Five Tips to Optimize Your Virtual Meetings

Written by Santiago Castro
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Most of us probably recognize professor Robert E. Kelly. The academic became an overnight internet sensation in 2017 after his two young children gatecrashed his live TV interview, demonstrating some of the hazards of video calls when you’re working from home. 

Now, with people across the world forced to stay at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, millions of workers find themselves adapting to a new routine of virtual meetings. For some, it has been a steep learning curve: amid various stories of noisy kids and quirky pijama bottoms, spare a thought for the boss that accidentally applied a creative filter and had to conduct a team meeting as an animated potato.   

Here are some tips for avoiding embarrassing mishaps and getting the most out of your virtual meetings:

Prepare your setup: It’s a good idea to identify an optimal spot in your home ahead of time so that you are fully focused on the content of the meeting. Ideally you want somewhere with good natural light and minimal background noise. If possible, point the camera away from common areas to reduce the risk of a family member or flatmate making an unexpected cameo. Don’t worry too much if you can’t find the ‘perfect’ space - just try to avoid distracting features and put away any personal items you don’t want your colleagues to see. Wherever it may be, designating an area of your home that you’re comfortable with means you can quickly jump on a video call without too much stress.

Test, test, test: You don’t want to be that person with a blank screen  or mouthing silently because of a problem with your microphone. Test all of your equipment and your internet connection before the meeting, making sure you know how to quickly adjust the relevant settings if something isn’t right. When testing your device’s camera, figure out where to sit so that your entire face is in focus and well lit - having the camera at eye level or higher is more flattering than a low-angle view. If you need to download new software for a client conversation, make sure it’s properly installed on your device and you’re familiar with how it works before dialing in.  

Set an agenda and stay on track: Managing a virtual discussion, particularly with a large group of people that may not know each other very well, can be even more challenging than a conventional meeting. While some social chat to break the ice is welcome, having an agenda and clear objectives can ensure the meeting doesn’t drag. And selecting one person to guide the conversation and calls on speakers should help prevent people from talking over each other too often. If you’re not hosting the meeting, resist the temptation to perform other tasks or read something while others are talking - Zoom recently removed its controversial attention tracking function, but it’s still best to behave as though you were all in the same room.  

The mute button is your friend: As a rule, if you’re not talking, put yourself on mute. Your phone or laptop microphone can pick up all kinds of background noises - dogs barking, vehicles passing, your chair squeaking - that could be distracting for others. It’s best to use headphones, but if you don’t have any then turn your speaker volume down when talking to avoid audio feedback. Most video conferencing platforms also allow you to turn off your video, which can be useful if you have to do something that might be distracting for others (eg. move places, answer the door, or deal with a child). In general, though, having everyone on video as much as possible keeps the meeting more personal and engaging. 

Double-check before sharing your screen: One of the benefits of video conferencing apps such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc is the ability to quickly share your screen, so that everyone can see a document or presentation as you talk. It’s a great feature for remote work meetings, but if you’re the one doing the sharing, make certain you’ve hidden any personal or sensitive information first.


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Written by Santiago Castro

With over +16 years of experience in the technology and software industry and +12 of those years at Jobsity, Santi has performed a variety of roles including UX/UI web designer, senior front-end developer, technical project manager, and account manager. Wearing all of these hats has provided him with a wide range of expertise and the ability to manage teams, create solutions, and understand industry needs. At present, he runs the Operations Department at Jobsity, creating a high-level strategy for the company's success and leading a team of more than 400 professionals in their work on major projects.