Video Conferencing Etiquette: Best Practices
This spring, given the current public health crisis, many of us are trading conference room meetings for virtual ones. If you’re new to video conferences, the idea of turning on your computer video camera and running a meeting through this medium can be daunting. Despite its challenges, the video conference is worth trying out for your group, as it is the closest you can come to simulating the in-person meeting experience. I recently attended a webinar that explored best practices for running a successful virtual conference. The following tips will get you started and help you avoid common pitfalls that can derail an otherwise well-prepared meeting.
#1 Setting the Stage
Preparation is key to a successful virtual meeting. Make sure the image you present to your coworkers is professional. Pick a clean, uncluttered background for your video; dress professionally, as if attending the meeting in person; if you plan to share your screen during the meeting, make sure your desktop is clean and all unnecessary tabs are closed; use two monitors, if possible, to best organize your tabs. When creating the presentation itself, think about how to best engage your audience. Explore the software features your video meeting application offers: such as chats, Q&A, or polls. Prior to the meeting, email the agenda and/or handouts to participants. Right before the meeting, make sure to sign on early to get settled. Test audio and video right away, so you can troubleshoot if necessary. Make sure to have a checklist or agenda nearby, so you can stick to your meeting schedule and stay on task.
#2 Delivering the Meeting
It’s time to start the meeting! Try to stick to your start and end times as much as possible. Let your participants know if you plan to record the meeting, and make sure you begin the recording right away. Before you dive into your message, this is also a good time to set some ground rules. Ask your participants to keep their microphone on mute if they are not speaking to avoid interruptions; ask them to use the “raise hand” feature (if your software has it) when they want to contribute; use the chat feature for questions or comments. When communicating over video, it’s important to focus on your delivery. Look directly into the camera, speak clearly and at a measured pace. Continually check your audio and video to ensure everyone is receiving your message properly. If your meeting is over an hour in length, schedule a break to allow everyone to refocus.
Have a game plan for handling questions and discussion during your meeting. If your group is large, consider assigning a moderator to guide the conversation. When answering questions, make sure to repeat the question before answering it to ensure everyone understands. Use the chat to share files and links with the group. The best measure of a good virtual meeting is how well you engage your audience, so make sure this is a priority. Choose a format that allows everyone the chance to contribute, whether via speaker or through the chat. Ask your participants both abstract questions — with the intent of expanding the conversation — and specific questions — with the intent of getting everyone involved.
One of the greatest fears with delivering a virtual meeting is technical difficulties. If this happens, don’t panic! Create a backup plan ahead of time in case certain features don’t work as planned. Have options ready for participants that have technical difficulties on their end — send out the recorded presentation after the meeting, have a call-in option, etc. If possible, have an IT person on the call to troubleshoot problems. Whatever the case, remember to be flexible and keep your participants in the loop about the situation. If it comes to it, reschedule the meeting for a later date.
#3 Concluding a Meeting/Next Steps
When it comes time to conclude your meeting, quickly review your agenda or checklist to make sure you completed everything you set out to accomplish. Take final questions and pause the recording before signing off. Follow up with your participants with any additional information, relevant resources/documents, and details on any upcoming meetings. Lastly, take the time to review how the meeting went. Check the recording, and consider how well participants were engaged. Make a list of what went well and what could be improved, and refer to that list when preparing for your next meeting.