Ten Tips for Success with Online Meetings27 Mar, 2020 By: Lynn Allen
From simplifying your CAD environment to smiling, here are ten simple ways you can improve your online meeting experience when you’re working from home.
If it isn’t rough enough adjusting to working from home, now you need to deal with online meetings! Sure, you’ve had a few here and there in the past — but now your success with clients and coworkers practically depends on them. I recently taught a series of classes focused on mastering online meetings, and thought perhaps you could use a few insider tips to help you shine during this transition. Hang in there; we’ll get through this together!
Whether your company chooses to use Zoom (my favorite), GoToMeeting, Skype, or another application, these tips should come in handy for most any online meeting app. The goal here is to craft an online experience that’s as close to a face-to-face meeting as possible, thereby netting the best results.
Tip 1: Log on Early
Online meetings are notorious for having technical issues. (There, I said it!) Start off on the right foot by logging on at least three minutes early — or five, if you’re the meeting organizer. You can ensure you have time to load the app, if needed, and to check your speakers, microphone, and webcam (when applicable) before entering the meeting. (This also means you should try to avoid booking back-to-back online meetings.)
If you are the meeting organizer and you open the meeting early (which you should), don’t just sit there in silence; be a good host and make small talk. You wouldn’t ignore your coworkers and clients in a conference room before a meeting started — would you?
Tip 2: Select an Appropriate Location
Whether you’ll be on camera or not, you’ll want to choose a location conducive to success: Someplace quiet and free of distractions, with a strong Internet connection. Aim for good lighting and a professional-looking background free of clutter, if there is a chance you might find yourself on camera. It’s really as simple as turning around and looking at what is behind you! Some apps, including Zoom, allow you to customize your background — which certainly comes in handy if you don’t have a professional-looking location available. (Office in the bathtub, anybody?)
Are you the type that keeps a messy desk? Take the time to be sure that the area behind you is tidy, or use a custom background image instead. Image source: Tetiana Soares/stock.adobe.com.
If you find your Internet is dodgy, kill the camera first. If you are still in trouble, then call into the online meeting by phone to make sure you at least sound good.
Close the door and put an “On Air” sign on your door to avoid unnecessary disruptions; this is especially important now that the kids are home! (I also close the lower blinds so my dog can’t see outside, to prevent any extemporaneous barking episodes.) And not to worry if your kid, cat, or partner accidentally makes their way into your online meeting during these unusual times of isolation. I’ve found that everyone is much more tolerant right now — and it might just lighten everyone’s mood! Just don’t make that the goal.
Tip 3: Speak Concisely, Loudly, and Slowly
Online meetings can be tough on the quiet introvert, because you really need to speak up for the other participants to understand you. Enunciation is key (especially if you are not on camera), and fast talkers are doomed. Think of yourself as a news reporter as you are presenting: While that style of speaking may seem slow and uncomfortable to you, it will sound clear and intelligible to those in attendance. And always use a headset or microphone! Don’t get lazy and rely on your computer mic, or you risk sounding faint or garbled.
Tip 4: Say Your Name, Say Your Name!
If you are not on camera, please don’t expect people to magically know who you are by the sound of your voice when you start talking. If you are in a small online meeting (or conference call) with people who have known you for years, perhaps this will work, but don’t try it in any meeting with more than four people (or with anyone who is new). When you decide to speak up, a simple “This is (insert name here)” should do.
Even if you are on camera, it doesn’t hurt to identify yourself, because it will take people time to determine which of the little boxes on their screen is speaking. Those who are pros at online meetings will do a quick wave of the hand to indicate when they are speaking.
When there are many participants in an online meeting, a wave can help everyone quickly identify who is speaking. Image source: Pormezz/stock.adobe.com.
I’ve noticed that many of the online meeting apps are getting better at differentiating who is talking, and have various means of accentuating the speaker box, or even explicitly spelling out who is speaking. One accidental brush against a microphone, however, and the focus can be mistakenly transferred.