Virtual meetings have already become an indispensable option among companies to maintain their remote staff, with approximately a 27 percent annual growth rate of virtual-only meetings. And today, as more employees are sent to work from home due to coronavirus lockdown, online meetings and conferences become more frequent. The regularity of today’s virtual meetings, nonetheless, could pose a challenge for employers and employees, such as declined productivity, increased employee frustration, and decreased employees morale.
Chris Merrick, Director, Marketing Global Systems at Shure, said in a press release that there will be a continuous growth of global business and remote employees. Respectively, virtual meetings will be more important than ever. However, the survey found that many companies do not have the right equipment to conduct efficient virtual meetings which might negatively impact the quality and efficiency of the meetings. For example, having technical issues such as a failed speaker, too low voices, or blur camera, during the virtual conference could lead to decreased morale, lower productivity, decreased workplace efficiency, and cost savings.
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Andy Molinsky, Professor of Organizational Behavior and International Management, added that whilst the right equipment is essential, virtual meetings also need an entirely different setting and context. A live meeting is not simply an in-person meeting or a class on a screen. Our communication and how we present ourselves would be entirely different which require certain techniques. According to Molinsky, the techniques to be ‘totally present’ during online meetings are as follows:
Employers should, as best as possible, provide the equipment needed for their employees to perform effective virtual meetings, such as providing a microphone or headset, webcam, a broadband connection, monitor, or other display devices. Web conferencing software such as Microfost Office Live Meeting Professional, Skype, or Zoom should also be introduced.
While the equipment can help with the physical presence, leaders and board employees should also be mentally present. Here is how to do that.
Whether it is one-on-one or group virtual meetings, make sure to focus on your camera rather than the smiling face of your colleagues. This way, you can reinforce the point that you focus on the person itself rather than the computer. It might not feel comfortable at first to pay attention to the black circle, but if you train yourself to do so consistently, you will get used to it. Most entertainers and politicians have been doing this for decades.
Using a loud voice will keep you away from mumbling and from speaking too quickly due to the amount of breath required, said Molinsky. Raising your voice during a virtual meeting also conveys authority, credibility, and confidence.
During a group meeting, it is easy to mute your microphone and attend the meeting using your pyjamas as ‘none would notice’. You might also be tempted to check your email and do multitask. Yet, this will only decrease your professionalism. Be fully engaged in a meeting, even if it is virtual with a group of many people. Put close attention to the person on speaker and don’t consider yourself “at home”, but consider yourself “at work”. It will help you avoid unnecessary movement during the meeting.
In a live meeting, being distracted by the bark of your dog or laugh of your children is common. Therefore, it is advisable to train yourself to stay on mute whenever you are not speaking and unmuting yourself when you are required to speak. You should also be mindful of your movement during the meeting. In addition, make sure to turn off your camera when you are doing something visually disturbing such as moving from one place to another.
Framing yourself is another good advice to make yourself present normally during a live video. What you need to notice is: make sure your head is not cut off, make sure you are not being too close to the camera or too far, be mindful with your background and lighting.
In every video conferencing app, there is a chat window to help you make a clear discussion during the session. You can also send a direct document, presentation, etc. to help the discussion livelier. Make sure to make the most of it. When others are speaking, you can respond with support or questions in the chat. This is a good opportunity to eliminate misinformation and miscommunication. The chat box option also helps the live video meeting be more organised.
How long do you usually conduct a virtual meeting? 30 minutes or maybe 1 hour? A virtual meeting is not so different from an in-person meeting. The attention span employees give in virtual meetings is also the same as in the in-person meeting. According to the Meeting King survey, audience engagement in meetings starts to drop off quite rapidly after about 30 minutes. Here is the attention span per time of the meeting.
Therefore, it is wise to always keep your meetings short and informative.