Road Warrior to Digital Warrior – Pivoting to Virtual

                               

Virtual meetings have become essential as millions of professionals have settled into work-from-home routines. Since the first few weeks of the pandemic, it is estimated that people spent more than 5.5 billion minutes attending online meetings. Virtual meeting platforms have seen record demand since the outbreak. It has certainly been unprecedented times for everyone with how to use virtual meeting platforms effectively and efficiently. Research has proven video conferencing can boost both productivity and collaboration among teams and is growing exponentially as more and more companies adopt video conferencing as a necessity.

Take a deep breath and rest assure this an unprecedented time for all. It’s ok to acknowledge everyone is facing the same work-from-home challenges. It’s unrealistic to expect perfection and focus on simplicity, realistic goals, and time management. If you haven’t hosted a virtual meeting before it can fell overwhelming, but it really doesn’t have to be.

As a self-proclaimed road warrior who logged over 100,000 air miles in 2019, I admit, it’s been difficult for me to lose those one-on-one, interpersonal interactions while learning to build successful online connections. So how do you differentiate yourself and make working from home work for you?

Preparation

Prepare an agenda ahead of the meeting and distribute it to invitees in advance, just as you would do in an in-person meeting as you want to respect attendee’s time. Video conferences, on average, are shorter than in-person meetings and attendees are usually more prompt with online conferencing since it’s easy to log into the video conferencing software.  

Components of the agenda should include the following:

  1. Header- Who as scheduled the meeting, date, time, location and purpose.
  2. Objectives- Why the meeting is taking place and goals to accomplish.
  3. Input- Assign meeting responsibilities.
  4. Body of the Agenda- Order of what needs to be covered.
  5. Time- Allocation for each point.
  6. Follow up- Send attendees action items or minutes from the meeting.

It’s helpful for attendees to review the agenda in advance of the meeting and allows for any questions and/or concerns to be addressed.

Test your Technology

  • Lighting- Make sure you have a well-lit room with no backlighting. Avoid sitting in front of a window as it casts a silhouette and viewers are unable to see your face. It’s recommended light sources should come from either the front or the side to best light your face. Also consider investing in a halo light or light ring which diffuses light and eliminates shadows.
  • Location- Neutral backgrounds are preferred or use a virtual background. Choose a location that is free of distraction and keep the area behind you organized and clean. The goal of the meeting is to focus on the conversations and to minimize distractions. Think about your physical work-from-home environment. Make sure your workspace is in a quiet area and away from distractions like pets and family. Set boundaries and create routines to enforce when work begins and ends.
  • Devices- Use a desktop or laptop and not a mobile phone. The connection is stable and allows you to be hands-free for note taking. If you are using your phone, be sure to have a strong signal with no electronic interference. Also consider using a tripod to be hands-free if using a cell phone and turn it horizontally rather than vertically.
  • Audio- Invest in quality headphones with a built-in microphone or an echo cancelling speaker, which has noise-cancelling mics. You want to make sure you are being heard clearly. Avoid using wireless in-ear speakers unless you know they are fully charged and can last for longer than an hour. If you’re not talking, mute your microphone.
  • Video- Have a quality webcam, high definition is even better. Make sure your camera is at eye level. Look directly at your webcam and not your screen. If possible, have your camera on and have your face visible so others can see facial expressions and body language. Have a visual near your camera to remind you to look directly into it when speaking. It makes your audience feel connected to your message and that you are looking directly at them. Make sure your head and shoulders fill the frame of the screen and it’s recommended to be an arm’s length away from your device.
  • Connectivity- Your internet connection is most important but least thought about prior to an online event. It’s recommended to have an internet connection speed of 1.5 megabits per second (mbps). At home you can test your internet speed at http://www.speedtest.net. Depending upon your neighborhood, your internet might be slower if it’s shared among residents.
  • Technology- Test your technology prior to your video conference. Be familiar with all its capabilities and settings ahead of time so you are prepared. Test your audio and video to make sure it’s working correctly. Test how to screenshare if necessary. If you’re hosting a meeting be sure to log on in advance to make sure you don’t encounter any problems prior to the start of the meeting. Don’t wait until the meeting time to log in.

Content is Key

Keeping your audience engaged virtually can be challenging. Digital storytelling is now front and center. Using visuals such as power points, data analytics, and other tools can be a powerful way to convey your value effectively.

Due to a lot of uncertainty, there have been a lot of changes in the industry. How to address those changes and how they are impacting your customer’s organization and needs is imperative. You don’t want to come across as being tone deaf. How do you address current market conditions and its impact to your customer? Be authentic, transparent, and flexible. If possible, collaborate with your marketing department to redefine your organization’s messaging and value proposition. Then adapt your messaging and approach. Align on how to move prospects through your pipeline and stay consistent with your digital storytelling.

Etiquette

  • Dress for success- Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you log into a meeting with bedhead and your favorite pj’s. although it might seem tempting to do so! Dress as you would if you were in an office conference room. You want to convey to your audience you are a professional and you mean business, it sets the tone of the conversation; establishes authority and keeps everyone on task and in “work” mode.
  •  Ice breakers- Spend a few minutes at the beginning of the meeting with introductions, regardless if participants know one another. It helps with who is in attendance and what their roles and responsibilities are. Next, give a recap of the meeting agenda and the goals and purpose of the meeting.
  • Be respectful- Virtual meetings might have a casual feel about them, but they are professional setting. Give your full attention and try your best not to multitask, which means close all other open computer windows. It’s also not the best time to eat, play with your pet or other tasks. Stay present and focused until the end of the meeting.
    •  Time matters- Be respectful of other people’s time. Be sure to start and finish during the allotted time, if possible, keep the meeting as short as possible; follow the agenda, and try not to go off course.
  • Follow up- Note taking is imperative with actionable follow-up tasks. If possible, designate an attendee to take minutes and tasks to be completed during the meeting. Then email a summary to all participants following the meeting along with who is assigned with a deadline to complete the action items. Send a quick anonymous survey to gage how your virtual event went and how you can improve future meetings.

Conclusion

What we do know is that change is always constant and remote work can be challenging. Many industries, organizations, and individuals have all adapted and pivoted from traditional office settings to new work-from-home environments effectively. Virtual meetings have introduced a new era of efficiency and have provided a lot of positive changes during these uncertain times. I’m confident many of them are likely to remain. Ensuring your virtual meetings are productive, effective, and efficient will increase your organization’s team cohesiveness during these challenging times.

By Tammy Boyd

Tammy Boyd is Vice President of Business Development at Bardavon Health Innovations, LLC, in Overland Park, KS. In her position, Tammy is leads and coordinates all sales efforts with internal Bardavon departments and is responsible for identifying and closing business development opportunities and driving revenue growth by forming meaningful relationships with new clients. Bardavon is an industry-leading, data analytics company focused on redefining Workers' Compensation with a mission to promote a culture of transparency in revolutionizing the employee continuum of care through innovative, quality outcome driven solutions.

 


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