After You Introduce Yourself, Mute Yourself: A Realistic Guide to Virtual Meetings
Overwhelmed by too many tips for successful virtual meetings? This article provides six simple go-to items to keep handy to be an active, engaged participate at your next meeting.
Like me, I’m sure you have noticed the abundance of blog posts, news articles, and even books devoted to the new topic of “virtual communication.” It can be overwhelming. What really works in the day-to-day? Do I have to implement every new “tip” I find on the internet? What are the bare minimum things I can do to be an active, engaged participate? I’ve synthesized a list of six items from the dozens of virtual meetings (good, bad, and ugly) I’ve attended over the past six months. I hope they can help you prepare for your next virtual meeting.
1. Ensure you can use the technology
For many of us it has been nearly 6 months since work from home started, so not being able to navigate the basic functions of your company’s chosen virtual communication platform is no longer excusable. This may sound harsh, but we all know how to use email, telephones, fax machines, etc., so the basics of virtual platforms are now as essential. If you still find it challenging, login 10 minutes early to ensure the tech is ready to go. Remember, you don’t have be an IT savant, but you should know how to sign-on, use the mute button, use the webcam/video button, and the raise hand function.
2. Mute yourself
After you introduce yourself, mute yourself. This will cut down technical issues such as audio feedback and will be respectful to attendees. Let’s face it, we all don’t want to hear dogs barking, appliances running, or cars outside on the call (especially if you’re not the one talking).
3. Turn your webcam on
If the meeting must be virtual (i.e. not a standard conference call on a telephone), turn on your webcam. Although many of us are not fond of this, it really does work. It allows attendees to see the person talking and relate to the person through facial expressions and other non-verbal ques.
4. Evaluate your lighting and background
If you have a webcam on, take a moment ahead of time to really look at your video. What can people see behind you? Is it appropriate? How is your lighting? For me, virtual meetings made me realize how backlit my home office was. Light emanates behind me, which on a video call makes me look like I am in the dark (literally). If you can’t change locations, place a lamp to to your left or right to help brighten your video.
5. Watch your facial expressions
This one is hard to monitor, but it is critical. Everyone on the call can see your face and read your facial expressions. Poor lighting or a low-quality webcam can distort more subtle facial movements, but overall, others can see when you aren’t engaged. They can see your eyes shifting working on email or glazing over as someone else speaks. Remember, although you are not physically together you aren’t in a bubble. Others can interpret (or misinterpret) your facial expressions.
6. Review the agenda ahead of time
Being prepared isn’t just for virtual meetings but I thought I would make #6 a reminder. You don’t want to be that person when asked “What do you think about xyz topic?” but you stutter and say “Umm, I’ll get back to you,” or worse, start to scroll through the agenda while everyone is watching you.
Authored by Carolyn Ann Mazzella, Financial Research Administrator
University of Pittsburgh