I am based in Denmark, and, like most of you, almost all of my meetings are on-line. We have had to become TV actors in a very short period of time without the benefit of scriptwriters, makeup artists, camera operators, boom operators, sound engineers, producers, or directors.
It’ll be a while till Covid is over, and even then, the virtual meeting will remain a prevalent part of our business life. So, it’s time to plan for the long haul and start building some good or better practices. I have gathered a few thoughts based on my observations to help you get the most out of your virtual meetings.
1. Test technology Ahead of Time
This seems like no brainer, but trust me, I have attended many virtual meetings where technology did not work. So, take at least 10-15 min before the meeting to ensure everything is working – especially if you are using a meeting app that you have never used before. If you are running the meeting, make sure you know how to use all the features – most apps now come with LOADS of guidance and helpful information and videos.
2. Think About Your Environment
Think about the setting that you are in. Especially when you are delivering an online presentation really think about your background. You do not want anything too distracting. You want something that looks professional. You can always use a backdrop or soft-wall - they are not that expensive. I also suggest investing in a stand that you can put your backdrop on. We have seen very few virtual backgrounds that don't create more distraction than they are trying to avoid.
3. Lighting is Everything
Lighting is everything when it comes to virtual meetings. Ensure that you have even lighting that is coming from in front of you. If you are sitting in a dark room, you may need to have the lights on. Better yet, make sure you have natural light. If you do have the opportunity, face the window, so the natural light is on you. I have seen some people having their backs to the window, which means all the natural light is now behind them, which creates a huge shadow.
4. But sound is more
While people can tolerate a less than perfect picture for quite a while, poor quality sound very quickly causes attention and engagement issues. So, use good quality microphones (often the microphone in a laptop is the better option), check sound and gain levels – and avoid background noise.
5. Positioning of the Camera
Make sure your camera is at or slightly above your eye level so you are looking directly into the camera, which would mean that you are looking eye-to-eye to the person you are meeting with, and be sure to look into the camera at all times. Remember that while you may only have thumbnail images on your screen, the other person may have you on a giant hi-def screen with a dozen people watching.
6. Use Icebreakers
With virtual meetings, you already have the disadvantage of being far apart from everyone, and you are only connected through video. With IRL meetings, everyone has the ability to chit chat before the meeting starts. You don’t have that same opportunity in a virtual environment. I highly recommend interjecting some ice-breaker conversation to get everyone connected and together. This will reduce the distance between the participants.
It is amazing how quickly everybody has adapted to this new virtual world. And with a little effort, we can make our on-line meetings more enjoyable and more effective.
If you have other ideas on how to improve – will you share it with us?
Jelena in Denmark