Since the pandemic began, we have all become accustomed to participating in numerous virtual meetings. Whether on team or client calls, meeting expectations have risen; the 'virtual meeting' novelty has disappeared and become normality. 

Business continuity now depends on running effective virtual meetings and it looks like this is a format that is set to stay, as the last few months have proved that we don't always have to meet face-to-face to run a productive meeting.

I found a useful article by Steve Kearns, Digital Storyteller at LinkedIn where he discusses some really valuable tips on ensuring your virtual meeting is as successful (and worthwhile) as possible.

In brief, these are:

  • Create a 'professional set'
  • Avoid dialling in from your phone if you can
  • Don’t multitask
  • Set your webcam at eye-level
  • Less lecturing, more facilitating
  • Use storytelling
  • End with a clear action plan

The "Create a Professional Set" point particularly resonated with me when I think about my efforts to present a tidy and organised background. Initially, I tried using a virtual background but I didn't like the way part of my head disappears every time I move. So, the next step was to sort out my office.

Here are some of the challenges I faced when trying to appear professional and competent in my home office:

Challenge 1 - I have to share my home office with my husband who has an 'organised chaos' approach to his side. Not a good look. 

Solution - Sit sideways and angle the camera at my 'tidy' side of the room. Alternatively, use the exciting new 'blur background' feature in Zoom which appeared when I updated to version 5.5 - I love it! This creates a lovely professional 'blurry' background (it's almost artistic) and there is much less disappearing of body parts!

Challenge 2 - I don't have time to sort out the old boxes of cables and discarded laptops (work and home schooling rather time consuming)

Solution - Dump them outside the office to sort at a 'later date'

Challenge 3: Always looking camera ready when I have to walk my dog in the morning who drags me through mud and rivers. Bad hair as my hair cut got cancelled due to new lockdown.

Solution: Scarf, hairbrush, hair clip, mirror and lipstick next to my desk. 

Challenge 4: Using an external monitor connected to my laptop means that I was looking sideways on zoom calls.

Solution: Make yet another lockdown purchase on Amazon and buy an external webcam. Works well on Zoom but temperamental on Teams.  I have learnt to rapidly drag my laptop in front of me to appear on camera when it plays up.

Challenge 5: My dogs barking furiously every a time a dangerous and scary delivery person dares to come to the front door. Have tried training them out of it but no joy. 

Solution: I have just learnt about the Advanced Audio Settings in Zoom - there is a 'Suppress Background Noise' setting which includes 'Dogs Barking'! (and keyboard typing, paper scrunching etc). I haven't tried this out yet but even a slight reduction in barking noise would be welcome. Screenshot below:

Then again, whether talking with clients or colleagues, we're all in the same situation facing similar challenges with being stuck at home. I think this helps to create a sense of solidarity and sharing some of these challenges can actually facilitate relationship building. We're only human after all!