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Virtual Meetings & the Rise of Zoom

An illustration of the beloved superhero Captain Zoom, on a video conference call.

Posted on 07/15/2020 at 09:00 AM

 

How to Run a Virtual Meeting like a Superhero

Seven months ago, we lived in a very different world. Skype, Facetime, and Snapchat ruled the “virtual meeting” space and was typically used for social exchanges more than conducting business. If a virtual business meeting was required, it was typically conducted on serious platforms like Cisco WebEx.

Fast-forward to today, where a global pandemic has forced everyone to telecommute to keep their business afloat. We can’t really prepare for the second wave of COVID-19 when, according to Dr. Anthony Fauchi, “we’re still knee-deep in the first wave of this.”

Telecommuting is no longer the “new normal,” it’s normal.

Remote working poses some very unique challenges. Take having a simple face-to-face conversation, for example. Zoom, Skype, WebEx, Slack, Microsoft Teams, or 3CX. With virtual interviews, board meetings, events, consulting sessions, and more, it doesn’t matter what software you use- if you’re a working professional in 2020, odds are you’ve participated in or hosted a video conferencing event. If you’re new to, or unfamiliar with the process, running a virtual meeting can feel like a gargantuan task! Setting up a meeting agenda, making sure all the participants have the proper meeting room link, and what if your internet connection drops out? The very idea of hosting a meeting can be a recipe for anxiety for the unprepared.

For your convenience, this article is equipped with quick-links to allow you to jump directly to the content you need most. 

1. Technical Preperation 

2. Your Virtual Environment

3. Virtual Eye Contact

4. Nonverbal Communication

5. Time

6. Next Steps

Top Tips for Running a Successful Virtual Meeting

1. Prepare the Tech for Success

Having technical issues when it’s time to host the meeting can be a huge embarrassment. Before the meeting, make sure to test your audio, video quality, and double-check that the link to the meeting room will work. If you are unsure, ask a trusted colleague to join you in the meeting room ahead of time to test your connection, audio, screen sharing, and more so you can be sure that when the spotlight is on, you will be too!

Also, it is always best to use a laptop rather than a mobile device when host meetings as this will allow you to simultaneously monitor the meeting room chat, the nonverbal queues of other participants, and screen share your presentation. It's also smart to record the meeting so that you can send the session to participants later.

Global Reach Team Zoom Meeting

2. Mind your Environment

Most video conferencing platforms will allow you to see a preview of how your video feed will look. Reducing “visual noise” will help keep participants focused on you and what you are trying to say. It will also make you look more professional and leave a better overall impression. Here are a few tricks to give the best impression:

  • Take a few moments before the meeting to make your lighting work in your favor.

    • Your light source should be in front of you but behind your laptop. Lighting from behind you can make you look darker than you want, making it difficult for participants to read your visual queues.

    • It’s best to have a window or other natural light source behind your computer, not you.

  • Clear clutter from behind you to minimize potential visual distractions. A bookshelf or blank wall is better than clutter that draws attention away from you, the presenter. Minimizing your background environment is a great way to draw focus to your eyes (more on this later).

  • Remove anything that may be cluttering your desk. Less visual distractions in your field of view can provide you with a better chance to stay focused on the conversations at hand.

  • Make sure you are in a quiet space or one with soft, neutral background noise to avoid auditory distractions.

3. Virtual Eye Contact: Practice Focusing on your Camera

It is human nature to want to look at the person speaking to you. Unfortunately, the way to do this in a virtual meeting is to stare at that cold, black, dot on the top of your screen. Paying attention to your camera rather than the speaker will feel unnatural at first, it may even feel rude. You wouldn’t avoid eye contact in a live team meeting, why would you do it here?

Looking deep into the camera is the video conferencing equivalent of eye-contact. If you can manage to keep your eyes on the camera, you’ll find that you also keep the attention of your attendees (because, oddly enough, they won’t want to “break eye contact”)!

graphic about how to organize a team remotely

4. Understand the Power of Body Language

Body language and nonverbal behaviors are some of the strongest forms of nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication goes far beyond what is being said. Understanding what is being said by one’s own body language and the body language of others is a cornerstone of successful communication. This is especially true in virtual meetings.

Here are a few easy ways to make sure your nonverbal communication is sending the same message as your verbal communication:

  • By taking into consideration how you frame yourself in the camera, you ensure that your body language exudes confidence and control of the situation. It simulates the close proximity that is missing from one-on-one communication. This kind of "intimate connection" usually only happens face-to-face and makes it easier to “maintain eye contact”.

  • Be aware of your facial expressions: Smiles go a long way to remind your participants that you are a friendly and trustworthy person. Other nonverbal queues include nodding to let others them know you are actively listening and engaged, and biting your lip, which tells the speaker that you are literally holding back something you wish to say.

Reading the body language of others can often help you understand what they are not saying. Crossed arms may indicate that the person disagrees with you, a furrowed brow can mean they are contemplating what you have just said and may have a question, and turning away from the camera (to a phone or other screen) may mean that you have lost their attention.

Another great insight can come in the form of hand gestures. People who “talk with their hands” usually do so to illustrate their point further. If team members are talking with their hands, they may be really invested in the message they’re trying to get across.

5. Be Mindful of Time, and Lag

Your time is valuable, as is the time of the other participants. If your meeting is scheduled for an hour, make sure that you can try to wrap things up within that time. If it becomes necessary to continue, offer to reschedule the meeting to conclude at a later point if possible.

As far as stronger communication, be mindful of how long you are speaking and how often you speak. Remember to be sure to pause occasionally, even when giving a presentation, to address questions, comments, or concerns of others. If you don’t include or encourage the participation of others, you might as well be talking to yourself.

Take care not to interrupt others when possible. When you interrupt someone, you are telling them that what they have to say does not matter to you. Your reputation and the impression others hold of you will suffer. Keep in mind that technology may cause lag, so if you notice this, adjust your speech patterns accordingly to accommodate.

Illustration of a teleconference

 What’s Next?

After your meeting is concluded, it’s a great best practice to send a re-cap email to participants thanking them for their time, reminding them of action items (both yours and theirs), and next steps. If you have recorded the meeting, offer to send the recording to the participants for their reference. This will help them review the finer points in the video conference and help other remote workers to recall the goals of the meeting.

If you need help planning your next steps in business management, the team at Global Reach is here for you! Contact us today for a free consultation!

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