When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills. This is one of my favorite proverbs and it’s especially relevant now as we adapt to change during COVID-19.
Now more than ever, people are holding virtual meetings on platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Adobe Connect, and Zoom. In fact, Zoom alone is now handling as many as 200 million daily participants on their platform. Although it may still be tempting to build walls, many of us are seeing the benefit of building windmills; taking advantage of the exciting opportunities which lay ahead for virtual meetings.
If you have participated in a Zoom meeting, you may be familiar with some of the potential challenges. These can range from technical difficulties (microphone issues, poor internet connections) to distracting background noises (barking dogs, crying babies). Successful Zoom meetings rise above these challenges in order to create an experience that encourages people to show up, engage, and collaborate with one another.
Here are 4 steps to ensure your next Zoom meeting is effective, memorable, and professional:
Step 1: Take ownership and hold yourself accountable.
It’s easy to shrug off remote meeting hiccups, pointing fingers at technology or our lack of experience with these issues. Have you found yourself in a Zoom meeting, listening to a participant’s rising frustrations at random interruptions? It may sound like, “It’s not my fault, it’s the internet,” “Sorry, it says my speaker isn’t working,” or even “Pardon the background noise, it’s our new puppy.”
Let’s take responsibility and own our virtual experience. Could these issues still happen? Yes. But it is our job to a) reduce the likelihood that they could occur, and b) be prepared for when they do. To rise above challenges, the first step is to be accountable and take responsibility. This creates a positive impression of yourself to others at the meeting. Shift your mindset and own your next virtual experience; it’s yours and you’ve got this.
Take ownership over your virtual experience and remember to consider your environment, your appearance, and your actions.
Step 2: Optimize your environment.
First impressions happen within seconds and our meeting attendees will be sizing us up based on what they see in the background (showcasing memorabilia from your favorite band or TV show may be a distraction). But what if they can’t see anything because your environment is too dark? Consider creating a space that is:
- Quiet: Noise-reducing headset microphones are a great investment.
- Bright: Natural lighting is preferred, but therapy lights will do the trick. Remember to stream light in front of you rather than behind you.
- Free from distractions: Remember the old saying, “A cluttered desk produces a cluttered mind”? Clear the mess away or cover it up.
Bottom line: Decide what image you’d like to portray and set your proverbial stage. Know that people will be having a look around you, so test out your camera before your meeting to ensure your environment appears as you’d like it to be seen.
Step 3: Care about your appearance.
When in the comfort of your own space, it may be tempting to slide into those cozy joggers and hoody. Consider your first impression and the image you want to present to the world. If you want meetings to matter, then you need to take them seriously. And if we are going to take meetings seriously, we need to consider how we appear. The safest bet is to wear what you would to an in-person meeting with that same group of people. Whenever possible, avoid wearing glasses to reduce the risk of creating glare on the screen.
Help participants stay engaged by fluctuating your tone, pace, and volume.
Step 4: Consider your actions.
Do actions really speak louder than words? In the world of Zoom meetings they do. Many of us work in fast-paced environments filled with distractions. Unfortunately, multi-tasking is almost expected during virtual gatherings.
To ensure you are showing attendees that you are taking them and the meeting seriously, consider these tips:
- Remove distractions: Get rid of the tempting lure of other devices and either power them off or remove them from your space altogether.
- Look at the camera: As much as possible, keep the camera centred between your nose and eyebrows so that you are eye-to-eye with participants – like you are actually sitting down together at a live meeting. Because guess what? We are.
- Use your voice: Help participants stay engaged by fluctuating your tone, pace, and volume. Your voice can be your biggest aid in holding people’s attention.
- Don’t forget about your body: In addition to eye contact, smiling and nodding your head can go a long way, just as it would if you were talking in person. Can your hands fit in the camera frame? If so, use them to really capture attention. Virtual “high fives” are also encouraged when appropriate!
Instead of focusing on how your Zoom meeting differs from getting together in-person, focus on all of the similarities. Take ownership over your virtual experience and remember to consider your environment, your appearance, and your actions. This alone can transform any Zoom meeting into a meaningful, memorable, and results-oriented experience. And remember, by doing this you are joining a team of world-class windmill builders.
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