It's not even Thanksgiving yet. You have plenty of time to send cards and packages…
Videoconferencing is only growing in use. When you meet on Zoom, you’re representing your company’s brand, and your personal brand.
We do a lot of videoconferencing. You probably do too and have experienced poorly run online meetings that impact how a presentation is received. Don’t let the meeting get in the way of the message.
We developed an internal guide to ensure our staff is putting their best foot forward in every presentation and thought we’d share a version of it with the world. This guide is a combination of curated content along with a healthy dose of our own experience.
This guide is broken into two parts. Part 1 is about setting yourself up to successfully videoconference on an ongoing basis. It’s important to have a setup that always works. Part 2 is about running successful video meetings.
Part 1: Set yourself up for success.
Handle the below items before you meet so you do not need to deal with them every time you have a meeting.
Lighting: Ample lighting ensures you look your best and improves the clarity of the video. Always position yourself facing the light and avoid backlighting as it makes it difficult for attendees to see you. Overhead lighting can also be tricky and can cast unwanted shadows. For best results, you may want to bring in additional lamps (or purchase a studio light) to place in front of you.
Space: Set up in an area that is secluded and quiet, minimizing interruptions like street noise, ventilation buzz, pets, children, etc. Declutter your space and remove any items you don’t want people to see (personal photos, etc.). Virtual or blurred backgrounds are not necessary but can be useful for a more professional look.
Sound: While not optimal, you can use the internal microphone on your computer as long as precautions are in place to guarantee the quiet environment referenced above. Headsets with a microphone are preferred, and wired mics are better than Bluetooth for uninterrupted connectivity.
Technology: Internet connectivity can be an issue when working from home. If so, use a hardwired connection instead of WiFi by plugging your device directly into your router with an ethernet cable.
Part 2: Running meetings on Zoom (and video conferencing in general)
If you are leading the meeting, be proactive in setting it up, and be conscious of both the technology and meeting dynamics along the way. Below is our internal guide for running or participating in meetings so they run smoothly. It assumes you understand the software and have a good audio and video setup (see above). These notes are about putting your best foot forward—and representing your company appropriately—in any meeting situation.
Know who is in the meeting from your company: Assume participants are using the grid view on Zoom. This makes everyone equal in size and stature, and it makes it more obvious when someone is silent throughout a meeting. Plan meetings so your company participants each have a role. If someone is planning to attend for informational purposes only, then record the meeting so they can view it at their convenience.
Have an agenda, and share it before the meeting: This can happen in the meeting notice or separately. Don’t assume everyone knows the intended outcome of the meeting.
Plan who talks when: Choreograph presentations in advance so everyone is clear about their role, knows when to talk, and knows what they’ll be talking about. This includes who is sharing what and when.
Prep screen sharing: Know what the team is sharing and make sure it is accessible. Set it up in advance, and if it’s a partial screen share, then access the meeting early to set it up. When sharing a presentation, avoid sharing your entire screen or the application. Just share the presentation page.
Most videoconferencing platforms provide a number of ways to share your screen.
Showing only a portion of the screen allows the presenter to know which slides are coming up next to smooth out the verbal transitions between slides. If you don’t know how to accomplish this, click here.
Get ready to look and sound gooooooood: Color psychology suggests that wearing bright colors triggers emotions like optimism, confidence, and creativity. So, for creative meetings, consider bright solid colors like blue, green, red, orange, purple, or yellow—unless you’re in front of a light blank wall when black is the suggested preference.
For an optimized video experience, avoid patterns and opt for navy blue, light gray, or soft white instead. These are considered easier on the eye for the other meeting participants.
Also, consider what’s in the background. Is your lighting too dark? Is there something that will be distracting for meeting attendees? Maybe you need a virtual background.
Depending on where you are and the time of day, make sure your lighting and background are appropriate. Adjust your camera so it is at eye level or points down slightly, and make sure you fill the screen appropriately. If using headsets, check that they’re connected. Also, silence your phone and turn off notifications for mail, Slack, and other apps so you do not have extraneous bings and chimes.
Decide to stand or sit: Bring your energy to meetings. Consider standing if that helps you to engage.
Get on early: If it’s your meeting, you should be there first to greet participants. If it’s a major presentation, then have your entire team get on early to settle in.
Organize introductions: If introductions are a part of the meeting agenda, then have a plan for how that gets done, and let your team know the plan. Having individuals introduce themselves is great as long as everyone is brief and you have the time. The alternative is for the meeting host to go around the screen and quickly present the participants, using correct job titles. Make the introduction comfortable and be aware that an introduction is an important first impression.
Record the meeting: Record meetings if you or someone else will need something to refer back to—kickoffs that not everyone can attend, meetings in which sensitive items are discussed so you want a record of client decisions, or situations when you risk information overload during the meeting and want a future reference. Note that meeting participants will need to approve the recording.
Show up and warm it up: The host should join the meeting early with their video enabled to greet attendees as they arrive in a friendly manner. Based on the situation, this could be an informal conversation or a more formal welcoming.
Set it up (aka “The purpose of this meeting is to…”): Don’t assume everyone in the meeting is on the same page. Be explicit with what you are there to accomplish and the agenda. If appropriate, state the key decisions to be made in the meeting. Example: “We will be showing you alternative creative executions, and you will be selecting one to finalize.” That prepares the participants to focus on what’s most important in the meeting.
Keep it on track: Meeting hosts are responsible for keeping to the agenda and the meeting timeframe. Keep your eye on the time and speak up to keep things on track.
Stay present, and remember—we see you: Use whatever trick it takes to help you make “eye contact” with your audience when presenting. Some people put a small Post-it with eyes on either side of their camera. When you are not presenting, stay engaged and attentive. You don’t always need to smile—just keep a positive expression, and nod/engage with body language as appropriate. Just like in an in-person meeting, everyone can see you roll your eyes, and everyone knows when you’re doing other work.
Check in with your audience: Keep an eye on participants and their engagement. Stop to ask if anyone has questions, comments, etc., especially if you start to see attention wane.
Chat: Minimize the use of the chat feature. Chat is most appropriate for sharing links or leaving a meeting without interrupting it. Overuse of the chat function is distracting and can lead to side discussions detrimental to keeping the meeting on track.
Remove background noise: Mute yourself if you are not talking and are concerned about background noise.
End the meeting well: The host should start closing out the meeting five minutes before the meeting end time. Acknowledge the time and ask if there are any other questions or comments before you wrap up the proceedings. Then, restate any decisions or next steps that came out of the meeting. If you need to extend the meeting, ask attendees if they can/prefer to stay on or schedule another meeting. Always thank attendees for their time.
May all your meetings accomplish their goals in their scheduled time.
We hope you found this post helpful. We’re always looking for ways to improve communication in meetings, so please comment if you have any insights to share!
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