The business world has gone on-line. In fact everything is on-line these days. For those who have teams spread across the country, or the world, this isn’t a completely new situation. But for many, the current need to do everything on-line is new and maybe a bit daunting. Here are some tips to help make those on-line meetings better and more productive.
General meeting basics still apply
• Have an agenda and distribute it beforehand so everyone can be prepared.
• Invite only those necessary to the issues at hand. Extra people don’t make you look more important.
• Start and end on time. Other people’s time is valuable. Don’t waste it. See below for the on-line application to this rule.
Additional on-line basics
• Start on time. That means start early. If you are hosting the meeting, have the meeting room open early so people can join and get all those technical issues worked out before the start time. Don’t be the host who waits to open the meeting room exactly at the meeting start time. You wouldn’t do this for an in-person meeting, don’t do it on-line. The same applies if you are just attending a meeting. Be there a little early to get everything set up.
• End on time. Again, don’t waste people’s time. There seems to be a tendency to allow on-line meetings to run over and drag on. After all, everyone’s at home, so why worry about it. Wrong approach. You’re most likely not the only thing in their lives. If they are working from home, they are still working. Respect their time.
• Plan to do a little less. No matter how familiar we get with on-line meetings, they are still a little less efficient. Waiting for Jack to unmute; waiting while Jill’s connection unfreezes; and similar issues that always arise sap time and mean that you will not get quite as much accomplished.
• Explain how you will manage discussion. You may want to use the “raise hand” feature, or if it’s a small meeting open discussion may work. Keep in mind though, especially with the delays that often occur, open discussion can be difficult.
• On-line meetings are video meetings. Otherwise use a conference call. That means get dressed, do your hair, put on makeup if you so desire, then turn on the camera. Don’t be the one who keeps the camera off because, “I just didn’t have time to do my hair.” You wouldn’t attend a meeting in the office with a bag over your head so don’t do it on-line. It’s unprofessional.
• Especially if you’re using a laptop, phone, or pad camera, make sure the camera sees all of you, usually from the shoulders up. No one wants to see a picture of your forehead or a stretched out view of you. You may need to place the device on some books or something else that will elevate the camera. The best camera angle is slightly above you and zoomed in for that head and shoulders shot.
• Pay attention to the lighting. You don’t need expensive studio lighting, just enough to illuminate your face so you don’t appear to be in a cave. Don’t overdo it though. You don’t want to look ghostly.
• Be careful with backgrounds. They can be distracting or make you look like parts are missing. A wall is fine.
• Send the pets away. This is a pet peeve, and no, I don’t hate animals. I’m sure your cat is really cute and cuddly, but not in a business meeting. They distract from the issues at hand. The pets can stay in another room.
On-Line meetings can be effective if you follow the basics. Take these meetings as seriously as you would an in-person meeting. It isn’t hard but there are a few extras to consider. Practice with the technology you will be using so you’ll know how to best use it.
Above all, remember the basics.
For more tips for great meetings get Bob’s book, Don’t Worry You Can Do This: What New Supervisors and Managers Need to Know About Leadership.