With increasing numbers of people working remotely, it’s important to maintain connections with clients and colleagues. When conditions don’t allow for in-person meetings, virtual, remote meetings can be effective. Recently many of us have been faced with working remotely for the first time, accompanied by a learning curve with both social and technological challenges. To help you along the way, here are best practices for your next virtual meeting.
1. Publish Your Agenda
Not only publish an agenda—but stick to it. This will help you think critically during planning about how long it will take to present a topic and how long your virtual meeting needs to be. Often, we default to an hour meeting when you may only need 15-30 minutes.
2. Turn On and Face Your Camera
Collaboration is easy when you can read the room. If you forget to turn on your camera in your video conferencing program, meeting attendees cannot pick up on non-verbal cues and may misinterpret information. Additionally, you will better understand who is speaking on calls.
Also prop up your laptop so the camera is at eye level. This way the view for your collaborators isn’t of you looking down at your screen, but rather more closely simulates how they would see you in a real conversation.
3. Simple Scenes & Great Lighting
Whenever possible, choose a space for your video conference with minimal background visuals and noise, and make sure your face is well lit. You can accomplish this by facing a window to the outside, or turning on lights in front of you. Do not sit with a window behind you, as it will make your face appear dark and the rest of the image too bright.
If you are not able to be in a visually desirable space, consider background-blur features.
If the ambient sound in your space is loud, use a headset to minimize the noise and reduce echoes.
4. Dress to Impress
Remember that your clients and colleagues are used to seeing you dressed for the office. Remote work should have the same level of preparation as work in the office. This shows you are taking their time seriously. When meeting virtually, you still need to look the part, even if you’re not face-to-face with other attendees.
5. Ask Permission to Record
At the start of the meeting, request permission to record. If someone can't attend, you can include them by sending a recording afterward. Additionally, it will allow you to review the meeting later and ensure action steps and follow-up. This approach also frees up meeting time lag caused by taking notes.
6. Mute and Chat Functions
For longer meeting with many attendees—especially presentations— you may elect to put other attendees on mute to keep the message clear and prevent distractions. Remember to utilize chat functions of your conferencing app to organize and capture questions. It's helpful to stop periodically for questions or comments and give your audience a break to stay engaged.
7. Use the Buddy System
Key presentations may require a host and an administrator to field questions and ensure technology and screen projection/sharing is working properly. In addition, your administrator should have a copy of the content in case there are any network challenges. You may still be able to continue the meeting with your audio, and the administrator as a back-up host for visuals.
8. Trial Run
Test your network bandwidth and technology before presentations. Load videos and presentations and watch them in real time to make sure you don't experience any buffering, and that you are comfortable with the technology. Also, keep your computer desktop clean of open programs and clutter.
Mostly, just remember we are all human. Many people may not work remotely on a regular basis, and some may not have any experience with this behavior. Technology can be very daunting and frustrating to people who are learning, which is stressful, so be patient with your clients and colleagues. Working and meeting remotely can feel less personal, so try humanizing the situation with honesty, patience, and understanding.