Five Ways to Be Your Virtual Best

Today more than ever before we are reliant on technology to keep business moving forward. Without knowing how long social distancing mandates will be in effect or if they may be again necessary in the future, we find ourselves dependent on our laptops, tablets and phones for interconnectivity. Imagine if we were in the same circumstance 30 years ago, when these advancements would not have been available to us. Literally everything in business would have come to a stunning halt. Having access to this technology, however, does not equate to everyone incorporating it into practice with the same level of comfort or proficiency. So, here are five ways to be your virtual best.

  1. Prepare Carefully
    The same preparation for a live meeting is even more necessary when communicating through a video conferencing platform. Know your objectives and communicate them concisely at the beginning of the meeting so everyone is on board with what needs to get accomplished. Consider assigning roles and responsibilities and pre-reads prior to getting everyone together online. Stay on topic and respect people’s time. Know what you want to share on your screen ahead of time and have support documents at the ready. Also, everyone on the team may not share the same level of experience with technology, so encourage people to get the training the need and practice before a booked session.
  2. Do More with Less
    Studies show that in-person meetings should ideally not exceed 45 minutes. If an agenda requires more time, then it should be broken into a series of sessions. The same is true for video conference calls. Make sure your content and discussion can conform to a limited time together. Likewise, be prudent with who you include in your video conferences. Think about who is essential to have on the conference. Fewer voices means greater ability to stay on track and make decisions.
  3. Make it Personal but Keep it Professional
    Use the first few minutes of your meeting to recognize who is on the video conference call and have everyone share something going on in their lives personally or professionally. Be brave and turn on your camera – people want to see your face and reactions. Which also means to make sure that your surrounding environment is clean, uncontroversial, quiet and well lit. If you choose to use a virtual background, be sure to select something that is not distracting and test how it functions prior to the call. You want to avoid backgrounds where you disappear within when moving. Lastly, the mute button is your friend, but remember to turn your mic back on when you want to contribute.
  4. Stay Focused
    A study by InterCall shows that people multi-task during conference calls with as much as 65% doing other work, 63% sending emails and 55% eating or making food. However, evidence demonstrates that despite our insistance to the contrary, humans simply cannot multi-task effectively. In fact, context switching has been shown to increase errors due to insufficient attention. Therefore, consider turning off your email and putting away your phone during video conference calls. Also, follow-up with an email that captures the highlights of the discussion – what you want people to remember or the action items specific people or teams need to take.

  5. Harness Ingenuity
    All day workshops or advisory boards cannot be done in real time online. But that doesn’t mean live events cannot be conducted virtually. It necessitates rethinking. What do you want to get out of the session and how can that best be achieved? Can information be collected via one-on-one interviews or through online surveys? If you want to meet online, make sure to follow the tips mentioned. Limit the number of attendees and conduct the session multiple times if more participants are needed. Keep the time brief – no more than 45 minutes and plan in breaks when necessary. Keep content interesting and interactive when possible. Explore video conferencing’s full interactivity with breakout rooms and real-time polling. And don’t be afraid to try new approaches to communicating.

It’s unclear what the future holds regarding how business will be conducted once social distancing practices are relaxed. But it is perfectly clear that the way we go about our business and our reliance on technology has forever changed. There’s no replacement for live, in-person interaction. The key is honing our skills to be our virtual best when we are required to.

by Jonathan D. Katz