The insider’s guide to great online meetings
With more people working from home recently, we want to help you have great online meetings.
If you’re deciding on whether to use video or just audio, we recommend video every time. It’ much easier to see and convey nuances on video. If the people you’re speaking to are people you want to build relationships with, then video is the way to go. There are many great resources including Google Hangouts, Zoom and WebEx.
Good lighting helps you have a good meeting. The other people in the meeting need to be able to see you. The best tip for this is to face the light source. When you’re lit from behind, it often creates a halo effect which makes it difficult to see you. Natural lighting is better than artificial lighting. If your meeting is during the daytime, position your computer and desk to face the window, so you’re bathed in natural light.
Dress for success
The adage to dress for success is true even for online meetings. Many people wear casual clothing such as trainers and tracksuit bottoms. You think you won’t be seen but if you move around people might see your trousers. Do you really want to risk it? Err on the side of caution and dress how you would in the office (typically a shirt and trousers). it will make you feel more professional.
Avoid shiny fabrics, or clothes with too much detail. They cause glare which can be distracting for other people on the call. Bold colours such as blue and green show up better than light colours.
You need good internet connection for video meetings, especially with clients. If you’re planning on working from home for a long time, upgrade your wifi. If it’s for the short term, perhaps consider getting a dongle.
You’ll look better on camera if you position your computer/web-cam at face level or higher. Try propping it up on a few books. Experiment ahead of your video call to see what height and angles are best.
Your computer audio picks up background noises such as cars passing by outside, or people talking in the background. Using headphones reduces background noise and makes the audio clearer and crisper. They will save you if there is an unexpected interruption or noise.
We all know that eye-contact is important in face to face meetings. But did you know it’s possible to make eye-contact on video calls? When you look into the camera it appears as though you’re looking into the other participants’ eyes. If you can’t look at the camera for the entire meeting, then look at it when you’re speaking and look at the screen when others are speaking.
One trick used by broadcasters is to sit up straight and sit forward, halfway in the chair rather than slouching or relaxing too much. This makes you look more businesslike and helps you control your voice better in meetings.
Decide who will chair the meeting, and who will take notes and send action items in advance. Organise an agenda and circulate it to the team. This gives people time to formulate their thoughts beforehand. Preparing in advance will ensure that the meeting runs smoothly and encourages people to speak up.
Make sure your workspace is clean and tidy. If you stash junk in one corner, you never know when you may inadvertently move the camera displaying your hoarding habit to colleagues. Give it a once over and move any extra items out of the room. You could invest in a nice backdrop to hide anything behind it and keep your personal items private.
Before the meeting make sure any electronic items such as phones are switched off. It’s poor etiquette to use your smart phone in an online meeting. Just switch it off, everything else can wait. The same goes for checking email.
It’s better to have a video call in a carpeted room with soft furnishings, than an empty room. If the room is empty and has a wood floor the sound can be echoey. If you must have a meeting in a room with a hard floor, use a rug.
Do a sound check and video check before the meeting to make sure everything works ok. Check that the line of sight for the camera is clear and remove anything you don’t want visible.
Ending the video
When you end the meeting, remain silent until you are fully logged out.
If there are new people on the call, take a few minutes to introduce everyone. Try and include one interesting detail. E.g. “On the call today is Jason Smith. Jason looks after production in our office in Vietnam. Last year they increased production by 20%”
Or get them to introduce themselves (if it’s a low key meeting you could ask them to include something light such as their favourite football team or film).
Make time for casual conversation. Generally this helps build relationships and makes meetings fun. At the moment there is just one topic of conversation. If you’re the leader in your team try and keep it positive and upbeat.
Send out the action items as soon as possible while they are fresh in everyone’s minds.
Keep it short
A task expands to fill the allotted time. If you give yourself four hours to complete a task it will take four hours. If you needed to do it in one, it would be done in one hour. The same is true of meetings. As important as a topic is, it’s better to schedule short meetings. One hour should be the max. If you need a two hour meeting, schedule a break midway through.
If the meeting is a training session, then record it so you can share it with the team. It avoids you having to repeat the same thing over and over again. You could use it as training for new team members in the future.
Share only what you need to
If you plan to share your screen, take a few minutes to close any tabs you don’t need, browsers you’re not using and files and documents you were working on. These are at best distracting for the other people on the call. At worst you could share valuable information that you didn’t intend to.
Let people know
If your meeting takes place at home, let people know that it’s happening so you don’t end up on YouTube viewed 35,000,000 times!