With social distancing and people working remotely, business communication looks a little different these days. That said, we’re still working and finding ways to get things done. This means a lot of meetings that we used to have face-to-face are now being conducted virtually over conference call or video conference. And it’s still important to make sure these meetings are conducted professionally.
Let’s start with the video conference. Whether the leader or an attendee, it will be important to pay close attention to the following:
1. Set up your computer so that the camera is at or above eye level. You don’t want to be looking down at your desk. This is not a good look for anyone. Trust me on this.
2. Make sure that you have adequate light and that the light is coming at your face and is not behind you. This is most flattering and will help others to see you clearly.
3. Check out your background. Many people are now working from makeshift offices in spare bedrooms, kitchens, or dining rooms. You are inviting colleagues and clients into your personal space. Make sure it reflects the professional you. That means bed made, dresser clear, closet door shut. Think of how a hotel room looks when you check in. Same if you’re in the kitchen. No one needs to see the empty wine bottle from last night’s dinner.
4. Dress for work. At least from the waist up. People see me in a blouse and jacket and don’t know if I’m wearing a skirt and pumps or Lululemons and Allbirds. It’s okay to be comfortable, but make sure that what others see is professional.
5. Use the camera function on your computer to check out how you and your background look before the joining the meeting. This way you can make any necessary adjustments before others see you.
For the meeting itself, it’s always important to pay attention to details. Let the following be your guide:
1. If you are the host, send out agendas and other relevant materials in advance. Let attendees know what the expectations are for the meeting so they may be prepared. The day of the meeting, send a reminder email with the agenda and materials attached. This will be helpful to anyone in your meeting who perhaps is not as organized and needs to have the information easily at hand.
2. Arrive on time. Which means a few minutes prior to the start of the meeting. This gives everyone time to announce themselves and get settled so the meeting itself may begin at the appointed hour. If you must arrive late, simply join the meeting. No need to announce yourself. People will know you’re there when you have input later in the meeting.
3. As an attendee, when you call in, announce yourself and then mute your phone or computer microphone. This is especially important if you might have interruptions like a barking dog or chatty child.
4. Start the meeting on time. Just as if you were meeting face to face. People’s time is still valuable. And we’re still respecting it.
5. Keep your microphone muted unless you are speaking. One bit of outside room noise might not be too bad, but multiply that by the seven people in the meeting and it becomes quite distracting and annoying.
6. Contribute when you have something pertinent to contribute. Don’t crowd the space with unnecessary input. If on video, nod in agreement. No need to vocalize.
7. Before ending the meeting, make sure that any follow-ups or assignments are clear and that deadlines are established. This will end the meeting on a positive note and help ensure that subsequent meetings are equally productive.
The great thing is that these are all practices that can benefit us as we work remotely, but will also carry over as benefits when we return to a more normal way of life. Which we will.