In a time of physical distancing, it is even more critical to find ways to connect socially. And in this current environment, that requires us to master the art of virtual meetings. It’s not hard, but it does take some time to understand how the rules of engaging virtually are different from face to face meetings. We’ve likely all experienced a meeting that left us feeling disconnected and disengaged because the meeting organizer lacked the skillset to structure the interaction in a way that maximizes the tools of their online platform of choice. Don’t let that leader be you. Here are our top 3 rules, inspired by Forbes’ 8 Cardinal Rules Of Running A Virtual Meeting.
Rule 1. Question your technology assumptions! Not all online platforms are made equally. If you have a choice between platforms, do your homework to understand what features you need and don’t need. At CMC for example, we use MS Teams for internal, smaller team meetings because it’s integrated into our MS Office suite of products, making collaboration a breeze. But for larger meetings, training and meetings with external clients we use a variety of other programs including Ring Central and Adobe Connect. And once you’ve chosen your platform, ensure that your audience members have the bandwidth and hardware to support the activities you plan to host.
Rule 2. Insist on full participation – especially for smaller meetings. By full participation, we mean staying on video and off mute. Being on camera is a great way to mitigate, to some degree, the multitasking that often happens during virtual meetings. Of course, for large meetings (above 15 people for example), it’s less realistic to have everyone off mute, even if they remain on camera -- It simply becomes too distracting. But for smaller meetings, keeping people off mute helps ensure a more robust, multi-directional conversation. To understand why, think about a time you tried to jump into a conversation only to discover you were still on mute. By the time you unmuted, it was likely too late to step into the conversation at the right time. As for video, set the expectation that everyone has their cameras on. To make people comfortable, you may need to overtly address the fact that guest appearances by children, family members and pets is to be expected at a time like this!
Rule 3. Be comfortable but dress appropriately. The current environment certainly allows us to be more comfortable as we work from home. But dressing ‘up’ for work not only boosts your own confidence but helps you command a presence of credibility in front of a camera. While there may be no need for suits and ties at a time like this, ‘dressing for success’ can boost your mood and increase your influence, especially with clients and partners outside of your organization.