Last week we caught up with our wonderful speak Jon Yeo, Licensee of TEDxMelbourne, who runs Brightstar Consulting and Coaching he shared this blog post with us on some practical tips around meetings!
Everyone understands online meetings are different but how different? What if you miss a visual cue that you would never miss in real life? It could really affect the outcome or relationship.
Meetings online are more or less compulsory in the COVID-19 world we live in but how to we make the most of it? There are many things to cover in a virtual meeting place that just don’t exist in real life. You need to have enough technical talent, decent internet and a quiet space for a start but what else? Here are some things I’ve seen missed.
KNOW YOUR TOOLS
There are so many online meeting tools out there like Zoom, Google Hangouts and GoToMeeting. Each is slightly different. Know how to host and attend each one. The advantages and disadvantages of each tool could be an article in itself so I won’t focus on that here.
Be particularly careful with Google meetings which automatically puts google hangout meeting details in the invite. More than once, I’ve used that link instead of the actual link intended.
If you have slides or other screen shares during the meeting test these BEFORE the call if possible. Make sure you know how to share these on the platform you are using.
Streaming video tends NOT to work on conference calls tools. They prioritise voice over video.
Fumbling with your tools slows down flow and engagement. For critical meetings, I recommend someone drive the tech (a producer) so you can focus on connecting and your message.
Have your video ON. It creates intimacy. This is difficult when you are in a place with a “busy” or distracting background. Virtual backgrounds can sometimes help here. Keep in mind different cultures have different expectations around video to others.
MUTE your microphone especially if you are in a noisy location. Do you know how to un/mute using the keyboard? Can you reach your keyboard easily? Is the phone app different to the web version? Can people hear you typing or your pet dog in the background?
Watch or listen carefully to make sure you don’t speak over someone.
Mute your computer alerts (esp pop ups) and phone.
Pre-meeting banter and connection often goes missing online. The lack of physical presence means the co-incidental conversation and small gestures of connection like saying hello in the morning aren’t there. Remembering to connect personally is important.
Online meetings can seem impersonal. Make a special effort to connect with everyone in the meeting. Arriving early is sometimes an option.
PLAN YOUR MESSAGE AND OUTCOME
This is particularly important if you are in a team meeting another group. You can’t rely on your typical non verbal cues to your work mates to the same degree on video. You may even need a 2nd “back channel” using a different tool or app to communicate with your team mates during the meeting. This is especially important if your meeting is a demo or has training involved. You can discuss things like who is understanding or following your message or reminders to do or say something.
Other communication cues can be lost in online meetings. Plan your messaging so it is clear, logical and not too fast.
Keep your messages short and allow people time to think about your message. It increases impact if you can be succinct. If you talk too long, it gives others an excuse to do something on the side.
Have a clear process, agenda and next actions by the end of your meeting
Also, what do you want their experience to be? How will they feel when the meeting concludes? How will you instill trust, rapport and credibility without specifying your title or qualifications? They are the minimum to start the conversation, not the end point.
BEING SEEN AND HEARD
Hands are very important for online meetings. Make sure they can be seen.
It’s important to make sure people can see your hands. They can be very expressive and allow you to imply or emphasise along with your voice. This applies in real life too but it’s easy to forget on video. Adjust your camera position if you can. If you move your laptop away make sure you can still reach the keyboard. It may be time to get an external camera or keyboard to achieve this.
Speak clearly and slowly. Some microphones and speakers are better than others and it’s sometimes harder to hear someone online. This is particularly important if you have an accent or naturally speak fast.
Pick a high contrast background so people can see you
Have adequate lighting
Treat your “window” as a stage not an office. What is in the background? Is it distracting? If presenting, step back from the camera, stand up if you can and remember the “Rule of Thirds”.
SPECIAL NOTE about cameras and close ups
Remember a camera is close to your face. All your facial expressions, even small tiny movements can be seen. Reading faces can be easier to do online.
If you are self conscious about your face on screen, some platforms like Zoom have a “Touch up my appearance” option to slightly blur your face.
IF YOU DO TRAINING ONLINE
Below are some tips for online training that also need to be considered
Plan more breaks and learning outcomes carefully
Use energisers more frequently
2 hour breaks for lunch (for multiday training) works extremely well. It stops people doing things on the side while you are talking.
You need a producer to manage technical issues and the platform in general like break outs
Be willing to be flexible with the group
You need a back channel for side conversations with your producer and other facilitators. (Use often, check often)
Communicate often and clearly with your attendees and facilitator before and during the training. This includes agenda, outcomes and break times
Clearly plan your programming and activities early. Walk it through with your team mates beforehand. It’s hard to have side conversations online even with a back channel
Plan and track your multimedia and transitions beforehand. There’s a delay that can impact flow. It there is a tech issue, the flow is impacted even more.
You can make online meetings work. Even training! I did a 3 day Live course online with breakout groups and group exercises last week. You need to plan more up front but I don’t feel it impacts general meetings at all.
Above all, you need to create a sense of connection and belonging. The information may be the reason you are there. It’s the value you create and the way you help people achieve their goals is what is more important. That never changes, no matter what the medium is. Tech can get in the way but it can also bring us together. We just need mastery of this new format like every other technology humanity has invented.
To find out more contact Jon Yeo at bright star