As great as working from home is, it does unfortunately present new challenges in terms of finding new ways to communicate with both colleagues and clients. Fortunately, there are plenty of options available for remote communication, and applications such as Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams are currently the most popular. While video conference calls aren’t exactly ground-breaking new technology, most people have likely not had too much experience with them, especially if you are used to working in an office space. A lack of communication is a definite potential issue, as is the opposite, a new phenomenon called Zoom fatigue that is caused by people spending too long in unnecessary Zoom meetings. In order to avoid both of these potential drawbacks, below we have included a few tips on how to get the most out of your virtual meeting without pushing your team and clients too far.
Similarly to how most offices will have a code of conduct of how to act when on the premises, a short list of guidelines is an extremely useful tool to keep people on track and to minimize distractions and potential issues. Since most, if not all, of your meeting attendees, will likely be at home, the chance of them acting unprofessionally is far greater simply because they are in the comfort of their own space. A few guidelines sent out prior to the meeting will go a long way in reminding people that they are still at work and should behave as such.
It is important to remember, however, that while guidelines are a good idea, try not to make them too strict or you may find that all your meetings start with a negative attitude.
Make sure attendees test their setup in advance
In the past when many of us have had to attend virtual meetings, it’s been in a conference room in our office, probably communicating with a room of co-workers in another office somewhere in the country or around the world. The main difference between then and now is that you likely had a dedicated IT team to set the room up for you and to ensure that everything was working properly well in advance. Since you are now on your own at home, this responsibility falls to you and each individual member must make sure their setup is functioning as expected. Be sure to remind them of this fact beforehand so they have time to test each aspect of their setup, the essentials that need to be working well are an internet connection, a microphone, and a camera.
In the same vein as testing the setup, another thing to look out for is whether or not there are distractions in your background. This can be anything from sensitive information, people walking around, or even just a messy house visible behind you. To avoid distractions as well as any potential embarrassment, Zoom virtual backgrounds are a great option to keep things professional and private without having to invest in a physical green screen. With plenty of options available, share this information with any other meeting attendees to help streamline the call and to maintain a professional appearance.
Make an agenda
While agendas may seem a little outdated, they are as important as a set of guidelines when it comes to keeping the overall meeting on track. Whether you want to have a time-sensitive agenda or not, it is a very good idea to have a basic outline of how you want the meeting to go.
Your agenda should include but is not limited to, factors such as the purpose of the meeting, the topics you wish to cover, and the overall goal you want to achieve by the end of it.
Keep interaction up
One of the biggest drawbacks of a virtual meeting is that, while face to face interactions can flow fairly easily thanks to body language and the members generally being more used to the setting, virtual meetings are much harder to keep feeling natural. Subtle hints conveyed in our body language will be missed and being at home in front of a computer screen can often cause people to shut down and remain quiet in situations that they would otherwise interject. To avoid this make sure that you have a dedicated member of the meeting constantly interacting with all the other attending members. This will help to keep everyone talking, will help to make people comfortable, and will let them know that they are still a valued voice in the meeting.
Don’t go too long
Finally, one of the most important things to remember when hosting a virtual meeting is to keep it as short as possible. Meetings are typically inherently boring by nature and when they are moved online, this problem is only exacerbated. To keep everyone focused and to avoid the dreaded ‘Zoom Fatigue’, try to keep all your virtual meetings under 30 minutes and no longer than 45 minutes. If you do have to go longer, make sure to take multiple breaks so that your participants can stay fresh.