The age of online classes and remote work is here and it isn’t going anywhere soon. If you are taking online classes or have graduated and work from home, you have no doubt noticed that this means our time spent in meetings online has skyrocketed! Virtual meetings are the backbone of collaboration when learning or working online, and can be an invaluable time to learn, stay up-to-date on projects, and contribute your thoughts and ideas. While they can be a great tool, they can take some getting used to if you are accustomed to in-person settings! Whether you need some help easing into the world of online classes, or you are already a seasoned pro in the virtual conference room, here are ten best-practice tips that will help you get the most out of your virtual meetings.
- Test your equipment
Technical difficulties can strike at any time, and of course, they always seem to happen right when it is least convenient. If you are going into online meetings for the first time or have a new computer or camera, be sure to test your setup with plenty of time to address any immediate issues. Many virtual meeting platforms have a testing service that you can utilize to test your equipment, but if not, taking a short video to test your audio and video will do the trick. Technical difficulties can still pop up at random, but being proactive in checking for them will set you up for smooth sailing and lessen nerves when it is time to join a call!
- Mute when not speaking
Every situation is different, but in larger group meeting formats it is typically best to keep your microphone muted until you are expected to speak. Our mics can pick up more than we expect them to and consistent background noise can be really distracting for others. If your meeting entails more listening than speaking, muting your microphone until you need to speak is courteous to everyone else involved.
- Get comfortable
Being in a comfortable environment and having any necessities within reach is a great way to enhance your focus during a virtual meeting. Having to constantly adjust, getting up to grab something you forgot, or just being in an uncomfortable seating situation can all be distracting, taking away from your ability to concentrate on the task at hand. Make your workstation as comfortable as possible and try to prepare everything you will need for your meeting ahead of time.
- Take notes
Taking notes is never a bad idea, whether you are participating in a team meeting or a class lecture. It can be easy to disengage from virtual formats and forget what was discussed, so taking notes is helpful for both staying engaged and keeping track of the topics that were talked about.
- Participate if appropriate
It may seem obvious, but it is important to participate in your online meetings if and when it is appropriate! This will help you bring your ideas and thoughts to the table as well as make it obvious that you are paying attention and are actively engaged in the discussion.
- Body language
Body language is an often overlooked aspect of virtual meetings. It is easy to sit still and watch others speak on your screen, but if that is all you’re doing it can come across as if you are bored or zoned-out. Using physical cues such as nodding, smiling, or shaking your head when appropriate will show that you are present and actively focused on the discussion.
- Turn off/pause notifications
Notifications can be distracting when trying to focus on listening to a meeting or lecture, so it can be helpful for you to pause your notifications for the duration of your meeting. This is especially applicable in scenarios where you will be expected to share your computer screen for others in the meeting to view, as notifications popping up during this time can range from a bit distracting to downright embarrassing depending on the nature of the notification.
- Distraction-free environment
This is easier said than done, but your environment doesn’t have to be 100% distraction-free. This is mostly about creating a space and time where you can effectively focus and minimize the potential distractions in order to stay on track and be able to easily concentrate on the task at hand. Pinpointing the most common distractions for yourself and seeing if you can come up with a solution for them is a great start. Try noise-canceling headphones if you get easily distracted by outside noises, or place your phone face-down if you are easily distracted by your notifications.
- Have questions ready if appropriate
Being prepared with some idea of what to talk about is always a good idea. Keeping track of any questions that may arise as you complete work so you can reference them if there is the opportunity to ask questions during a meeting will allow you to remember anything that you need help with and allows you to best utilize a Q&A opportunity.
- Know if you need to be on camera
When in doubt, assume you will need to be on camera, and set up accordingly. Appearing presentable and being in an appropriate location is important if you are expected to have your camera on, and especially important to consider if you are ever unexpectedly asked to have your camera on for a meeting. This isn’t to say that you need to wear a full suit or spend your morning applying a full face of makeup, but looking like you didn’t just roll out of bed (or are still in bed) is definitely preferable.
Virtual meetings are becoming more and more common, so knowing some basic etiquette for participating in them comes in handy on a daily basis! Utilize these tips when needed so you can keep your focus on the discussion and off of distractions or worry about your meeting.
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