By Tracey Dowdy
With most of us working from home thanks to COVID-19 protocols, chances are that at some point you too will be called into an online meeting. And by now, we’ve all heard horror – or hilarious depending on your perspective – stories of individuals participating in a video conference with coworkers. Whether it’s the boss who accidentally turned on the potato filter and couldn’t figure out how to remove it or the woman who forgot her camera was on and took her laptop to the bathroom with her (#PoorJennifer), video conferencing is fraught with more peril than a game of Jumanji.
Don’t despair my friend. Following these tips will ensure that your online meetings run as seamlessly as those in-person.
GET UP AND SET UP
- Make sure that you have a dedicated space with everything you need – files, documents, chargers, coffee – within reach.
- Set your camera up at eye level so it appears you’re looking at whoever is speaking. Make sure your face is well lit, and your whole face is visible.
- Let your family, roommates, whoever else may be at home with you know you’re in a meeting and unavailable unless it’s an emergency, just like when you were in your office to avoid a repeat of everyone’s favorite meeting crasher.
- Tidy up around you and make sure there’s nothing personal – photos, clothing, art, etc. in the background you don’t want on camera with you. Sit down, open your camera, and look at your background BEFORE the call starts.
- Pro tip: If you don’t have time to clean, consider a virtual background.
- Pro tip 2: If you’re going to be sharing your screen or sending screenshots, make sure you check what browser tabs are visible to avoid any potentially sensitive or private information being shared.
- Sweats and yoga pants are de rigueur these days, but if your office usually calls for something more – unless you’re told differently – get dressed for work, at least from the waist up.
- Don’t worry about makeup if you don’t usually wear it, but make sure whatever the dress code, your appearance reflects that you’re at work, not that you just rolled out of bed and are headed back as soon as the call ends.
- Pro-tip – try to avoid stripes as they can “dance” on camera, and black or white shirts may cause your iris to auto-adjust and make it hard to see your face.
HERE WE GO
- Get to the meeting a few minutes early to check your internet connection and that the link to the meeting is working for you.
- Watch your audio, not only to make sure you can be heard but that they can’t hear everything that’s happening on your end. Mute your mic when you’re not speaking as any background noise can be distracting for others on the call.
- Remember, you are more visible in a virtual meeting than in-person because other participants will be staring at your face throughout the call. Try to look into the camera when you’re speaking, not at a particular person.
- If you need to step away for any reason, or if you need to look up something in another window, communicate that clearly so participants understand what’s happening and don’t think you’ve left the meeting.
- Knowing when to speak during a video conference can be tricky as some participants may have slight delays in their audio. Most meeting platforms have a “raise hand” feature, but if yours doesn’t, agree as a team what the cue will be.
- Speak clearly, no need to shout, and take notes if you miss your opportunity to respond so you can add your input an appropriate time.
- Pro tip – Stay off your phone and don’t eat – remember – everyone sees what you’re doing and they definitely don’t want to watch you chow down on that massive sandwich or cram a too-big forkful of salad in your mouth. You don’t want to be the next viral video.
- Pro tip 2 – If one of your coworkers does make an embarrassing faux pas, don’t post it without their consent. It’s unlikely #PoorJennifer agreed to have her mistake posted online. Put yourself in your co-worker’s position – if it’s not funny for everyone, it’s not funny and doesn’t need to be shared.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.