Yes, we may have faced a lockdown, however, perhaps we can look at the positive and consider the opportunity which has risen. The world has been catapulted into ‘the way of the future’. The corporate world will never be the same, with ‘working from home’ or remote offices being the reality that we are all faced with.
Organisations have realised that jobs which were once considered to be strictly office-based, are now being done remotely. Having been forced to now operate off-site, many companies are finding that these jobs are not only being done, but also being managed and executed well.
What may have started off as a forced hand, may in fact be a great step for the corporate world to take, which may further reduce some basic costs which organisations face, such as rent.
As such, while virtual meetings may not completely replace face-to-face interactions, establishing good virtual meeting or video conferencing platforms and etiquette is essential in the effort to adapt to the changing environment, allowing us to possess a great tool in our arsenal going forward.
Establishing a certain level of ‘video-conferencing decorum’ is not only beneficial for internal communication, but also becomes crucial when managing client relationships.
Here are some essential tips for running a successful virtual meeting and keeping your valued clients smiling throughout:
Virtual Meeting Etiquette Tips
If you want to create the best and most professional virtual meeting possible, you must first consider the issues that all types of meetings struggle with:
- A lack of participant focus
- Disrespecting participants’ time
- A lack of understanding goals, assignments, and responsibilities
Virtual meetings are not immune to these meeting challenges so make sure you keep this in mind as you begin planning your virtual meeting to make your virtual meetings as valuable as can be.
Furthermore, the idea is to try and give the impression that you are meeting face-to-face, so do all that you can to allow for this. The following tips are suggested to allow you to best avoid these problems arising during your virtual interactions:
Respecting Other Participants
Avoid scheduling virtual meetings at the crack of dawn or late into the night- just because yourself or other participants may be working from home- allow time to wake up and ease into the day.
Often tech becomes the focus in a virtual meeting while it shouldn’t be. First and foremost, you want to make sure your business goal (for that meeting) is set and subsequently met. During the session, use an agenda, take breaks, and clearly outline next steps (including timing and accountabilities) after each section and at the end of the meeting.
Turn off your microphone in instances where you know there is noise in your background or there are other people around you- to avoid disturbing other participants when they are speaking. In general, be cognisant of the sounds or noises around you- at times, especially when using headphones, we may not realise that the other participants are able to hear what’s going on in our direct environment.
Minimise presentation length
The only thing worse than a long presentation in person is a long presentation during a virtual meeting. Meetings should be discussions. Background information should be provided beforehand. If someone needs to present, use screen sharing to guide the conversation, so attendees can literally “be on the same page.” But prioritise conversation to maximize the time people are looking at each other.
Create A Professional ‘Remote’ Office
Work from a quiet, well-lit room
Be sure to have a dedicated workspace while working from home which looks somewhat neutral, with not too objects around or behind you that may pose as a distraction to yourself or others during the meeting. This will help you not only stay focused but allows the people around you to know when you are working and respect the boundaries- especially during times like these (lockdown) where the whole family may be working from home. Be sure to work in a well-lit room so that, when logging in for your virtual meeting, your colleagues or clients are able to see you.
Use a laptop where possible (Not a phone)
Believe it or not, many people opt to do conference calls via their smartphones because the apps tend to be very convenient to use, however, when signing in to a video conference, it is preferred that you use your laptop or desktop computer to make the call, which allows you to easily take notes and have a stable image, which is nearly impossible if you’re holding your phone or trying to balance it on your desk. It also allows for a more professional appearance
Ensure Technical Setup Is Sound
Test the technology ahead of time
While you can’t completely avoid technical issues from occurring, you can reduce the likelihood of technical surprises by taking the time to test your web conferencing application well in advance of your virtual meeting or interview. Upon first use, many programs like Microsoft Teams, Whereby, or Zoom need you to explicitly grant screen sharing, audio access, and webcam permissions to the programs that involve restarting the program and/or your system. You’ll want to do in advance.
Raise your webcam to eye-level
We’ve all been on calls where you’re looking up the nose of the person on the other end, which can be rather off-putting (and even menacing). Ensure your webcam is at eye level so your image will look more natural, as if you were both sitting across from each other at the same table. Furthermore, look at the camera when speaking. While looking at someone’s image is perfectly natural (what we do in person), looking instead at your camera will make it seem like you’re looking directly at them, which creates a stronger connection. While subtle, it feels different.
Use a good microphone
Research has found that in the vast majority of cases, external microphones sound better than built-in computer microphones. If you don’t want to invest into an external desk mic, even just switching to the earphones that comes with your phone will create a more intimate, conversational sound profile.
Make “Virtual” Meetings Feel Real
Dress the part
If you’re on an audio-only call, you may feel at liberty to just leave your pyjamas and fuzzy slippers on. However, it is recommended that you dress as you would if you were meeting the other participant(s) in person.
As tempting as it may be to respond to emails or browse through your Instagram feed while on a virtual meeting (no one will notice, right??), avoid doing it. Even if you’re a master multitasker, anything you do that isn’t related to the meeting itself will prevent you from fully participating and absorbing the content or giving your client the attention that they require. It is understandable that being fully present in every single meeting is tough. However, you should force yourself to give the other participants your full attention, as you would if in a live meeting.
With the swift and rather unexpected ‘move to the virtual world’, maintaining relationships through the use of the tech-tools that we have at our disposal is key. When handled well and in a professional manner, the shift can be exciting rather than intimidating, and may offer up opportunities that may have been previously overlooked. Furthermore, making use of security tips regarding your virtual meeting rooms, such as making use of passwords to enter a meeting or locking the meeting after all intended participants have joined, you can have peace of mind that the interactions do not infringe on any POPIA guidelines. We can therefore work our way forward to meaningful and more authentic virtual interactions.