It was Friday 13th March 2020. A Black Friday beyond imagination!
I was in Adelaide at the Professional Speakers Association annual convention with 200 other speakers and trainers, possibly the last conference ever before Covid-19 erupted and Australia was locked down. As the convention weekend progressed, our phones buzzed constantly with text messages and emails cancelling our gigs for the rest of the year. The speaking industry was hit hard and the air was filled with shock, fear, and uncertainty.
For many, life became a daily struggle to find sanitizer, PPE, and toilet paper, while trying to maintain a positive outlook. As companies started pivoting, Zoom, Webex, and Teams became household words. We became obsessed about social distancing and flattening the curve. Nobody really knew what to do…we’d never been through a pandemic before. So we just made it up as we went along.
As speakers and trainers, we had to go virtual or starve. So we had to learn very quickly how to engage our audience virtually and make their experience great. And we banded together globally through social media and Zoom to help each other through it, and together we learned…a whole lot! A few of us even proudly achieved the Certified Virtual Presenter global accreditation.
Thankfully for most of us, unless you live in Victoria, life is almost back to normal. And the new normal for many of you has become a virtual world of working from home and collaborating with video meetings. Whether it’s a team meeting, client meeting, or important presentation, the soft skills required virtually are just as important as face to face skills…similar because they can still see you, but different because there are less visual cues.
So in this edition I am delighted to share my top 20 tips on the art of virtual meeting etiquette and creating exceptional customer experiences, so that you can influence and make it as easy as possible for your clients to receive your message.
- Make it easy for your client.
- Before sending the meeting invitation, delete unnecessary clutter from the email…like overseas phone numbers…so they can easily locate the meeting link.
- Add a personal message so it looks less automated.
- Suggest that your guests login 5 minutes early if they have not used that application before, to give them a buffer in case they experience technical difficulties and ensure they arrive on time.
- If you send an updated meeting invitation with a different meeting number, clearly spell it out in the subject line so they don’t miss it…and the meeting.
- Audio is important. Use an external microphone for best sound quality.
- Visual is also important.
- Make sure your lighting is appropriate. Natural light is most effective…face a window for the most flattering light.
- If you wear glasses, angle them down to reduce glare.
- Avoid using a virtual background unless you have a physical green screen…to stop you disappearing into it, especially if you have long or curly hair, or use hand gestures.
- Declutter your background to look professional and minimize audience distraction. Minimalist look is best, like a blank wall or side table with plant or a couple of books. Remove all files and work clutter from the camera view. Make sure no one is likely to walk past the camera behind you…we’ve all seen those funny videos.
- Less is more. If you use slides, put less information on each slide…and use more.
- Prior to the meeting:
- Make sure the kids and pets are out of the room, and any other potential distractions are diverted…e.g. turn off your doorbell with a note, turn off printer
- Silence your phone.
- Pour yourself a glass of water.
- Check your personal visuals – hair, makeup, lipstick, teeth, clothes. Pants are optional…but make sure you don’t have to get up during the meeting.
- Remember the 5 P’s…prior preparation prevents poor performance.
10 minutes before the meeting:
- Open your meeting application and any resources you will need like slides, webpages, documents, so they are ready to go.
- Plug your ethernet cable into your computer to maximise internet speed.
- Plug in your computer.
- Check your audio and video.
- Make sure you have back up computer and internet ready to go in case of technical issues.
- Have your phone close by in vibrate mode, in case someone can’t get into the meeting and need to text you.
- Arrive at your meeting 5 minutes early so you are there to greet your guests with a smile, as they arrive.
- If you use a virtual waiting room, customize it with a personalised message to make sure your guests feel welcome. And let them in right on time or before.
- Start the meeting on time to respect those who were there on time.
- Engage your audience by looking at the camera and sitting on the edge of your seat to prevent you slouching. Sitting upright will maximise your energy levels and improve your tone of voice to make you and your message more influential.
- Remember to smile.
- Check whether your guests have used your meeting platform before, as you may need to give them an overview of the functionality, like where to find the Chat, or how to find Gallery/Speaker view.
- To maximise engagement, invite your guests to turn on their videos …but don’t make it compulsory.
- If your audience is large, mute your guests and encourage them to interact with the Chat facility or unmute themselves to ask a question.
- To minimise audience distraction, make use of Breakout Rooms, Polls, and Chat for group interaction and activities.
- Get your audience to do something every 7 – 10 minutes to prevent them checking their emails.
- If you have a larger audience, assign a co-host to help with tech and answering questions in Chat or Q and A.
- Try to wait until your guests have left before ending the meeting. Or at least check in that everyone is happy and wait a minute or so before ending. It’s the same as what I always teach about hanging up last on a phone call…it’s more courteous just in case they had something else to say.