Getting the most out of virtual meetings

Now that we are all on virtual meetings all the time, or so it seems, we are hopefully learning how to get the most out of meetings that you attend.  Whether you are an integral part of the group, an infrequent guest or a newbie, you want to remain engaged and feel that the meeting was worth your time.


Set up for comfort.  Find a comfortable space, and position your camera (if not integrated into the screen) so that you are generally looking at the screen and camera at the same time.  This is easy on laptops, and may take some trial and error with a separate web cam.  Check the camera angle too and make sure the view flatters you.  Check the lighting, so that it is not too bright or so that you do not have a lot of light behind you; that will create a darkening effect and you will essentially be in silhouette.  Make sure that your room is appropriate, and that you don’t have distractions in the background.  Have any food and drink nearby, and be aware that people may be watching you eat.  Plan judicious bio breaks!  And if your system allows, such as with Zoom, have a good virtual background to use.


Learn the technology.  You can generally change your name in Zoom by right-clicking on your picture and selecting Rename.  Open up the participant list, and the chat feature, and learn to use both to your advantage.  The participant list allows you to see who is on the call, and you can keep track of who you want to connect with.  You can use the list to raise your hand, respond with a yes/no, or signal a coffee break.  The chat feature allows you to ask questions and post your contact information; you can also chat with everyone, the host, or privately to any member.  You can save the chat string by clicking on the three dots at the bottom of the chat box.  If you are calling in with a phone, you will have limited use of these features.


Check your backgrounds.  Maintain a clean background that is not distracting.  You can select a virtual background by selecting Video Options – Virtual Background.  Depending on the settings and capabilities of your device, you may be able to select a virtual background.  There are a select few that are standard, and you can experiment by downloading and adding others from the internet, or using your own pictures.


Learn appropriate virtual meeting etiquette.  Mute yourself when you are not speaking to limit background noise for everyone else, and learn how to quickly unmute yourself when you are called on to speak.  And pay attention!  Listen and watch for cues on when to speak, and when to defer; when multiple people are talking at once it can be hard for the rest of the attendees to hear what either person is saying.  Limit multitasking to get the most out of the virtual meeting.  Raise your virtual hand to signal that you wish to speak.    You can stop video and put up a static picture if you need to move (such as to take a bio break).  And watch yourself when you are eating or drinking.

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