The 7 Commandments of Online Meetings

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For many of us, online meetings are routine fact of life, something that we experience day in and day out. Whether we work from home and need to connect to colleagues in the main office, we are trying to save time by meeting online rather than having to drive to a common location, or an online meeting is the best, most effective way to meet with people throughout the country or world, online meetings can be an easy solution to a sometimes complicated problem.

Yes, meeting online is easy. Download a free copy of Zoom, Skype, or a number of other tools, and you can be meeting right away. Easy though online meeting may be, it does not mean we don’t need carefully plan our meetings so they are successful, well managed and are able to proceed with a minimal number of technical and user glitches.

  1. Have a camera and a headset. Although most computers are now made with online meeting tools built in, many people still use older computers, and other meeting participants find themselves looking at a dull gray icon because there is no built in camera or microphone. Sorry folks, an old computer is no excuse. Top rated cameras are less than $40. Headsets are pretty cheap, too. These small investments will make for much more productive meetings.
  2. Look at what is behind you. Do you have a TV on in the room behind you? Is the sun shining brightly through the window making you nothing more than a blurry silhouette? Are cats and dogs running around with careless abandon? Let your colleagues focus on you, and if they see anything behind you, it should be nothing more than a wall, a bookcase, or some pretty pictures.
  3. Keep a level playing field. When one person calls into a meeting, and several people are sitting together in another room in a different locationo, the person calling in is at a clear disadvantage. The people in the common room are looking at each other, reacting to what is being discussed, sharing visual and physical cues. The person calling in remotely can likely see all these reactions, but is left to wonder what is happening in the room that they can’t see. If one person is calling in from their desk, everyone should be calling in from their desk.
  4. Control the noise. If you are not talking, mute yourself. That’s it.
  5. Don’t be in a coffee shop. As an addendum to the point above, no one ever had a productive meeting experience calling in from a coffee shop. The wi-fi is wonky at best. The lighting is terrible. The noise is unbearable. You are looking around at people as they walk by you. We are looking at conversations happening behind you. Call in from a private place where the lighting and the noise can be controlled.
  6. Diminish distractions. Just because a meeting is online doesn’t mean you should not be completely attentive and engaged. Turn your phone upside down. Turn off email. Shut off your web browser. You may think that other people in your meeting don’t know you are doing something else, but if they happen to look at you, I promise you. They know. If it were your meeting, you would want people completely engaged.
  7. Tell us who you are. Your name is displayed in many online meeting platforms. It should be your name. Your full name. Not just a first name. Not a nickname, and not a departmental name. Maybe there is someone new on the call who doesn’t know who you are. Take the time to make sure your full name shows so you can personalize the meeting experience, and people can follow up with you if necessary.

Perhaps all these points can be boiled down to the video clip below. Yes it is a funny take on what many people experience, but the lesson is salient. If you were actually in the same room with one another, you would be focused, polite and distractions would be at a minimum. It’s like the Golden Rule….meet online with people they way you would want them to meet with you.

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