It’s been a year and it has changed since Zoom became a verb and we have all learned to use the cameras on our laptops. Meanwhile, books, websites, consulting firms, and everyone’s Aunt Edna have offered tips on how to behave in virtual meetings.
And thank god for that. Without the help of just about everyone, we might never have gotten this far, so quickly. Let’s take a moment and count our successes: we now know that we can run the school on virtual platforms, that choirs can rehearse without being in the same room, that medical appointments can be conducted at home, that services religious can be held without getting together, that families can share milestones around the world and, yes, that work can be done without being in the same building.
Even after recognizing the gaps in connectivity, equipment and digital literacy that still exist, one would have to say: this is incredible. People who may never have imagined hosting or even attending a virtual meeting know the technology as well as seasoned veterans.
And after? I have an idea: let’s move from familiarity to mastery. If virtual meetings are to stay in our lives – and it’s hard to argue otherwise – then it’s time to improve our game. At least, that is, in our professional life. Go ahead and let it all unfold in your weekly reunion with your friends or family. But when it comes to work, why not be the one who always looks prepared and professional?
Authors Karin Reed and Joseph Allen want to contribute to this goal. Their book, “Suddenly Virtual: Making remote meetings work” (Wiley 2021), covers virtual meetings in two areas of expertise. Reed (CEO, Speaker Dynamics) brings his background in teaching on-camera communication skills to professionals, while Allen (Professor of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, University of Utah) offers a more academic discussion of the science. meetings.
The result is a book that provides specific tips for using virtual media effectively while also providing the research behind what makes meetings work – and what not. After all, it’s not like meetings are so great when they only happen in person. It makes sense that a combination of good planning and execution is necessary, regardless of the format.
That said, when it comes to virtual meetings, the format is definitely part of the challenge. Here are three things I learned from Suddenly Virtual.
1. Turn on the camera. Well, isn’t it? It’s a video conference, after all. It turns out that a surprising number of participants keep the camera turned off during video sessions. The reasons are likely to range from personal (bad hair day) to professional (my personal history will distract from others), but the results can be unintentionally harmful to the “absent” participant.
For example, Allen cites instances where invisible workers became invisible to the meeting host, who no longer acknowledged their presence. Can this be something you can afford when you attend a community meeting, but your boss forgets that you exist? Not so smart.
2. Frame the photo. Now we all know how to remove dirty dishes and bottles of wine from the counter behind us. But what do you know about getting in the game? It’s good to have guidelines on the height of the ceiling (none) and where the camera should be pointed (at your eye level).
Reed also provides advice on lighting, audio, external and internal cameras, large-scale monitors, and other equipment issues that you might not have considered when you first started out. in this media a year ago.
3. Determine if the meeting is really necessary. Apparently, it will take more than a pandemic to kill “meeting creep” – the default concept that every problem needs a team to come together about it before anything can happen. Indeed, the flow of meetings could in fact feed on virtual processes. Without the logistical barriers of travel and, to some extent, time zone differences, people are “free” to meet remotely for any reason. But that doesn’t mean they should. Substituting emails or phone calls for certain topics will make remote and in-person meetings more meaningful.
However you improve your virtual meeting skills, now is the right time to make that commitment. I have a feeling we’re about to expect a higher level of professional presence from our remote workers, now that we’ve mostly learned how (and when) to use the mute button.
Amy Lindgren owns a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be contacted at [email protected]