I don’t know how everyone else feels about online meetings, but almost a year in, I am finally feeling a lot less awkward about them.
As someone who has always placed a lot of emphasis on a good handshake and a clean pair of shoes, I’ll be honest virtual meetings really threw me off kilter.
The niceties of a formal introduction are replaced with what sounds like a séance. A chorus of “Is anyone there” “can you hear me?” “are you there” “I can hear you, but I can’t see you”
The anxiety of whether your internet will cut out mid-sentence and leave your gurning face frozen on the screen (the screen never freezes in a flattering pose. NEVER!)
Or will one of your delightful loin fruits burst through the door wearing only a snorkeling mask, underpants and a nerf gun ammo holster whilst ricocheting foam bullets off your head?
All this stress before you have even considered prep for the meeting.
With a multitude of things that could go wrong, it’s important to focus on the things that you can control.
Get Ready like you are going to an actual meeting
Rolling out of bed and logging in to the meeting looking bleary eyed and disheveled is hugely disrespectful to the other parties on the call and doesn’t allow you enough time to get your head in the game.
Instead, get up, get showered, have breakfast and wear business attire. Be at your desk in plenty of time, with all documents close to hand, as well as pens, paper and water.
(Also, unless you have a medical condition, or are having a virtual breakfast meeting, there should be no reason at all that you should be eating during an online meeting, eat before or wait.)
Research your audience
If the meeting has been organized by a 3rd party, ask for a list of attendees. Research everyone and find out their position within the company, paying particular attention to those that may help you capitalize on this opportunity. A little bit of stalking can go a long way. Identifying a favourite sports team, successful business campaign or recent promotion can make great strides in building rapport in an environment that isn’t as conducive to building good relations as face to face meetings.
Ask for an agenda
Not only will this show the meeting Chair that you mean business, it will also give you ample time to prepare. Knowing what is on the agenda prevents the embarrassment of being asked about stats or data that you should know, but when put on the spot, don’t! If you are privy to what is expected you can dazzle with your knowledge and succinct delivery. Stats and figures can be collated in an eye-catching graph or infographic that will be a lot less boresome than spouting numbers off the top of your head.
Have something to contribute
Regardless of how many zoom meetings you have attended this week, each provides you with a new opportunity to shine. You could be the 5th meeting of the day for some of the attendees, so go out of your way to stand out. Do something interactive, conduct opinion polls, share an amusing video or anecdote. It’s highly likely that your “captive audience” is texting, facebooking, eating, toddler taming or just plain distracted, so any opportunity to bring them back to the room is an opportunity to sell yourself or your product once more.
Sell! Sell! Sell!
Let’s face it, no one is conducting these meetings for the fun of it, we all have something to gain, so make sure you are selling your brand at every opportunity. This doesn’t mean ramming it down someone’s throat like a used car salesman. Instead, let your brand be the golden thread that ties your pitch together. Talk about your business, your values and successes. Have your brand displayed on any literature you present and although you may be in a home office, have your logo displayed proudly in the background.
Whilst people may switch off from what you are saying, the visual impact, if done well, can be a lot longer lasting.
Check the webcam view
It should go without saying, but so many people have been caught out with this. Before your call begins, check your web cam settings to see what others can see. Of course, make sure you are in view, and in focus, but you don’t want to be so zoomed in, that other participants can see your pores.
Be sure that the camera is pointed at your face and above shoulder height. A camera pointing at your chest can be embarrassing for you and awkward for others on the call.
Also check what you can see in the background! Anything of a “personal” nature, is probably best left out of eye shot. Likewise if you are conducting the call in your bedroom, make sure no one is going to be stepping out of the ensuite naked.
Reduce the risk of technical issues:
So many meetings are disrupted due to technical issues. I am no technical whizz, but one quick fix, is often rebooting the computer. Before each important meeting, make sure all browsers are closed. This will prevent any annoying pop ups and reduce the risk of your internet running slowly.
Always do a sound and mic check before you get started.
It seems for the foreseeable future anyway, business meetings will be conducted in an online arena and whilst for me it has taken some getting used to, I am enjoying the challenge of coming up with new innovative ways to capture my audience and I can take heart in the fact that I haven’t turned up to any of my meetings as a cat.