The further digitization of labor has made online meetings more prevalent than ever before. After all, it allows people to meet, communicate, and collaborate regardless of their distance from each other.
Conducting virtual meetings is quite different from physical ones, though. And as our personal and professional lives’ boundaries continue to blur, there are bound to be a lot of awkward situations just waiting to occur whenever you hold online meetings at home.
Fortunately, there are ways to make these virtual conferences run more smoothly. In this article, we will share with you the ground rules that you can keep in mind the next time you have a session.
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1. Get Familiar with Your Tools in Advance
Here’s a step that a lot of people commonly forget to do. It’s not surprising, given that most of us don’t really have to get familiar with anything in physical meetings. We just have to show up. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in online meetings.
Learning about how to navigate the most popular platforms alone can be confusing enough already. At the very least, you should know how to mute your microphone and turn off your camera.
Finally, don’t forget to consider other types of software or programs that your company requires. For instance, we expect our sales team to log into our CRM first before our online conferences start, just to make sure that we are all on the same page.
2. Find the Best Location
Not everyone has an office for their work-from-home setup. For many of us, “home office” means a corner of the dining table or the foot of the bed. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make an effort to find a more suitable spot.
Ideally, it should be a quiet room with good lighting. Don’t forget to consider your internet connection as well. Having a professional-looking backdrop is preferable. Bookcases are your best bet, but a blank white wall will do.
Lastly, plus points if you can keep it locked during your online meeting. If not, then you’ll just have to inform your family in advance. This way, no one will just accidentally walk in looking indecent.
3. Prepare for the Meeting
Don’t just enter an online meeting without fully testing your setup, from the height of your camera to the quality of your audio. Fortunately, most video conferencing apps like Zoom and Skype have features that allow you to test your video and microphone quality.
4. Dress for the Occasion
It’s surprising how a lot of people still think that it’s okay to skip wearing a decent bottom for an online meeting despite the fact that there are probably thousands of these embarrassing videos of online conferences gone wrong showing people without any pants. Fortunately, it’s easy to prevent this from happening to you. Just dress up the same way you would for an actual meeting.
5. Remember to Mute by Default
Regardless of whether you’re just talking to another colleague or you’re meeting with the whole team, it is always a good idea to mute by default. One must only unmute their mic when it is their turn to speak unless, of course, it has been required by the meeting host.
You can place a little note on your desk as a reminder if you find yourself constantly forgetting this step.
6. Resist the Urge to Type
Even taking down notes can be considered impolite. Keep in mind that it’s more challenging to get an idea across during an online conference when you’re not even sure if the people you’re talking to are actually listening. For all the speaker knows, you’ve muted him already. Hence, the best way to express that they have your full, undivided attention, is to simply be mentally present and look straight at the camera.
Here’s a pro tip: There are programs that allow you to automatically record and transcribe online conversations now. You can simply read these transcriptions on your own time.
7. Speak to the Camera
It’s normal to look at your screen when someone else is talking, but try to look straight at the camera whenever it’s your turn to talk. Otherwise, it would seem that you’re not addressing anyone at all.
8. Always Wait a Second before Speaking
It is typical for online meetings to experience some lag, so it can take a beat for people to react or respond to a statement. Thus, it would be wise to wait for at least a second of silence before speaking just to make sure that you won’t interrupt anybody.
9. Avoid Sudden Movements
Speaking of the lag time, a lot of web cameras are not equipped to capture quick physical movements. This is the reason why moving around will make you look blurry or laggy to the others who are in the session. This leads us to the next rule.
10. Make Yourself Comfortable
Sit in a comfortable chair. Have a glass of water handy. Keep your thermostat at a pleasant range. Do everything you can to minimize the need to stand up during the meeting. Just don’t make yourself cozy enough to feel drowsy, especially if you expect a long meeting ahead.
To Sum Up
We get it; online conferences can be quite confusing at times. It’s easy to feel lax when you’re in the comforts of your home, but you also need to maintain the same level of professionalism as you would in an actual meeting.
There are also a lot of things that can happen – a child suddenly throwing a tantrum, a pet randomly deciding to make a camera appearance or a family member accidentally walking in a while looking inappropriate. These don’t even include the spectrum of potential technical difficulties yet.
More importantly, though, you need to remember that just like any other type of conference, an online meeting has its own set of etiquette and ground rules that you should follow. Keeping the tips that we have shared with you in mind won’t just help you prevent the issues we have just mentioned, but it will also make you look more professional as well.