11 tips to present the best you in virtual meetings

It was already a trend long before COVID-19 changed the world – meetings and interviews from home using your laptop.

One of the inevitable outcomes of COVID-19 is going to be the emergence of virtual meetings as part of the new normal. Teams will need to know how to use this technology to come together for common purpose, define and distribute strategies and tactics, and leaders will need to know how to lead and keep teams engaged… all from their laptop.

So with that in mind, here are our 11 tips:

1. Be on time. This is no different from any other meeting. The person or people you’re meeting with have put this time aside to meet with you so be on time at least. Even better, be a minute or two early, but not more than three minutes early as some online programs will send an email to other attendees that you’re “waiting” for them which could create a false sense of urgency. If you aren’t familiar with the technology being used, give yourself a half-hour before the meeting to make yourself familiar (see tip 5).

2. Look the part. Whatever your role, be sure you’re dressed appropriately at least from the waist up. In general, you won’t need to worry about the waist-down (but you never know). Select your clothes with your background in mind – you don’t want to blend in our stand out inappropriately.

3. Choose your background. Just like your wardrobe, people are making judgments about you based on your background. If you are trying to project professionalism a bookshelf, television or office setting is appropriate. Don’t select areas with windows in the background or the glare will cause an issue. As a rule, don’t select a virtual background if you can help it. If your real background is just too distracting or completely in conflict with what you want to present, then use the virtual background as a cover.

4. Control your background. Remember this? ‘Nuff said. 🙂

5. Know your technology. Five-minute delays (or longer) because someone can’t figure out the technology are no longer cute and adorable for remote meetings. They’re annoying. If you’re an attendee just be sure your computer works with the technology being used and that your audio works. Hosting? Do a dry-run including testing your internet connection and audio. If you’re playing videos with sound, be sure people can hear them properly; most online programs have a setting for this that is defaulted to silent.

6. Lighting. Top thing to keep in mind is webcams automatically adjust to and record the brightest source of light. If that light is behind you (a window) you’re no longer in focus. Face toward a window, don’t have one behind you.  If you want to get really fancy with lighting, the three-point lighting technique is still the best with one key light focused on you, with two softer lights balancing the shadows out. Advanced tip – if you don’t have a good forward-facing light source, open a blank Word document on your monitor and use that as your light source on your face.

7. Position your laptop at eye level or very slightly higher. Pet peeve. It’s not the normal positioning for your laptop.

Most of us look down at the screen as we work so when we connect remotely we’re looking down. First, that’s bad ergonomics. Second, think about this for a moment. Imagine speaking in-person with someone who is two feet taller than you. It’s not comfortable. Also positioning your laptop higher makes you look better and eliminates any hint of a double chin or shadows under your eyes.

8. Look at the camera lens – not the screen. Pet peeve #2. So that person you’re speaking with who is two feet taller than you is also looking about a foot below your eyes. Hey, eyes up here buddy. If in the course of your meeting you’re going through data on a screen that’s understandable but in those moments when you’re supposed to be talking with someone, look at the camera.

9. Attitude and body language. Keep your eyes steadier than normal, don’t let them wander. We still treat computer interviews and meetings as phone conversations and tend to look all around the room. That doesn’t work well in a video discussion. And watch your body language in virtual meetings. Sit up straight, don’t fidget, slow your speaking pace and create more pauses in your delivery to allow people time to translate and understand. This is a different experience from in-person meetings.

10. Turn off Outlook. If you’re sharing your screen this is a must. Even if you aren’t sharing your screen turn outlook off and remove anything that might distract you.

11. Be more engaging. It’s just too easy for people to self-distract in virtual meetings. Be more engaging by actually turning ON your video, saying people’s names, and asking questions.

Before COVID-19 changed the World, just over 5% of Canadians worked from home. That will continue to increase as technology improves. Virtual meetings aren’t going away post- COVID-19, we’ll keep doing them – this IS the future. Want to get really good at them? Record your virtual meetings (tell participants you’re doing so) and watch yourself to self-assess. Like anything else, this just takes a bit of practice.