Key Tips for Successfully Managing Your Work From Home Meetings
By Mike Kemp, Director of Sales, cStor
Remember the days when we used to travel to meet with our clients or prospects? Standing room only conferences in convention centers? Action-packed product launches and sales kickoffs? Even though it was just a year ago, it seems like some sort of an alternate reality now.
We had decades of experience practicing what to do, how to act appropriately and how to be successful during those meetings and events. Now, as the world has rapidly – and ubiquitously – shifted to online meetings and conferences, many of those etiquettes still apply, but this “new normal” also demands revised ways of conducting ourselves during these meetings and events. Since it’s likely home offices and online meetings will be here long after the pandemic ends, here are a few tips to help make them (and you) more successful.
Key Tips for Online Meetings
1. Be Early to Your Call.
Sometimes the added “casualness” of the work from home environment can make us a bit lax. Unlike the meetings we had to travel to in order to meet with someone face-to-face, online meetings save us the travel and buffer time to make sure we can set up and prepare before we are “live.” We are much more likely to log in just minutes (or if we are being real, sometimes seconds) before the meeting begins. Maybe it’s not lax – maybe it’s just packing as much as we can into the time we have. However, doing this is much more likely to set us up for failure. The “just-in-time” approach doesn’t allow any room for error, technology challenges or preparation.
Additionally, when you log in early, you often have a chance to connect with some of your contacts on a personal level before the official meeting begins. It allows you to make connections you would have otherwise missed, giving you a unique opportunity to establish rapport and build relationships.
2. Make Sure Your Camera and Mic Work.
“Hello. Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me.” Those Pink Floyd lyrics were WAY ahead of their time. How many times have you logged into a meeting only to find that somehow your camera and mic that were working fine a day ago have suddenly decided they are taking the day off? As with tip #1, logging on to your meeting early gives you an opportunity to ensure both your camera and your mic are functioning properly before everyone else joins. Plus, you get the added bonus of time to make sure there’s no leftover lunch stuck in your teeth.
Mic volume can sometimes be an issue as well. If you are speaking during a lot of meetings or big events, it’s worthwhile to upgrade your microphone. Sitting through meetings where the speaker sounds like they are stuck in an underground well will undermine your credibility and the message you are trying to impart.
3. Be Aware of Your Background
We’ve all seen the viral videos of news anchors broadcasting from home when their young kids accidentally make their break on the big screen – or even when their spouse is caught mid-shower. When we are into the groove and working away, it’s sometimes easy to forget our surroundings – what and who is around us. The best way to avoid this is to create a separate area where you take all online conferences. There are entire articles dedicated to creating a Zoom-friendly space – and even on creating virtual backdrops. The same rules should apply as in “traditional” office spaces – keep it appropriate for your business, make sure there is nothing other attendees would find offensive, and keep it tidy.
Many people don’t consider noise as part of their background, but this can be just as – or even more – distracting than visuals. Heavy traffic, loud construction noises, overbearing music, barking dogs, screaming babies – it’s everyone’s conference call nightmare. Do your best to ensure you are in an environment where you can control the outside noise influences, and consider investing in noise-canceling earbuds or headphones.
4. Find Your Mute Button… and Use It!
I can’t tell you how many conversations I have been privy to that I never wanted to be a part of! Whether it’s accidental comments about someone else in the video conference, or parents/couples trying to reign in their households during a call, those are things best left off the meeting agenda. Unless you are actively talking, I always recommend keeping your phone on mute. Life happens, but your clients or prospects don’t need to be there experiencing it with you.
5. Be Conscious of Stepping Over Others… Hesitate.
The dance that is online conversations can be tricky at best. When we are in person, we have visual cues to help us identify when someone is speaking and non-verbal gestures to help communicate our points. Much of that is lost in online meetings or conferences, resulting in people speaking over each other and the message getting completely lost in the process. The best way to prevent this is to take a breath or pause before you start speaking to make sure you are giving the other party ample opportunity to end their thought. I promise you will still get your turn!
6. Have a Plan B.
So, you’ve done your best to be on time and be prepared, but “Murphy’s Law” rears its ugly head and things go all wrong. Your internet goes out. Your web conference provider has an outage. Squirrels cause a major power grid failure. Whatever the case, be prepared for things to not always go as planned. Don’t rely solely on VOIP – always provide dial-in numbers. Make sure to also have a hot spot on the ready in case your wireless connection fails.
Now that you have all the keys to making your online meetings a success, put on that suit coat, make sure no one can see your boxers on camera and hit that join button.
We look forward to seeing you on a web conference soon!