For many working from home is a strange and new phenomenon. Despite blurring the lines between work-life and home-life, it has given rise to an entirely new method of doing business: the virtual meeting. This new format has been years in the making, only in 2020, after the virus and lockdowns have companies been forced to use it as the mainstay of communication.
As such, many employees have been scrambling to learn the basics: what should I do, how does it work, how can I prepare?
To help out, we’ve compiled a simple walk-through about how to prepare for a virtual meeting.
Sort out the Tech
There are few things more frustrating in the virtual world than sitting ready to start a meeting, only for there to be a sudden bout of technical issues. The camera doesn’t work. The audio hasn’t been set-up right. Problems that should have been resolved before the meeting now must be corrected while everyone else sits around twiddling their thumbs. It’s embarrassing for the person and a waste of time for everyone else.
A Deep Connection
Instead, be proactive. Before the meeting begins, check your internet connection. You will have adequate bandwidth to keep the call going: the more attendees, the more bandwidth you will need. If there are other people home, ensure they aren’t watching Netflix or streaming online games. It will slow your internet to a crawl.
Seeing and Hearing
Next, you’ll want to test your microphone and camera. Cameras can be checked easily by turning on the camera function on the laptop. For audio, you might want to record a short test video to see if you can hear clearly. Additionally, head into the settings section of the video conferencing software, and ensure the correct input is being used. Sometimes the wrong camera feed will be displayed.
Lights, Camera, Action
Once you know your tech is working well, you need to position yourself in a suitable location. Too often do people spend hours getting ready only to put the camera under the face. Unwittingly, they’re elongating their faces and giving everyone a prime view of nostrils one and two. It’s unflattering, to say the least. Even worse, their faces may be shrouded in shadows.
Pick somewhere with good natural light: avoid lamps, they will cast shadows, which can be distracting as you move. Next, place the camera at eye level. That may mean using a laptop stand or putting it on a stack of books or magazines. Just as in real life, you want to look your colleagues, customers or your boss directly in the eye.
Now, you’re ready for action. One thing to remember once the meeting begins is to look straight into the camera. It might seem strange at first, but to the people watching, if you look at the screen, you will always be looking in an odd direction. Look at the camera, and you will seem self-assured, confident and direct.
If you have any family members at home, give them a heads up about the meeting. Don’t make the mistake of having them bumble in, just as you are putting across your most salient point. If you have pets, unfortunately, they’re going to have to spend the meeting’s durations locked out of the room or kept somewhere. If you have children, if at all possible, have someone else keep an eye on them.
Another source of distraction often forgotten about is the background. Naturally, when looking at someone’s home, people’s eyes will scan the background. Are those messy clothes? What is that painting? What books are on their shelves.
To avoid distraction, consider using a virtual background. Hello Backgrounds makes managing Zoom virtual backgrounds easy. Just choose one of the options from the hundreds of HD photos and high-quality videos. Do you prefer a stylish office or swanky boardroom? You can even pretend you’re on the moon.
Review the Agenda (Or Send One Out)
Finally, make sure you give the agenda a once over. If you are confused by any items or points, give the organiser of the meeting a quick email to clarify. Once you are on the same page, do your homework; if an item needs to be resolved in the meeting, brainstorm or research some solutions. Virtual meetings can, at times, be stilted; as everyone expects everyone else to talk. Stand out by using these lulls in the conversation to showcase your ideas.
If you are the one organising the meeting, make sure you create an agenda. It will keep the meeting on track and topic. Keep the points clear and concise. If people are new to virtual meetings, it can also be sensible to send them instructions to guide them through their first time.