Most of us didn't plan to spend the first half of 2020 in online meetings from the comfort of our kitchen/bedroom/home office. However, circumstances have meant that many of us now do; some have taken to this style of meeting like a duck to water, but in case you're one that hasn't quite mastered the art of the Zoom meeting, I'd like to share some tips and tricks I've learnt from being on far too many!
I have been a member of a Not For Profit Board for a few years. The members of this board meet face-to-face only once or twice a year and for all other board meetings, we connect online.
The first time I did a meeting online was terrifying! I'm not very tech savvy and had never done a meeting online before - the learning curve was steep because I was also the chairman of the meetings. I quickly learned that there are a few basic do's and don'ts to an online meeting, so that the meeting starts and ends on time, everyone has their say and distractions are limited.
This isn't professional advice, there is plenty of online advice on the technology and tools you can use to enhance the online meeting experience - these are just simple things born from experience, that might be useful:
When join a meeting, make sure you alert the facilitator and your colleagues that you're there. If you don't want to interrupt, you can send a message via the chat box option to say hello - the icon is usually available at the bottom of the meeting screen and can be sent as private or whole group messages. It just seems polite to say G'day.
Lights, Camera, Action
Have good lighting on your face that doesn't change during the meeting. Its nice to have sunshine in your room, but natural light doesn't always work for online meetings. I was on a meeting the other day and my colleague was using natural lighting and the sun kept going behind clouds, putting her face in alternating shadow and light. It was very distracting, a bit like strobe lighting. Same with a face in constant shadow - one of the reasons we're doing online meetings is so we can see each other, so let's make sure we can.
Screen cameras are set at a 90 degree angle and fixed at a level which may not be the most flattering. You can experiment before the meeting to set the computer at a level that is good, i.e. your face not too far from or close to the screen and not at a level that highlights your double chins or nasal hair. If you want to get fancy, there are USB cameras that can be fitted externally to your computer that are more adept at finding your 'best' angle or you can simply use some books to lift your laptop up.
Limit the amount of 'activity' around you. Because you're working from home, it's inevitable that while you're in a meeting, the dog/kid/better half is going to drop in as well. Try to limit these interruptions by putting an "I'm in a meeting" sign on your office door, with the times of the meeting clearly advertised. If you can, create a dedicated space for meetings: one with a door, preferably lockable.
It is also a good idea to check your background - the part of your room that others will see. Make sure the background is tidy, as impersonal as can be and doesn't have anything on the wall that you wouldn't want your boss to see or read. I recently had a meeting with someone who had a mirror behind them, this was very entertaining, as the mirror reflected everything that was going on through the window my meeting partner was facing, as well as giving us an almost complete view of the room. The street view was a bit boring (everyone's at home) but his bookshelf was great! Does anyone else find themselves checking out the books in other people's shelves during meetings?
This is a great list of tools to make meetings more 'professional'.
Forkliftaction team meeting
Learn where the mute button is ASAP and use it! It's usually in the bottom left-hand corner and turns red when muted/green when off-mute. The icon is usually a little microphone. It's also a good idea to use a headset/earphones. Noise from speakers all trying to speak at the same time can be managed by having someone in the meeting act as a facilitator, ensuring everyone has a say, one at a time. Alternatively, you can use the chat box or the 'raise your hand" option to ask a question or make a comment without interrupting the flow of the meeting. Finally, don't eat in a meeting - very bad form unless it's the regular Friday night online pub quiz you're having with your mates - then we all want to know how good the Thai takeaway is!
Closing the meeting
Sometimes we get stuck in our meetings. Online meetings can be very intense periods of concentration, so try and limit duration of the meeting; one to two hours is usually the limit and don't have too many in one day. Make sure you set a finish-time for the meeting and stay firm to it. Have a few minutes at the beginning of a meeting rather than the end for chit-chat - that way you have the excuse to cut off the chat, to start the meeting. It's also polite to thank everyone for coming and say to good-bye.
For non-professional excuses to end a meeting, this is a fun read
Here are is a rundown
on some of the online meeting options currently available and a quick and easy tutorial on using the Zoom meeting platform
Join this week's Kitchen Table Mingle forum
In our Kitchen Table Mingle discussion this week we'd like to know 'what personal tips or hacks have you discovered for virtual meetings'. Head over to the forums to participate
(perhaps your tips can help out other Forkliftaction members going through the same learning curve).
Something to keep the kids busy while you are in your next virtual meeting
Participating in virtual meetings with kids in the house can be a challenge to say the least.
We've put together a fun (and free) little activity book for our littlest forklift lovers to help keep them busy (and hopefully teach them something about materials handling along the way). You can download it for free here.