Successful Online Meetings for First-Time Zoomers
by Andy Boyle
Looking back just a few short months ago, you may have participated in a webinar or video conference and not given much thought to the link you clicked on to join that meeting. Fast forward to today, and we are now much more familiar with Zoom, Meet, Teams, Skype, GoToMeeting, Webex or any number of the growing list of video conference platforms. Newly discovered remote work situations and an inability to travel may create the opportunity for you to transition from participant to first-time webinar or video conference host. If so, this article will give you some insight into how to make these meetings a success.
Hosting for the first time can be a stressful experience. A quick Google search for “webinar tips” and you’ll feel like you’ve entered a webinar jungle. Don’t fret; it is easy to become a hosting pro! The same principles for holding an effective face-to-face meeting apply to this new video world: Be on time, be professional, have great content, be prepared, ask questions and follow up.
This article won’t dig into sales presentations, as you probably already know how to execute your own commercial content. The tips offered here are based on what I have learned over time, through mistakes, on how to navigate the different video services. With these tips, you have a better chance of limiting the technology variables involved to deliver an effective presentation.
Your email invitation will set the tone for the meeting. Using your video platform’s generated invitation may create some confusion for your guests. Flashback to all the COVID-19 related notices you received — they all kind of muddled together. Your guests are probably receiving multiple meeting invites per day. Spending time to clean up the information so it is clear and stands out is worth the effort. Making sure the meeting time reflects the proper time zone and is easily identified and repeated multiple times within the invite helps attendees in different time zones. Attaching documents to the invitation that you will reference during the meeting allows your meeting participants to find them quickly and avoids disruption and delays. You may also find that including a short survey or questions for consideration are an easy way for guests to start thinking about your meeting and/or topic.
It’s important to choose a hosting platform you and your company can trust. Reputable platforms make it easy for people to register and join. For example, some people may participate from their computers, while others might join from their phones or smartphone apps. Not all of the hosting companies are equal and you will want to try to ensure that the service you use is compatible with your audience. The system can give you some insight as to how people are joining (computer, phones, apps, etc.). You can always reach out to them after the call to inquire about their experience to identify any improvements you should make for future meetings.
For business purposes, you will want to make sure that your video conference platform of choice is secure. Getting Zoombombed in the middle of a presentation is a distraction and will most likely result in your guests having to see offensive languages and/or content. You don’t want their takeaway from your video meeting to be the awful things posted in the chat window by whoever (or whatever bot) hacked your meeting.
Depending on the frequency of use, audience size and importance of the meeting, your hardware can make or break the experience. Instead of relying on the built-in microphone on your computer, use a headset or landline phone to ensure everyone can clearly hear your presentation. If using a phone, disable your computer audio to limit feedback.
Most laptops have a decent enough camera for video conferences, but test yours to make sure you’re happy with it. Whether you’re on a laptop with a built-in camera or using a computer with an external camera, you will want to make sure that the camera is at your eye level. This might mean placing your laptop or computer monitor on a stand, box or pile of books.
Lighting is crucial as well, so check out some of the many good online tutorials for how to set up your lighting. You will want to be facing the source of the light. If it’s behind you, you’ll be backlit and it will be difficult for people to see you.
Another good best practice is to use wired internet, rather than rely on your wireless signal. When you have a video meeting, make sure that anyone else who is also using your bandwidth isn’t playing video games or streaming movies.
There is no reason to be intimidated by any of the technologies or services. They are popular because they are all fairly easy to use!
As a first-time host, spend time practicing on the video technology of your choice. A little practice will increase your comfort level with the format and help to avoid any glitches that can distract your attendees. Set up practice meetings with family and friends. They’ll love to see you, plus these practice sessions allow you to explore the options and shortcuts available within the service. You can set up certain keys to mute and unmute your microphone. You can play around with the video box location on your screen. You can split screens to make more participates visible, while allowing for more presentation control. You can touch up your on-camera appearance and you can create the always popular virtual background. If you need any more proof we are social beings, listen for how many times someone’s background (real or virtual) is mentioned during video meetings you attend.
Most of the video platforms currently in use have a record feature. This is a great practice tool. Set up a meeting, run through your presentation or topic in real time and then watch it back. Viewing yourself on this media can be a humbling experience, but it’s an experience that will only make you a more confident host.
Have fun with it! Don’t wait to be asked to host a webinar or meeting. Jump on one of the services and play around to increase your comfort level. Practice! Host a family reunion or a virtual happy hour with friends. Using less stressful situations are a great way to learn the systems (caveat: I would not recommend recording the virtual happy hour).
Don’t limit your use to webinars or virtual trainings. Supplier audits, first article inspections and tours are all areas where we can speed up results.
Recent history has made us all more appreciative of the time spent face-to-face with our clients and each other. We have proven we can be productive using video conferencing, which helps to create the groundwork to be even more productive and more appreciative as we ease back into our new normal.
Originally published in the International Association of Plastics Distribution Performance Plastics Magazine, June/July 2020 publication.