The Coronavirus and resulting global crisis have completely changed the way we work and live. Work, free time, hobbies, time with our children and parents have all become confined to four walls where most of us spend every single moment of the day. This changing reality forces new rules on our daily routine, including how we continue working effectively. Luckily for us, these are not the times of cholera or the Spanish flu that took millions of lives and forced people into isolation. Technology today enables us to satisfy the basic need of communication between people. Applications like Teams, Zoom, WebEx and others have become extremely popular, leading to an increase in the number of users, share value and network congestion.
Here are some golden rules and several tips to manage meetings via computer devices optimally:
# 1 – Work environment
- Set up a convenient environment where you can make and receive calls. It must be free of noise and disturbance. Remember that you are letting others (work colleagues, managers, vendors) into your private space. Do you want others to see a picture of the Crying Boy on your wall?
- Office equipment – many workplaces allow employees to take home office equipment like chairs, computer screens and/or keyboards. These are essential for a convenient, comfortable work environment that will keep you healthy and backpain free. This is also a great opportunity to borrow quality earphones from your kids so you can ‘disconnect’ from the noise outside and concentrate on what you’re doing.
# 2 – Scheduling meetings
- When you schedule a meeting, make sure to write a clear subject. In the body of the invitation, write what needs to be prepared (presentation, videos, etc.).
- Make sure to start and end the meeting on time. Many employees are also involved in home chores while working and plan their time accordingly. We’ve seen too many burnt lunches due to a meeting that extended beyond its scheduled time.
- Let your family know you’re going into a meeting. If you’re a stickler, you can put a ‘Silence, meeting in progress’ sign on the door. Set the home/work boundaries at home too.
# 3 – Managing the meeting
- In most cases, the first 3-5 minutes will be spent connecting to the meeting. You can schedule it to start five minutes before the ‘official’ start time, letting participants know that you plan to start on time.
- Not everybody will be able to connect smoothly. Either the camera is not working, or the microphone is on mute. Welcome to the world of IT managers! Suggest how to solve the problems – these are simple technical glitches that can be resolved easily and help those that need help. If one or more participants still have issues, record the meeting and send it to them at the end.
- Schedule meetings up to 25 to 30 minutes. Time is valuable and there’s always background noise. You can (and in fact it is recommended to) schedule a virtual social meeting of your team to tell jokes about Coronavirus or share any other experience.
- Define the call’s guidelines. As a rule of thumb, when one person speaks, the others listen, preferably with the microphone in mute. Understand that some participants will not share video images. If they are paying attention, that’s perfectly fine.
- When you start the meeting, make sure to repeat its purpose and action items. This will help participants focus and get into a working mode.
- Allow open dialog and feel free to address participants directly. There are people who tend to ‘hide’ behind the screen or remain out of the frame. You don’t want to miss their input or make them feel they are not important. You invited them, so they have a contribution to make.
- Not everybody is an anchorperson. Managing an online meeting requires skills. You speak, present ideas, share a presentation, address people and absorb and listen to the information flowing. Before a meeting, appoint a person who will take the minutes. It can be one of the participants who can summarize the meeting online and then send the minutes to all participants.
So how can you become a videoconference rockstar?
- Before the meeting, look yourself in the mirror and take care of your appearance. Pajamas are nice but not for the workplace. Put some makeup on, arrange your hair. You will not only look better but will also transmit the message of ‘now it’s time to work’.
- Computer selfies are the trend nowadays. You have to look the part. Think you’re a film director. Where would you put the computer and camera? What is your best angle? (Hint: you’re not doing an Instagram selfie, so don’t try your fish gape pose.) Can people hear you? And if you don’t want people to think you’re Count Dracula, avoid low angles (they are creepy!). Check the lighting so that you don’t look pale or too tanned. And men, please, we’re not interested in your baldness – just sit straight in front of the computer and look into the camera. Not too close, not too far away.
- Food and drinks – keep them away. Laptop cemeteries are full of computers that suffered awful accidents. One wrong move of the hand and your keyboard is toast. Be careful.
- Filters – there are many apps out there for video filters, either to blur the background you don’t want to share or to be cool and create amazing art. While there is room for creativity and humor, everything has to be in the right dose. Did you ever run a meeting with the face of a hamster?
- Media, media and more media. We all have devices and media. Take advantage of all the web offers you – videos, pictures, text – to support and refresh your meeting. Now is as good a time as ever.