This period of physical isolation has transformed the way we interact with one another, both socially and professionally.
Suddenly, instead of gathering in the same room, we’re coming together via Zoom, Skype, MS Teams or another video conferencing platform that have become part of our everyday vernacular.
For most of us, that means learning how to use these platforms and the associated etiquette as we go.
There will be plenty of missteps. Who hasn’t found themselves talking while their mic is muted? Many of us are coping with video lag or constant drop-outs. And setting up a space so the video call avoids noisy background activity or the domestic mess around us is a constant challenge.
But there are some simple steps you can take to ensure a meeting runs smoothly, whether it is an important briefing for a business client or a craft group getting together to compare creations.
If you’ve just set up your online meeting software and are about to use it for an important meeting, you should do a test run with someone else beforehand. This will allow you to familiarise yourself with the platform and its features, test your microphone and speaker settings, and minimise any chance of glitches.
Set a schedule
An online meeting scheduling function allows you to set the meeting details in advance, such as the topic, date and time. All these details are then saved and ready in your software. You can send an email invitation containing the meeting information to all your participants. The invitation should include a custom URL, which they can click on to join your meeting or a quick guide with steps on how to join.
Find a quiet place
Run your meeting from a location which is going to have minimal background noise. This is particularly important if you are at home with other people moving about. Background noise is a major distraction for participants. Sometimes, however, background noise is unavoidable. In this case, the meeting organiser can try muting all other participants, and only turn their microphones on when they are called on to talk. In more casual gatherings, it is a good idea for everyone to keep their mic on mute until they are ready to speak.
Just like any meeting, there will be a few participants who arrive on time and a few who arrive a few minutes late. It’s a good idea to wait until everyone has joined so you can greet each participant as they join the meeting.
It’s disrespectful to everyone else to not give the discussion your full attention. It’s easy to get distracted by other things on your computer browser, such as a quick check of your emails or Twitter. It’s best to avoid temptation by closing all non-essential windows. The only programs that should be open are the ones that you need for the meeting.
Stay on track
Don’t let the meeting drag on. This is especially relevant for a business setting where there should be a clear purpose and outcome. Extended personal interaction is best left for individuals to pursue outside the formal meeting. Even in a more social gathering, not everyone will want to engage in extended chat that is not related to the main purpose of the meeting.