Meetings will remain an integral part of our working lives, because it is not possible to conduct a business without it. Virtual meetings have gained greater significance now, when the entire world is mostly working-from-home due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Co-workers are communicating with one another through various online tools, to keep the work momentum going, at a time when the global economy is predicted to contract, because of prolonged lockdowns across territories in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Even in the real estate sector, buyers, sellers and brokers are continuing communication through video-conferencing, to stay in touch and to plan and execute a large part of the business online.
While there are some ground rules that one should follow for an official meeting, we sometimes fail to stick to these rules, while participating in a virtual meeting. A majority of us might be working from home for the first time in our careers and may not be well-versed with the rules that apply to virtual meetings on platforms like Zoom, Skype or Google Hangout.
Online meetings have the same formal and business-like element as face-to-face meetings. In the best interest of the business at hand, it is important that each participant treats it as such.
What to avoid, during an online meeting
Noisy surroundings: The noise coming from different parts of your house – the pressure cooker’s whistle in the kitchen, children playing, the sound of the television in the drawing room, the dog barking in the backyard, etc., are distractions of the worst category.
Then there are other noises. If your phone is not put on the silent mode, everyone in the meeting gets an alert every time a WhatsApp message is delivered on your phone or an SMS or a call is received. Letting such noise disrupt a virtual meeting is a reflection of a non-serious approach. It would colour the way your co-workers judge you and be detrimental to your image.
Showing things as they are: Showing up on a Zoom call in your home clothes, with ruffled hair and sleepy and swollen eyes, should be avoided. You will be judged as laid-back and lazy. You also cannot show your untidy surroundings as they are. Too much light or too little light on your face, scattered work equipment on the table, the peeling off paint on the wall, etc., all are a strict no-no.
Nine must-do things during an online meeting
“It becomes obvious what should or shouldn’t be done during an online meeting, as soon as you realise that even though you are working-from-home, it has everything to do with work and nothing to do with your home. The moment you stop mixing the two things up, you would naturally do the right thing during your work-from-home stint,” says Kalpana Asthana, a New-Delhi-based soft skills expert.
Set-up a dedicated work corner: To avoid giving those in the meeting a virtual tour of your private life, fixing a dedicated corner to complete your work-related tasks, including online meetings, is important. A quiet corner with no disturbance is the ideal choice and works wonders for productivity, too.
Dress accordingly: Experts are of the opinion that your productivity increases, if you make an effort to dress up for work. This is a must-follow rule for Zoom meetings or Google Hangout calls. “Unlike in-person meetings, only upper part of your body is ‘visible’ to others. So, it’s important to work on your hairstyle and facial expressions – especially the eyes and mouth and neck to chest area. Sitting in an upright posture (with a straightened spine) and chin up position, works wonders,” says Shalini Verma, author of multiple best sellers on body language.
Clean up your surroundings: Nothing but work equipment or innocuous items must be visible to the participants, apart from you. They should not get a peek in your personal life, by getting an up and close look inside your home.
Mute your phone: Ensure you put your phone on the silent mode, throughout the duration of your video meet.
Have proper lighting: Small adjustments can make the overall online meeting experience comfortable for everyone. Your room should not be so brightly lit that it has a blinding effect on others and they fail to see you. It should not be so dim that they have a problem seeing you. A lamp could solve a lot of problems in this regard.
Set a neutral background: While on the camera, having a neutral background is your best option. This could be done by keeping a bookshelf. If that option isn’t available, just pin up a white work board. A fabric sheet of light colour on any board would also do the trick.
According to Verma, the best way to do this, would be ensuring a ‘white wall’ background rather than a place in your home which has many objects in the background.
Close personal windows before screen sharing: “No one ever presents his screen without having a million tabs open,” Sahil Vaidya, co-founder, The Minimalist, writes on LinkedIn. Many a time, you will have to share your screen for the participants to see an infographic or data points, images, etc. It would be great if the viewer does not get a glimpse of all the tabs open on your laptop screen at that time. It would be awkward if they get to see your personal conversations on your desktop WhatsApp tab.
Switch off the video if you need to: If you are attending a Zoom call while still driving, the best way to handle the call is to switch off the camera. The participants do not have to know your every move and see you from a funny angle.
Mute your microphone: To filter any unwanted noise coming from your side, mute the microphone when you are not speaking. Switch it on when you have to speak during the meeting.
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