everyone has a chance to refresh and fully participate.
Bonus Tip #1: Virtual meetings may typically involve people in multiple time zones. Due to the growing number of calendar tools, I've found I often get invited to virtual meetings that are not stamped with the correct timezone. To avoid this and other invitation failures, in addition to asking people to join 5-10 minutes ahead, I recommend that the body or message part of the invitation should always include:
- A list of the cities of the attendees with their local times for the meeting
- A link to join the meeting
- A set of local phone numbers for joining for those that are unable to participate via computer
- The support number of the conferencing service in the event of technical issues
- Your phone number so they can contact you if they are running late
Bonus Tip #2: Unless your job function or organization requires it, do not use a VPN as it will affect your video. Most attendees of my meetings report the video or slides freeze and have a better experience when they reconnect without the VPN.
Want to learn more about how to integrate these practices into a project methodology? Check out our Micro Guide to the PROJECT Methodology.
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