Video conferencing technology has been on the rise in recent years, but the COVID-19 pandemic escalated the timeline in which workers needed to get comfortable with remote work tools and technologies. This is not a natural skill set for many people, and the process of learning multiple video conferencing platforms and the associated etiquette and expectations can be very overwhelming. But while every virtual meeting and every platform have their own nuances, there are a few simple things that can help users thrive in any video conference they attend. Here’s a look at 11 of the most important:
Before the Meeting
- Schedule the meeting at a time when all participants can be uninterrupted, with no distractions. Some working parents may need to work around their kids’ online schooling, while other employees might be handling a barrage of incoming work emails. Make sure that the meeting is scheduled so that everyone can be fully present, in a quiet space, with their phones and computer notifications turned off.
- Select a professional, clean, and organized background that will not be inappropriate or distracting to other meeting attendees. Tidying up a home office or other neutral living space can create a calm background. Some employees may even have access to a green screen, which can be a great option. There are also a wide range of virtual backgrounds available, although those are not ideal if the participant needs to move around a lot, as the technology can glitch and be visually distracting.
- Make sure there is good lighting in the meeting space, so that no one is backlit and everyone’s faces are clearly visible on screen. As a rule of thumb, a participant’s face should be as bright as the background -- not in a shadow.
- Practice with the video platform before the meeting. Test the camera and audio functionality, arrange the camera so it’s at eye level, and practice screen sharing and presenting digital materials if that will be required during the meeting. Users should be confident on how to use the technology before they show up to the meeting.
During the Meeting
- It is best to a laptop or desktop computer to attend the video conference, as opposed to a cell phone; both the audio and visual quality will be better and more stable on a computer.
- Make sure to use a professional email and screen name for the meeting profile. Personal emails, inside jokes, and profanity are not appropriate in a professional setting, and can set a negative tone since they will be visible to everyone attending the meeting. Make a good impression with a clear, helpful screen name.
- Log in a few minutes early, to get organized and make sure there are no connectivity issues. Users should keep their microphones muted and cameras turned off while they get settled.
- Always look at the computer’s camera, not at the center of the screen -- this replicates the effect of making eye contact, rather than staring slightly lower than other attendees’ eyes.
- Avoid eating, chewing gum, or checking phones or other computer applications mid-meeting. These behaviors are distracting to other participants and can be seen as disrespectful. Focus on the meeting and be fully present.
After the Meeting
- Write down anything that went wrong during the meeting, as well as anything that worked perfectly. Use those notes to prep for the next meeting and troubleshoot any challenges, while drawing confidence from the things that went well.
- Consider a quick follow-up call to the meeting organizer or another attendee if technical difficulties made the meeting challenging to follow. Anyone who had trouble accessing all of the information conveyed at the meeting can stay up to date, and they can also troubleshoot any challenges they had with someone more familiar with that technology.
The most important thing virtual conference attendees can do is remember that for many, these technologies and the concept of virtual meetings in general are new professional challenges. Practice patience and understanding when there are difficulties, and understand that everyone is doing their best to navigate the “new normal” of remote work.