By now you’ve probably seen some odd, distracting, or downright silly things happen in people’s backgrounds while in a virtual meeting: a cluttered or messy room, kids meandering in and grabbing snacks from the kitchen, or even someone’s pajama-clad partner walking in the room unexpectedly. While a certain amount of informality is understandable (and even welcome), meeting virtually does require some preparation and some new etiquette; it’s not just ‘turn on your laptop and you’re good to go’. In this virtual world, we have to consider how we appear and communicate, and what that means for our audience – ultimately, – how they perceive you, your brand, and the company you represent.
Here are some things to consider when preparing for a virtual meeting
1. Choosing Your Background
Be choosy about where you set up your laptop. The location you select should be something simple and free of distractions – ideally a neutral wall or a room without clutter.
Most video conference platforms offer the option of turning on a virtual background. While these are handy to have, be cognisant of your audience and who you are meeting with. For casual meetings, a virtual background may be acceptable, and it can add a bit of fun and personality to your meeting. But the wrong one can be distracting or unprofessional. Also, should you choose to turn on a virtual background, make sure your computer can handle it, as it is CPU (central processing unit) intensive and can affect your computer’s performance. The last thing you want is a background that doesn’t quite sync with your video and/or one that causes your video to freeze.
2. Setting Up Your Shot
Remember to check:
- The camera position – make sure you check the framing of your shot, so you are centred and at eye-level. Frame yourself from the chest up so that your face is the focal point of the screen.
- The lighting – make sure you’re in a well-lit room with the light source in front of you, not behind you. Also, check for glare that might be distracting (if you wear glasses).
- The audio – pay attention to how you sound and check to make sure you’re speaking clearly and at a reasonable pace. In a video meeting with many participants, keep in mind there may be a two to three-second delay for everyone’s systems to communicate with each other. Leave sufficient pauses before and after speaking or bring attention to yourself before addressing the group by signaling with your hand or using the video platform’s “raise hand” feature.
3. Conducting a Practice Run
To avoid technical difficulties, test out your setup ahead of time (with a friend or colleague) using the same video platform, internet connection, and laptop you’ll be using for your meeting.Test out the video platform’s tools/features to make sure they all perform as you intend them to.
- When you enter the meeting, always assume that your microphone is already live to other members of the meeting. This prevents any extraneous pre-meeting conversation from being broadcast when you might not intend it to.
- Maintain eye contact during the meeting by looking directly at the camera and the participants. Avoid looking at your image on the screen.
- Give your full attention to the participants, as you would if you were in the same room. Don’t be distracted by your phone, answering e-mails or texting.
Video meetings are an efficient means of communication and a great method for bringing people together. The key to a successful virtual meeting is to remember you are in a meeting. Don’t forget the courtesy you perfected in the ‘before times’ of face-to-face interactions. By taking in some of these considerations, you can ensure your next meeting runs smoothly, while representing both yourself and your company in the best light possible.
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