Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and likely for well after, virtual meetings are here to stay. Although they have some disadvantages to in-person meetings, they can be a great way to get people together over long distances and at a moment’s notice. Love them or hate them, we’ve got some tips to help virtual conferences and meetings work for you.
Remote Meeting Best Practices
Have a trial run. If this is the first time you have hosted a virtual meeting, do a run-through with a coworker. Practice sharing your screen if you will be using visual aids or showing anything on your computer and be sure that you know how to use all the relevant conferencing functions like adding new attendees, muting, creating breakout rooms and anything else you might need to use.
Check your screen. Whether you intend to share your screen or not, accidents happen, and you don’t want to have any sensitive information showing on your screen that could be embarrassing, unprofessional or private. It’s best to close out everything and only have the documents open that you absolutely need. If there is anything you want to be able to refer to but don’t want anyone else to see, you could print it out or have it on a tablet next to you.
Choose your software wisely. This choice may already be made for you if you have an organizational account for video conferencing software. But if not, and if you don’t have a specific preference, you might poll your attendees and see what they prefer to use. You can make things easier for yourself and your members if you choose something with which they are already familiar and comfortable.
Be aware of the time. If you are not paying for a more “pro” version of video conferencing software, your time or the number of attendees you are allowed may be limited. You don’t want to suddenly have the video cut out after 40 minutes because that is all the time you are allowed with the free version. Be sure you understand the rules and limitations ahead of time.
Mute everyone to start. You may want to allow everyone to say hello and make a bit of chit-chat, but once the meeting begins, unless you are only hosting a few people, it is best to mute everyone aside from the person speaking, especially if you are hosting a large meeting or virtual conference. If you don’t, every time a dog barks or a phone rings at a listener’s location, the focus will jump to them and the speaker’s voice will be cutting in and out. Don’t count on the attendees to do this themselves, the moderator of the event should have the capability to mute and unmute people. Feel free to use it.
Discourage cute backgrounds and filters. Some people like to choose a virtual background that makes it appear like they are sitting on a beach or in outer space. These backgrounds can be a drain on resources and may cause connection slowdowns. You can request that people not use these.
Check your lighting. Choose a location where there will be light on your face. Light coming from behind you will make you look like you are in darkness, and light from the side will create strange shadows on your face.
Be aware of the delay. There isn’t a video conferencing software yet that has been able to eliminate the delay between when a person speaks and when the users hear their words. There is always going to be some lag time, so be sure to leave a few moments after saying something or listening to a question to be sure that the other person is finished and that you aren’t talking over each other. Definitely don’t try to sing together or do anything in unison, it will be a mess.
Ask people to post questions in the chat. Once of the nice functions of video conferencing software is that the users usually have the ability to type something into the chat function to pose a question without interrupting the flow of the meeting. Because you have (hopefully) muted everyone, this is an easy way to ensure that questions still get answered and if there is anyone who’d like to chime in on a topic, they can let you know.
Assign someone to facilitate. If you are going to be the main speaker at the meeting, you don’t have time to be allowing latecomers into the meeting, troubleshooting technical issues for attendees, monitoring the chat questions and so on. This is a great job for someone tech-savvy to help feed you relevant questions and keep the meeting running smoothly.
Provide a contact phone number. Sometimes despite all the best planning and preparation, technical issues still occur and an attendee can’t get into the meeting, gets bumped out somehow or is encountering other difficulties. Your facilitator should be reachable by phone to help work through any technical issues with invited members who are having problems.
Protect your meeting with a password. You’ve probably heard a few horror stories about virtual meetings gone awry due to “Zoom Bombers” who hack into live video meetings and wreak havoc. One of the most basic things you can do to avoid this is to create a password for your meeting. This article has some more tips to avoid having your meeting crashed by hackers.
Virtual meetings look like they are going to continue to be a big part of our future work life. We might as well embrace the benefits that video conferencing affords. Contact us at J&M Business Solutions for assistance with teleconferencing, video conferencing and webinars for your organization and much more.