With virtual business meetings quickly becoming a new normal, organisations are streamlining the process in order to get the most out of their meeting time. In our last blog post we took a closer look at running a virtual meeting and gave you 10 tips for effective virtual meetings. Today we are looking at things from the other side and have put together 10 Tips to be a better virtual meeting attendee.
Thanks to excellent, quick action from our leaders, Victoria is set to come out of lockdown this week. Sadly COVID-19 is still a huge issue in other parts of the country. Something we can be certain of is that for all of Australia’s states, COVID-19 will be a consideration for businesses for a long time to come. For those workers who do not absolutely need to return to the workplace, many businesses are maintaining more flexible working conditions.
A study by Standford found that working from home increase productivity by 13%. In this same study workers also reported improved work satisfaction, and attrition rates were cut by 50%. Working from home is great so long as you’ve prepared your environment.
Being a company without an office, the Exess team are very experienced working from home. We all love the flexibility it affords us in terms of how we interact with our customers and also the work/life balance we maintain. We are all virtual meeting aficionados, hosting and attending many every week. As part of our regular practice, we host regular webinars for our software users. Being spread across two countries, we also meet online as a team whenever we need to. The past few years regularly hosting and attending virtual meetings have certainly taught me a lot and so here are my
10 Tips to be a better virtual meeting attendee
1. Respond to meeting agendas early to add additional topics
If the meeting organiser has sent out a meeting agenda then be sure to take a look at it before the meeting starts. If you have anything that you would like to add to the agenda, let the meeting organiser know A.S.A.P. so that new topics are planned for, and don’t derail a meeting or make it go too far over time.
2. Familiarise yourself with the meeting app
We usually use Zoom for our online meetings. Zoom needs to be downloaded before a meeting can be accessed. Whether you’re going to use Skype, Zoom or even Facebook chat, be sure to check if you need to do anything to set up prior to the meeting so that people aren’t waiting for you.
3. Everyone can see you
As I’ve said previously, during one of our recorded webinars an attendee did her entire workout regime with her webcam on. Not only was it incredibly distracting but the whole webinar had to be re-recorded because we couldn’t use it for later trainings. Covid lockdowns are absolutely filled with horror stories about things people have done forgetting that they’re on camera. Meeting from home means that you don’t just need to think about yourself, you also need to consider your family and your background. After all, virtual meetings are not the place to let the office or your clients know about your sweary art collection or your underwear clad husband.
4. Eliminate distractions
If you’re anything like me, when meetings start to drag on or people aren’t prepared, distractions begin to creep in. If you find your phone incredibly distracting then put it out of reach for the duration of the meeting. Turn off the TV or radio so you can focus fully on the people on the screen.
5. Plan to meet away from the children
As adorable as the kids who crashed their dads BBC interview were, being in a meeting with children causing chaos in the background can be very distracting for you and the other attendees! If you’re attending a meeting try to arrange for your children to be busy with a quiet activity. Don’t be afraid to request that meetings occur during school hours and nap times. Chances are there are other parents in the meeting who would appreciate the same.
6. Ask questions
One of the difficulties of working from home is not having people around when you need to ask questions. Use the time during virtual meetings to clarify topics and learn everything you need to know. If you are nervous to speak or there is not time to get your question in, use the chat function. You can then ask to circle back to your question at the end of the meeting.
7. Arrive prepared
If you have documents to present to the group, be sure to have them opened and ready to go. Close other apps and documents on your computer prior to meeting so you’re not wasting time having to search for specific items.
8. Use a headset
A headset blocks out most background noises for other attendees. One of the main benefits though is that it will make you clearer and easier to understand when you speak.
9. When talking leave pauses to encourage discussion
Just like when you’re the meeting host, say your piece and take a pause. Leave spaces for questions and discussion. Dominating a meeting can make others disengage and be unwilling to ask questions later for fear that they will be trapped in an un-necessarily long winded response.
10. Use the mute button when you’re not talking
Is your husband vaccuuming? Are your kids watching TV? Is your wife mowing the lawn? Prevent others from being distracted by those additional sounds by muting yourself when you’re not talking. Even the sound of typing or moving papers around can be deafening in a virtual meeting. During our Exess webinars we mute all participants to eliminate background sounds. We encourage them to use the chat function to ask questions as the meeting progresses. We either have someone else on chat answering questions so the meeting isn’t interrupted, or we circle back to read and answer questions at the end. For staff and one-on-one customer meetings, we use the mute function if we are not talking to keep the connection clear.
Being a good virtual meeting attendee is easy so long as you’ve done a little preparation. Implementing these 10 tips will help get you on your way to being a virtual meeting boss!