If you were a kid in the 70s, or even the late 90s and early 2000s, you may remember ZOOM, a show on PBS that encouraged kids and other viewers to just “turn off the TV and do it!” That advice still holds up, particularly as many of us continue to work and go to school from home due to COVID-19 containment efforts.

I was thinking about that advice during a recent virtual meeting on a different kind of Zoom. You know the one. For those of you who may not, here’s a description taken directly from their website:

Our easy, reliable cloud platform for video, voice, content sharing, and chat runs across mobile devices, desktops, telephones, and room systems.

Okay so, where was I? Right. My virtual meeting.

Although no one was watching TV, one person had it on in the background (Judge Judy, I think). A few people checked their phones — regularly. Others were seen talking to someone nearby (we heard one of those conversations, too, because the participant wasn’t on mute). Several people were eating. And a few chose not to show their video.

My experience wasn’t unique. I casually surveyed a few friends and family members and learned that they had similar stories to share. Google offered additional validation — 4.5 million results in .51 seconds — that included “Six embarrassing stories of video calling,” “Video conference gone wrong” and “Videoconferencing at work: funniest goofs and gaffes,” to name a few.

Clearly, distractions are distracting to everyone involved. The result? Virtual meetings are not as effective as they can (and should) be. When they’re done right, virtual meetings provide you with an opportunity to …

  • Align priorities and accountability
  • Share important information
  • Encourage team members to contribute ideas
  • Facilitate cross-functional collaboration
  • Advance the mission, message
  • Be inclusive/strengthen the culture

So, knowing that they’re here to stay, Smart Association Management has several Smart Tips to help you boost the effectiveness of your next virtual meeting.

Smart Tips on Virtual Meeting Etiquette

Location. Location. Location.

“All that glitters is not gold” – William Shakespeare

Choose a location that is presentable. Colleagues can see what’s behind you — the good, the bad and the ugly. If you don’t have time to do some clean-up, use a virtual background instead. This feature allows you to use an image or video as your background during a Zoom meeting. Setup is quick and easy. Here’s how to get started. Need some inspiration? Visit Room Rater. You’ll find ratings (from 1 to 10) of the backdrops used by celebrities, politicians, and other famous people during their Zoom calls.

Timing is Everything

“How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr. Seuss

Login early so you’re ready to get started on time. If you plan to present, make sure you know how to share your screen to eliminate a potential delay. Develop an agenda and allot the amount of time you need for each topic, then manage to that schedule. Use the last five minutes to summarize the discussion and/or to review the agreed upon next steps.

Shush … We’re Talking Here

“Silence is a source of great strength” – Lao Tzu

Get comfortable using the Mute option — it’s your best friend when it comes to Zoom. If you’re leading the meeting, you can enable Mute Upon Entry in your settings to block all background noise. Another option is to mute everyone. To do that, click Manage Participants and select Mute All.

Seeing is Believing

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain” – Dolly Parton

Turn on your video camera. People want to see who they’re talking to, and gauge reactions as they do. Also, look into the camera (you look great, so there’s no need to check). Looking into the camera is the closest thing to making eye contact in a virtual setting.

Take a Seat

Sit down, sit down you’re rocking the boat” – Nicely, Guys and Dolls

Stay seated. Silly advice, but some people like to walk around their space rather than stay in one place. If you move around, other participants may stop listening because they’re watching you. The result? A loss of focus on the topic at hand. Also, if you need to change locations, turn off your video camera for a minute or you’ll make people dizzy during the process.

Focus, Just Focus

Oh, I’m sorry. Did I break your concentration?” – Jules Winnfield, Pulp Fiction

New emails are hitting your inbox, a friend is texting you, an interesting news story just popped up … so many distractions, so little time. You were invited to the meeting for a reason so it’s important to be fully present. Plus, others can tell if you’re multitasking! Eliminate possible distractions before the meeting. Close every screen you may have open, and turn off or mute your phone.

You Are What You Wear

Clothing doesn’t lie, it shows everything” – Yohji Yamamoto

Don’t wear pajamas. Even if you’re running late for an early morning meeting, no one wants to see that. Instead, dress like you would for the office, even if that’s a t-shirt and jeans. And it should go without saying, but, make sure the clothes you wear are stain and wrinkle free.

Keep these Smart Tips in mind for your next virtual meeting. Or consider establishing your own “rules of the road” to let people know what’s expected of them. But remember, changing behaviors takes time so it may take a few meetings to see a difference.

Want to learn more? Drop Carol a note at carol@thesmartassociation.com.