These days, thanks to COVID-19, more of us will be attending virtual meetings than ever. We may think we know what we’re doing, but it’s always good to have a refresher.
For which I thank Joel Schwartzberg whose April 8 HBR article “How to Elevate Your Presence in a Virtual Meeting” is spot on.
Here are six must-know tips, and not a moment too soon. (I have certainly made some of the mistakes he mentions, and I bet you have too.)
“Focus on your camera, not your colleagues”
Look straight at the camera. Even if it doesn’t seem natural, get used to it. Mr. Schwartzberg reminds that entertainers and politicians have been doing it forever. He comments that it can be a challenge to focus on the camera for the whole meeting, but doing so strengthens the points you’re making.
“Maintain a strong voice”
Speak louder than usual, because “strong voices convey authority, credibility, and confidence,” whether in virtual or actual conference. Think of yourself as being in a large conference room. Well, cyberspace is pretty big, eh? Also, a loud voice prevents mumbling or speaking too fast, because you must maintain it with the volume of your breath.
“Frame yourself wisely”
Make sure the screen frames your head and the top of your shoulders. If you’re too close, your head will be cut off, which is pretty disconcerting for your fellow attendees. If you’re too far away, your entire torso may be in view. Test this all out before your meeting.
And hey, watch out for your background. De-clutter it, or you’ll seem disorganized. The clients I have enjoyed most working with have “real” home offices that mean business.
“Be present and mindful”
It’s a big temptation to wander around, pour a cup of coffee, answer an email, etc. “ … but multi-tasking is perilous because you don’t want to be caught unprepared if asked a sudden question.”
One way to respond to this admonition, I guess, is to turn your camera off. I do it, and clients do it. But I see Mr. Schwartzberg’s point. If you’re not fully engaged, it may become obvious. And, as he says, “ … your professional reputation can suffer if it even looks like you’re not paying attention.” He advises us to consider not that we are at home but that we are at work.
“Don’t become your own distraction”
Virtual meetings mean that you need to be concerned about ambient noise, children and pets demanding attention, FedEx at the door, etc. As Mr. Schwartzberg says, you want to be remembered for what you did right, “so be mindful of the power you have over both your virtual and physical environments.”
Mute yourself when you’re not speaking. A simple injunction, but one you probably need to remind yourself of. Turn your camera off if you’re moving around or have just torn into that bag of tortilla chips. If you’re doing a major presentation, find someone to supervise the kids in another room or take Buster for a walk.
“Use the chat window as your partner”
I sometimes forget it’s on-screen, but it’s a superb “presentational appendage.” Put links to documents or articles you refer to in chat. If it’s your meeting, put the agenda in chat. Use it to ask questions or support another attendee. “The chat window is a unique opportunity in virtual meetings to elevate your presence, add dimension to your ideas, and demonstrate that you’re fully present.”
When I came across this article, I knew that I wanted to share it. It’s full of great tips and hints that will make you look good and help you avoid making embarrassing mistakes.
Enjoy this fun video from The English Manner, and see these suggestions in action.