We recently heard a harrowing story about a department-wide video conference during which the head of the department was on a casual morning jog, head bobbing up and down as he addressed his team. This puzzling example of multi-tasking makes eating a bowl of cereal on-screen seem like nothing (but don’t eat cereal on-screen during a virtual meeting). Now that many of us have a few months of remote work under our belts (or elastic waistbands), let us revisit some pointers on what to do — and what to absolutely not do — during a virtual meeting.
Eliminate Background Noise
The first key to this one is to stay MUTED throughout the entire meeting unless you are speaking. Some meeting organizers will mute all attendees by default when they enter the meeting, but if you see that your microphone button is not crossed out or red, make it so before the meeting kicks off. Things like a running dishwasher, outside traffic, or wind (if you’re on a porch) can be distracting to others.
SB TECH TIP: If you want to speak briefly or thank someone for a comment, you can hold down the space bar while you’re talking, and then release it to mute again — almost like a walkie-talkie.
Turn Off Notifications
If you plan to be unmuted at any point during a virtual meeting, it’s imperative you turn off audible notifications from other pieces of your cyber world. These dings can come from your cell phone, but the most common ones come from your computer: a new email, text, Slack, Google Chat, etc. I have been on countless meetings and listened to renowned podcasts during which a shrill email alert punctuates the speaker’s dialogue. Most of us are guilty of this one, but it can distract others and detract from the point you’re trying to make while speaking.
SB TECH TIP: It takes a few steps to go into your computer or phone settings to remove the audible email notifications, but it’s a must! Instead of audible notifications, create a desktop alert that unfolds on the top right corner without a noise. Here’s how to turn off email notifications on a Mac — both for the mail application as well as for using Gmail in a browser. (PC users, here’s how to turn off notifications in Windows 10.)
MAIL APP NOTIFICATIONS:
IN-BROWSER EMAIL NOTIFICATIONS:
Position and Lighting are Key
Make sure your teammates can see you properly and that your visage is well-lit. Too close is a little too personal, and too far away is also a little too personal. Try to clear the space behind you to avoid showing distracting clutter. To make the best impression, dress appropriately for your group. You don’t have to go full in-office dress code to look presentable and professional.
SB TECH TIP: You might have seen others employ one of Zoom’s virtual backgrounds (if you’re using Zoom). It’s basically a green screen that will put an image behind you. You can also upload your own image — I found many simple, clean ones via a quick Google search. Just make sure the scene you choose won’t distract your team members even more. We’re looking at you, people with beach resort backgrounds.
Be Wary of Screen-Sharing
If you plan to share your screen or present via your computer, ensure that other tabs you don’t need are closed. No one needs to see the weird facts you’re Googling or the things you’re shopping for on Amazon.
SB TECH TIP: If you want attendees to pull something up on their screens, but you don’t necessarily want to share yours, use the chat function to quickly send links to the group.
Stay Still and Focused
Unless your team is okay with it, leave kids and pets in the other room and tell others in your house when you will be on the call so they know not to interrupt. In a board room meeting, you wouldn’t check your phone at the table, make a few trips to the fridge, or pace around the room. Try to stay still, present and focused on the screen where you can see others’ smiling faces, reactions and gestures. We need more than just voices during this time apart.
SB TECH TIP: If you do need to get up and move around for some reason, simply turn off your video while you do so, and turn it back on when you are back at your space.
Enjoy your virtual, faux pas-free meetings!
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