Many of us are transitioning towards a remote work environment. This means our meetings are no longer in person and we’re using digital platforms to discuss ideas. We’ve put together a list of things you should (and shouldn’t) do during your virtual conference calls to help you stay focused, productive, and professional.
DO: Give Notice
Try to let all participants know when to expect a meeting, or that they will be receiving an invitation soon. This is not only polite, but it gives everyone a chance to check their schedules and make adjustments. You can avoid repetitious meetings or constant rescheduling by making sure everyone has the availability first. Send out virtual invitations if possible to let everyone know the designated time and date. Depending on which platform you’re using, you may even be able to share a link to the meeting beforehand.
DO: Set The “Place”
Let everyone know “where” to meet. This means you should be designating the platform you all are going to use. Some popular platforms include Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype, or Slack. Most everyone on your team should be using the same platform already. However, specifically naming the platform can give everyone a chance to update their applications or install the software in case they’re using a different computer to work remotely. This can also give your team the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the technology ahead of time if they’ve never used it before.
DO: Provide a Topic
Try your best to let your team know why there’s going to be a virtual meeting and what is going to be discussed. This will give everyone more time to mentally prepare and gather necessary materials that may be needed during the meeting. Impromptu meetings certainly aren’t ineffective, but the more time you can give your employees or coworkers time to prepare, the more meaningful your discussion will be. Providing a topic ahead of time also gives structure to the meeting which helps keep everyone on track and focused.
DO: Look Professional (At Least From The Waist Up)
Just because you’re aren’t at the office, doesn’t mean you aren’t at work! Working remotely has its benefits: no commute, more sleep, closer to last night’s leftovers in the fridge. However, it’s still business and it’s important to appear as professional as you would in the office or traditional work environment. You’re also more likely to look less presentable on camera than you would in person. You may need to adjust accordingly by paying attention to how your outfits, hair, makeup, etc. appear through the lens.
DO: Control What You Can
Traditional conference rooms are set up with little distractions and designed for focused discussion. When working remotely, you need to create a space like that in your home so you’re prepared for virtual meetings. This means you need to control everything that you reasonably can when it comes to your remote set-up. Do you have pets or children who can be picked up on your microphone? What is in the line of sight of your computer’s camera?
Minimize background noises and tidy up what other people will be able to see. Remember that your work computer and phone can be a source of distraction as well. Remember to mute your notifications sounds and silence your cell phone during a meeting. If you’re working from home and you have roommates, family members, etc. you can always have a sign or signal that you’re in a meeting so others don’t barge in.
DON’T: Eat Or Drink On Camera
Unless it’s absolutely necessary (i.e. your boss deemed this meeting as a working lunch), avoid eating and drinking on camera. Not only is it unprofessional, it’s something most people would avoid anyway during traditional meetings. Remember to save snack time for after the meeting.
DON’T: Bite Your Fingernails, Groom Yourself, Etc.
Just like a physical office, employees, employers, coworkers, etc. are expected to show up to work ready for work. This means that you still need to get all of your personal grooming and hygiene habits out of the way before the beginning of the day. At the very least, you should be avoiding these on camera during a virtual discussion.
DON’T: Forget You Can Be Seen And Heard
If you don’t mute your mic or turn off your camera, you’re still visible. Some of us tend to forget that we can be seen and heard through our computers when on a call. Try to be aware of yourself and your surroundings when communicating virtually because you can be a distraction to others, or do something you may regret later.
DON’T: Forget To End Or Leave The Call
In the same vein as pocket dialing, forgetting to end or leave a virtual conference call can make for some embarrassing moments. Most of us are unlikely to do or say anything wild. But there’s a chance your coworkers may be on the other side of the screen seeing you chew with your mouth open or talking to your grandmother. Be especially aware of this if you were screensharing during the meeting. By ending a call, you’re also signaling to all other participants that it’s time to act on whatever was just discussed.
DON’T: Interrupt Or Have An Unorganized Meeting
A good rule of thumb is to mimic your traditional meetings and come up with ground rules so people aren’t talking over one another. Because of the way that virtual calls are set up, it’s difficult to tell who the speaker is talking to because we’ve lost that spacial perspective. If you’re the speaker, try to say someone’s name before asking a question or sharing information. This gives them an auditory clue that they are being engaged and you can skip over the “are you talking to me?” questions.
DON’T: Avoid Eye Contact
Remember to pay attention to your screen and try to mimic traditional eye contact. For example, you can lower or raise your computer’s camera to it’s closer to your natural eye level. This method makes you appear as though you’re giving eye contact which signals to other participants that you’re engaged and actively paying attention.
DON’T: Be The Only Person Without Your Mic or Camera On
Another general rule of thumb is to make sure all participants are on the same page when it comes to mic and camera use. Everyone should be on camera (the ideal choice), or they should all be off camera. Test out the meeting platform ahead of time to adjust settings. Figure out how to mute your mic and turn your camera on and off ahead of time as well, as you’ll likely need to do both of these at some point.
Now you’re ready for the world of virtual meetings in the digital world. By following these guidelines, you should be more prepared for remote productivity.