In 2020, virtual meetings became an immediate necessity for millions of people who suddenly started working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With life slowly returning to normal in many parts of the world, some business owners have decided to continue having people work from home whenever possible.
The reduced overhead cost is an obvious appeal to business owners when contrasting virtual meetings with in-person meetings. However, businesses also note that productivity often improves rather than decreasing for most employees when virtual meetings replace in-person meetings. The elimination of travel time and preparation of meeting spaces are two major factors in the productivity gains.
Some employees are experts at knowing how to operate equipment and conduct themselves during virtual meetings while others are new to it and have no idea. The University of Notre Dame recommends that employees first find out which virtual meeting platform their employer uses and get to know its specific features.
Top Four Virtual Meeting Platforms
Google Hangouts, GoTo Meeting, Skype, and Zoom are the leading companies offering businesses free and paid virtual meeting platforms. Here are the top features of each provider’s free accounts:
- Administers of free accounts can invite up to 10 people
- No limit on meeting duration
- All participants must establish a Google account and install the Hangouts program before attending their first meeting
- Free for the first 14 days and $14 per month after that
- No limit on meeting duration
- Meeting hosts can invite up to 150 people
- Participants click a link or call a toll-free number to join the meeting
- No obligation to create an account with GoTo Meeting
- Meeting host can invite up to 50 people
- No limit on meeting duration
- Participants click a link to join the meeting
- Requirement to create a Skype account
- Meeting host can invite up to 100 people
- 40-minute meeting limit
- Participants join the meeting by clicking an email link or calling a toll-free number
- No need to set up a Zoom account
- Hardware Requirements
Each virtual meeting participant will need a high-speed Internet connection and a computer, smartphone, or tablet with audio and video capabilities. Poll Everywhere, an audience engagement company, recommends an onternet connection speed of at least 10 megabits per second is ideal.
While many phones have audio and video capabilities, participants should keep in mind that attending virtual meetings by phone may not project a professional image. Another thing to be aware of is that older computers and tablets can freeze up and have other glitches.
Some older devices may not have enough bandwidth or memory to keep up with the audio and visual demands of an online meeting. Other people in the home should not use the Internet for activities that use a lot of memory or bandwidth such as playing video games or watching movies during the meeting.
Etiquette Tips for Successful Virtual Meetings
The format and environment of online meetings requires a period of adjustment. Similar, just as there are standards of etiquette and behavior for in-person meetings, similar standards apply for virtual gatherings.
According to Nuheara.com, one of the most important considerations for people working from home is to dedicate an area just for work that looks as professional as possible on camera. Work-at-home employees should walk through the area that will appear behind them before joining a meeting.
The meeting background should not contain anything people would not feel comfortable bringing to work. Co-workers do not need to see piles of laundry or a stack of mail. They especially do not want to see things like alcohol, drugs, or political posters that could potentially cause offense. Meeting participants should always take care to keep their work area as neat as they would at the office to avoid giving the impression that they are lazy or careless.
The person organizing the meeting should prepare an agenda and distribute it to attendees in advance. No one wants to waste part of their workday participating in a virtual meeting without clear direction. The meeting organizer must also be sure to send private links to avoid having business conversations go public on social media or elsewhere on the Internet.
Establishing a password to attend the meeting is another way to ensure it remains confidential. Using both the sound and video features is optional but doing so can help people feel more connected. People start to miss face-to-face interactions after a while and remaining on camera helps to restore some sense of normalcy and fills a need for human connection.
Good lighting and keeping the screen at eye level show consideration for fellow meeting participants. When the screen is too close to a person’s face, it provides an unflattering view for everyone else online. Proper lighting ensures that all meeting participants can see each other clearly and not dark shadowy features.
Be Sure to Look as Professional as Possible
Attending virtual meetings in sweatpants and a t-shirt may be comfortable, but it presents a sloppy and unprofessional look to others. Even though people are working from home, they should make a point to at least dress in business casual attire.
Research has shown that dressing in professional clothing and spending adequate time grooming helps to elevate people’s confidence in this new working environment. People who project confidence inspire confidence in others, which ultimately leads to better working relationships and greater productivity.
how to look your best on virtual meetings:
- Use a neutral background.
- Keep your screen at eye level.
- Ensure good quality lighting.
- Spend some time getting your personal appearance ready.
- Consider your body language and posture.
- Don’t walk and talk. Stay in one place.
- Talk to the camera, not the picture.
- Try out a test run with a friend or colleague before the meeting.
Ultimately, a little preparation goes a long way in terms of setting yourself up for success with virtual meetings. As the great Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”