The COVID-19 crisis has turned everything upside down, but there’s no way you can let it get you down and make you lose touch with your collaborators and clients! If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the human race can be incredibly resilient in the face of overwhelming challenges. So, we have no choice but to get onto Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meet, GoToMeeting and the like, to hold our meetings and make some progress on our projects in spite of the physical distance. To help you be productive and put your mind at ease, here are 5 useful tips to make sure that these meetings go off without a hitch:
#1 Have a solid internet connection
It may seem obvious, but conducting a virtual meeting involves using technology that can be a bit… temperamental, and without a good Internet connection, you won’t get very far! The video and audio will be choppy, or worse, you won’t even be able to connect to the meeting or it will cut out on you mid-sentence. Make sure to always use a wired connection over Wi-Fi, and plug your computer in so that the battery does not die on you in the middle of a meeting. To be on the safe side, consider checking your connection quality before the meeting (with a technician or via an online speedtest).
#2 Wear a headset with a built-in microphone
When the person speaking is not wearing a headset with a built-in microphone, there is an echo, background noise, etc. That means even more distractions for the other participants, and it can also disturb the people around you if you are not alone. When using a remote interpretation service for your overseas collaborators, it is all the more essential: in simultaneous translation, the interpreter translates the speaker’s words in real time, and must therefore listen and speak at the same time! Speaking too far away from the microphone or wearing a mask can make the interpreter’s job that much harder.
#3 Find a quiet place to work alone
If you are working from home and you are not alone in the house, remember to let the people around you know that you should not be disturbed! Unless you want to go viral on social media (after all, it worked pretty well for that BBC journalist who was interrupted by his children in the middle of a live segment a few years ago!), it is better to be safe than sorry. For the same reason, remember to turn off your microphone when you are not speaking, to avoid unpleasant surprises and untimely interruptions.
#4 Prioritize quality over quantity
In the “world before COVID”, conferences could be held all day long, and sometimes for days on end! But since, for the time being, we no longer have those coffee breaks to chat and stretch our legs, consider lowering your expectations for virtual meetings. It’s a lot harder to keep up and stay focused alone in front of your computer. It’s better to plan shorter meetings with a clear agenda than to lose listeners along the way because your meeting is just going on and on! “Less is more”, as they say!
#5 Limit the number of participants
When holding a virtual meeting, it is all the more important to manage speaking time in order to avoid having 100 people (or sometimes more!) all talking over each other at the same time. Prepare an agenda ahead of time, assign roles (moderator, host, participants… the terms vary from one software to another), and make the most of the various features of your chosen platform (waiting room, raise hand, or even “webinar” mode that automatically cuts off the participants’ microphones). On the other hand, shy or quiet participants are more likely to fade away in a virtual meeting than in a face-to-face one, so a good moderator will make sure that everyone has the opportunity to speak.