The global pandemic has proven that virtual space meetings are here to stay.  Its popularity has grown with every meeting that is attended as people become increasingly comfortable with the environment, but there are many things we also need to learn quickly if we want to be taken seriously.

Over the last year everyone has started collecting their favourite anecdote of some meeting participant who had an embarrassing on screen moment from an undressed spouse walking past camera to being caught on camera doing something awkward.

So, let’s talk about how to look professional and come across as pro.

1.  Know your connections

Firstly, know your equipment and environment.  If you are not tech savvy, get your IT guy to help.

You will need to participate in a session from a cabled connection sometimes, Carry a network cable with you.  You may need to join the meeting using Wi-Fi at a hotel, a coffee shop, a friend’s place.  You may need to connect using your mobile phone’s data, a dongle or small router or even directly from your phone.  Take a few hours and work out what are all the ways that you can connect to the internet on your own after making sure that you’ve asked your IT guy to be on stand-by.

 Practise moving from your laptop/desktop device to your cell phone with minimum interruption.  Remember you can re-join a Zoom or MS Teams meeting from your mobile device.

 Know what your internet speed is and what your signal strength is.  Use a something like Speedtest.Net to check that you are getting a minimum of 1.8mb/s upload and download before the meeting starts.  If you can’t get these speeds change your location and ensure that your minimum speeds are met.

2.  Be aware of your surroundings.

If you need to join a meeting while you are at a shopping mall, your first option is to go back to your car if you can.  Your car will probably have the least interference and the best access to the cellular network.  You can also control who is passing by and you can block out the noise.

Alternatively, look for a restaurant that has a section that is quiet, tip the waitrons and ask them to try and keep rowdy guests away from you.

When you are in a noisy area, use noise cancelling headphones and microphone.  Do not use the microphone on your laptop because it will pick up all of the ambient noise.  A microphone that comes close to your lips is your friend and having the conference audio in your ears directly means that you can participate with full attention without the others being distracted by the noise in the restaurant.

It’s no longer cute to hear your kids crying, your dog barking or the sounds of others tinkering in the background.  Control your environment.  Find a quiet spot.  Ask others around you to respect your space.  Reduce all of the risks you can of having your presentation interrupted.

While both Zoom and MS Teams have the feature to select professional looking background, try to setup a background that is not too distracting but is “real”.  If you are broadcasting from your bedroom, pack you clothes away, hang a picture up somewhere and make the image that appears look professional.  This reduces the flicker of a false background and reduces the processing overhead of the application being used.

3.  When to switch on/off your camera and mic

It is understandable that people would switch off their cameras because of bandwidth constraints, but when it is your turn to present switch on your camera if it is the first time you are speaking.  Explain that you will limit the amount of camera use because of bandwidth consumption and then switch your camera off after you have made your points.  You can especially switch your camera off during a presentation of a slide show.

 Mute your microphone when there are a lot of people talking and remember to unmute before you talk. Unmuting your mic is also an indication to others that you are preparing to talk so the meeting organiser can see that you are ready to engage.

4.  Tracking meeting attendance and getting votes

Don’t waste time asking each person to introduce themselves in a large audience.  Ask them all to have a short introduction of themselves ready that they can post into the live chat feature.  That way everyone can go back and reflect on the introduction again afterwards.

If you need to take a vote on something, simply ask everyone to raise their hands.  The meeting software will show you immediately how many hands are raised.

 If you need a record of who voted for what, use the chat/post feature, then copy the votes out of the chat into the minutes.

When taking the attendance register ask all participants to type the word “present” or “here” in the chat.  This gives you a clear indication of who is present and paying attention.

 If more than 1 participant is on the other side of the camera, ask the primary person in that group to type the people present into the chat after asking for a roll call.

5.  Participate actively!

It is very easy to get distracted when at you machine for a 3-hour webinar.  If you are on camera all of that time please remember that YOUR ARE ON CAMERA!  The other participants can see that you are not paying attention.

Don’t read the news in another browser.  Don’t be typing up emails and responding to tweets.  It is obvious to anyone watching.  If you have to do this, then mute your camera and mic.

Use the hand raising feature to participate and if you are the convener or chairperson, pay attention to the hands raised.  All of the rules of a normal meeting apply.  Participate actively.

If you are raising your hand to ask a question, don’t bother.  Ask the question in the chat.  You can take the time to craft the question properly and you know that you’ve posted the question before others.

If you are chairing the meeting, acknowledge the questions and give the participants the opportunity to pose their question out loud if you would like, or just read out the questions in the order they have been asked, acknowledging the people who have asked the question/s.

Be strict about how questions can be raised and how rebuttals are allowed, otherwise some participants will commandeer the virtual floor, not giving others an opportunity to speak.  If this is the case, mute them and chair the meeting.


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