Online meetings can be a major source of stress for many people, mostly because anything that could go wrong when trying to juggle technology, interactive virtual tools, and engaging your audience, will go most likely go wrong. Preparing yourself for this is will help ease the pain that some virtual meetings inflict. Technology has come a long way in the last few years. To learn how to improve your online meeting experience, check out our awesome tips below!

Set yourself up for awesome online meetings!

  • HAVE GREAT INTERNET. Nothing’s worse than a bad connection. Pay for the best bandwidth possible.
  • TURN YOUR CAMERA ON. Most people turn their webcams off so that they can multi-task during meetings without distracting anyone. Turning on the webcam is the easiest way to minimize misunderstandings, increase engagement, and promote team building – all at the same time.
  • PUT THE WEBCAM AT EYE LEVEL. It’s difficult to have a conversation when looking up someone’s nose. Make sure the camera is centered so other members can see your whole face. This helps us make eye contact with others on the video call and stay fully engaged.
  • USE GREAT VIDEO CONFERENCING EQUIPMENT. Throw out that old spider phone…and Skype For Business while you’re at it, and invest in good video conferencing equipment. The first item you probably want to purchase is great headphones with a built-in microphone. This makes it easier for you to hear and be heard.
  • TEST EVERYTHING BEFOREHAND. Arrive a few minutes before the meeting starts to test your equipment. Video conferences are notorious for tech problems. Don’t let it happen to you.
  • MINIMIZE YOUR BACKGROUND NOISE. Go to a separate room, use a noise-canceling headset or apps and make sure you’re well away from barking dogs, and cappuccino machines. Be mindful of strumming the keyboard, tapping, and fidgeting, as this can be a lot louder when it’s amplified by a microphone and makes it difficult to hear.
  • PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT’S BEHIND YOU. A busy background of clutter or people walking back and forth can be distracting for others on the call. Neville Medhora calls it a “reverse office
  • AVOID THE WITNESS PROTECTION SILHOUETTE. Having great lighting helps us see each other better, and thus, stay more engaged. It’s science!
  • ONLY ONE PERSON PER COMPUTER. It can be difficult for more than one person to fit into the screen. We also rely on non-verbal cues when we’re communicating with others so if it’s overcrowded we can easily miss out on part of the conversation.
  • WHAT ARE YOU WEARING? Patterns like stripes or checkers can have a strange effect on video online. Solid colors are usually safe. Avoid putting on noisy jewelry such as long earrings, necklaces, and bracelets as these can be distracting.
  • TURN YOUR NOTIFICATIONS OFF. All those pings and dings when people come on and offline, or post what they’re eating on Facebook can be distracting for others on the call.
  • USE SUPERCARDS OR HANDS SIGNALS TO AVOID INTERRUPTING. Supercards are virtual meeting cards that you can hold up to say something without speaking. If you don’t have these, you can use hand gestures such as the OK sign, thumbs up, and a wave to say hello or goodbye.
  • BE A VIRTUAL VANNA WHITE. If you’re going to be presenting information to a group, consider using mmhmmOBS or ChromaCam to project yourself onto your slides. This will make your presentation A LOT more engaging.
  • PUT YOUR REMOTE PEOPLE ON THE BIG SCREEN. If you’re having hybrid meetings (some people in person and some remote), make your remote participants present in the room by putting them on a big monitor or projecting them on the wall. Also, amplify their sound so that they are easily heard.
  • GIVE REMOTE PEOPLE PRIORITY. In hybrid meetings, if two people start talking at the same time, favor the remote person because they have less context and have a harder time reading social cues.

Original transcript

Welcome to the Collaboration Superpowers podcast. My name is Lisette and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. Welcome, everyone, to another episode. Thanks for being here.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about online meetings. They just seem to be online hell for most people. And it doesn’t have to be that way. Technology has come a long way, and there are plenty of things that we can do to make our online meetings more productive. Today I want to focus on the technical challenges that we encounter and how to avoid them because it does seem like every time we start a meeting, somebody’s headset isn’t working or the video isn’t working, or they have to reboot. And this can be avoided. So I want to talk a little bit about what I found in my interviews [inaudible – 00:53]. So the first thing is to use great equipment. Now I know this sounds very simple, but when we are working online, we really do have to have really good equipment. We have to have a great Internet connection, noise-canceling headsets, things that help make the bandwidth flow smoothly because we’re not standing in the same room together. We have to be able to communicate. Invest a little bit of money. It’s not that expensive to get good-quality equipment. And if you have the option at home for what kind of Internet connection that you can have, pay extra for the extra-good Internet connection. If you’re going to be working remotely, this is a critical piece of the puzzle.

Okay, so we can have great equipment, but sometimes the tools don’t work. We can’t always understand why, but what I’ve learned from online meetings is it’s always good to have a backup tool. So, say, for instance, you start in GoToMeeting and GoToMeeting doesn’t work for some reason. If you have a backup tool, your team can just immediately move to that next tool without wasting any time. All tools, as great as they are, fail at some point. So just having a backup tool in place can save a lot of hassle. When we’re in a meeting at the office, we can slide in at the last minute, take a seat, and still be fully present and engaged for the meeting. When we work virtually, this is not always the case. You can’t just slide in at the last minute and expect everything to work because it’s probably not going to work. So I always advise people, just one or two minutes before the meeting, always test your lighting, your connection, your microphone, and your sound to make sure that everything is working so that when the meeting starts, you don’t spend that first 10 minutes of the meeting saying, “Oh, my mike isn’t working. Hold on. I have to reboot.” Or, “Oh, the video isn’t working. I need to turn off this other application. You can just start right away knowing everything is going to work.” Like I said, in the office, you can just slide in. But with the remote meeting, you just can’t do that safely. If you have some people who are working together in an office and some people that are calling in remotely, it can be very useful to have a buddy system. So for example, the remote participant is assigned to somebody in the office who can help them figure out what’s going on if the connection is lost or if they’re not understanding, or if they just need more information. So you can assign each remote participant a buddy that will help them during the meeting. And one person isn’t responsible for everybody, and there are no interruptions in the meeting when lots of people have small questions.

And the last tip that I can give is assign someone in a meeting to deal with the technical challenges. So, for instance, I could say to [Louise – 03:35], Louise, during this meeting, if there are technical challenges, I want you to be the one that deals with them and everybody knows to go to Louise if they’re having any challenges. That way, I or anybody else as a facilitator can continue with the meeting and everybody is not interrupted by one person’s technical challenges. It helps keep the facilitator focused as well.

In summary, my best tips for avoiding technical hickups during online meetings are use great equipment, have a backup tool, use the buddy system, test your technology, lighting, and connection, and assign someone to deal with the technical challenges. I realize that these tips seem pretty simple, but putting them in place has really helped me and a lot of the people that I’ve interviewed as well. So I encourage you to try some of these techniques. And please let me know if you’ve had any success, failures, or things you want to add. I would love to hear from you. You can find all the information you need to get in touch at collaborationsuperpowers.com. Okay, that’s it for today. Stay tuned next week when I interview Marc Hughes from Scrumdo. Scrumdo is an online Scrum tool which lets you focus on the work instead of managing Scrum. It was a great conversation and it looks like a really great tool. So stay tuned for next week.

If you like what you hear, please leave us a review. We’re on both iTunes and Stitcher. Your review not only helps with the promotion of the podcast but it makes me a very happy person. So don’t be shy and leave a review. Our weekly shoutout to Nick, the podcast monster who’s just awesome. You can hire him to make you a star at podcastmonster.com. All right, enjoy the week, everybody. I’ll see you next time. Don’t forget. Be powerful.


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