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Some New Normal Thoughts about Virtual Meetings

| January 13, 2021
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As we start 2021 with a continued new normal of doing business and meeting with clients and other professionals, I think we all need to re-visit some virtual meeting do’s and don’ts.  You would think that after some 9 months of meeting over Zoom and other virtual platforms we would have learned some lessons.  Either we haven’t or we’ve gotten too comfortable with the format so here are some items I see regularly that could be improved upon.  While some of these you can ignore if the virtual meeting is one of family or casual, but in a business setting you need to exude professionalism and attention to details matter. 

  • Camera – when meeting via a virtual format, it is better to turn on your camera for a pseudo face-to-face meeting. It is more personal when you can see and be seen by your co-participants.  If you are not on camera, the question is “Are you actually there and paying attention or are you not?” 
    1. Look at how you present on the camera and make adjustments that will allow you to look your best and provide the proper impression
      1. Is your face visible or is it so dark you look like you’re in witness protection? You should make sure you are lit from the front – do not have a window behind you and you may need to add a lamp or other light source in front of you to light up your face.
      2. Camera angle – are your co-participants looking up your nose or is the top half of your face is cut off? Adjust your camera angles so you take up the majority of the picture and your eyes are level with the camera.
    2. How much ceiling is showing? Again, camera angle.
  •  Backgrounds
    1. Some platforms allow you to use a virtual background. Some people will say that virtual backgrounds are not professional and can be distracting.  If your system is not up to date with current video drivers or not fast enough in processing speed, this can create a situation where you continually fade in and out as you move around.  If your system can handle the virtual background, do not pick one with moving parts (stream, waterfall, wind blown trees) as these do distract.  If you can’t use a virtual background, make sure you are in front of a wall to avoid clutter.
  • Other distractions
    1. Pets – with many meetings taking place from home with pets running around, please keep them out of the meeting. If you’re paying attention to your pet, or if they are barking or mewing and coming in and out of the camera view, it is very distracting to your co-participants and you give the impression the pet is more important than those you are meeting with.
    2. Children – same as above. I would never suggest your children are not important, but you should make sure they know you will be unavailable and not to be disturbed while the meeting is on.
    3. Microphones – make sure yours is working well and the volumes are up so your co-participants are able to hear you. And MUTE YOURSELF when you are not speaking to keep background noises from causing a distraction.
  • Internet connection. Check your speeds as low bandwidth will cause your picture to freeze and audio to cut in and out.  You may need to talk with your internet provider about an upgrade.

Eye contact – this one is a hard one to master as we do like to look at each other on the screen but when you are speaking, look at your camera – not yourself on the screen or the other participants. Looking at the cameral creates eye-contact with your co-participants as if you were actually face-to-face.

 Hopefully, we’ll get back to some normal meetings in the near future, but I assume it probably won’t be until Spring/Summer before herd immunity and the vaccines allow us to feel more comfortable seeing each other in-person.  Until then, conduct your virtual meetings with the same professionalism as you would an in-person meeting.

 ----Chuck

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