With technology making it easier than ever to connect with others across the globe, working from home and Zoom meetings have become the new normal. This convenience comes at a cost, however, as you might find yourself unable to stand out from the rest of the participants on a crowded computer screen, and as a result, you could get lost in the crowd.
But don’t be too quick to give up on virtual meetings. This article will share all the tips and tricks to get you noticed. Let’s make your virtual presence shine through!
Things to Consider Before a Virtual Meeting
1. Clean up the space.
First and foremost, start by clearing your workspace, giving special attention to your background. During video calls, the callers won't see your desk, but they'll see what's behind you.
It’s best if you choose a neutral background with no or minimal objects. Keep in mind that every item on the other side of the room can divert the focus of the attendees and subconsciously pull the viewers’ thoughts away from your message. And perhaps even more importantly, certain items could make you look unprofessional. So hide your skis and inflatable unicorn float toys in the closet!
2. Dress accordingly.
We’ve all been there: waking up in the morning, rolling out of bed, and opening your laptop, not even bothering to get out of your pajamas. And that’s fine—as long as you don’t wear them during virtual meetings.
Keep in mind that your look can either make you blend into the crowd or stand out, so give some thought to your appearance. While you don't need to wear a suit or a dress, try to avoid outfits that are too wild. In other words, something you wouldn't typically wear to the office can stay in your closet or on the bottom, out of sight of the camera.😉
Simple, casual outfits and solid colors are best for video calls. If you wear jewelry, avoid things that produce a lot of noise.
3. Get your lighting and camera angle right.
One more trick that will help you create a pleasant image is the right lighting and camera angle. Not many people care about these things, so use them to your advantage. With your lighting and headshot set accordingly, your on-screen image will look crisp and fresh and will definitely get noticed.
Keep your main light source in front of you rather than behind you. Light from behind will cast shadows on your face, making it dark and less appealing.
Another common amateur mistake is placing your laptop on the table. No one wants to see your chin from the bottom up. So bring your laptop camera up to eye level by placing it on a stand or a stack of books.
4. Warm up your voice.
When it comes to virtual meetings, your voice is your most powerful tool. Speak with intention, and make sure your voice comes through loud and clear so that you communicate intention, energy, and expertise. A little warming up—practicing a tongue twister or doing a few neck rolls—should do the trick.
5. Check your tech.
You want to leave a positive lasting impression, not a negative one, right? So before the meeting, make sure that everything is charged and working well, your presentation (if you have one) is nice and neat, and your audio and video are all set and don’t create an annoying echo or other distracting issue.
As a last resort, have a backup plan just in case. If your Wi-Fi connection goes out, will your phone's data network be sufficient for accessing the meeting?
6. Get rid of all possible distractions.
For your own sake and the sake of attendees, eliminate potential distractions. What could be worse than your phone going off mid-meeting? It will startle everyone, especially those wearing headsets. So before entering a meeting, make sure you have turned off all notifications and messengers. If your computer has a “Do Not Disturb” mode, use it.
But don’t panic too much if something unexpected happens, like your dog barking or a child starting to cry. These types of things are fine; we are all people and the other attendees can probably relate to things like this. If you’re giving an important presentation, however, ask someone to supervise your kids or pets, as you want to minimize any sort of distraction.
7. Plan and prepare in advance.
Take some time to understand what the meeting is about. Is it to share opinions and brainstorm, to make decisions, or just to receive information? Should you prepare a report or a presentation, or will someone else be doing most of the talking? Your preparation will be different based on your role in and the purpose of the meeting.
Double-check if anything was sent ahead of time, and make sure you have everything you might need on your computer.
8. Be an early bird.
Get to any meeting a few minutes before the scheduled start time so you can greet others and chat with them for a few minutes before the meeting officially begins. Doing so can help you make an excellent first impression, strengthen existing relationships, and possibly even expand your network.
Things to Consider in a Virtual Meeting
9. Turn on your camera.
We’ve been talking a lot about picture adjustments in the previous section. We know it might be challenging to always keep your camera on, especially if you have too much on your plate and are tempted to multitask. But believe us, keeping your camera on is worth it!
With your video on, people can see your presence, watch your reactions, and remember you as a visible participant.
As simple as it is, to stand out and have your ideas heard, you have to engage and speak up. If you have something that can contribute to a meeting, raise your hand so the meeting host can see you. Texting in the chat is fine, too, but interacting verbally is always more powerful.
11. Speak clearly and get to the point.
As we just mentioned, one of the best ways to be visible in a virtual meeting is to speak up. But keep in mind that your comments should be brief and to the point.
If your input is structured, addresses the topic at hand, and helps the group reach a conclusion regarding next steps, your contribution will be noted and appreciated.
12. Keep eye contact.
When your video is on, eye contact also comes into play. But unfortunately, most of the time we tend to look at our image on the screen. This can make your eye contact seem a little off to others. You might be wondering, “Where do I look to create a more natural and empathetic connection with others?”
In a virtual meeting, when it’s your turn to speak, move your eyes in a triangle around the camera lens of your device. This will give the impression of normal eye movement, as if you were looking around a roomful of people during an in-person meeting.
13. Use hand gestures.
In a virtual meeting, we are all just talking heads on a screen, and neither the rest of our bodies nor our nonverbal cues are visible. To make up for this, add in hand gestures when you speak. Effective hand movements can easily make you a better communicator.
Let’s take an example. If you’re talking about two different projects and want to compare them, you might use your right hand to talk about one project and your left hand when talking about the other. This simple gesture adds a visual cue that makes it easier for listeners to follow along.
14. Enhance your talk with visuals.
It’s a fact that people are most engaged when they can see the visual content on the screen. So when presenting your ideas, use graphs, charts, whiteboard tools, shared documents, and any other sorts of tools that can support your verbal communication and keep listeners tuned in.
Keep in mind, however, that your slides should not distract anyone from what you're saying. Try to keep your content as minimalist as possible: stick to short text, easy-to-read charts, and simple designs.
15. Read the room.
Last but not least, don’t forget to read the room. If you see people looking away or pulling out their smartphones while you’re talking, perhaps it’s time to switch gears and rebuild that engagement. Pause your presentation and ask a few questions. This will help you stay in tune with the audience and recognize when you're losing them.
Standing out among a dozen square Zoom windows can be quite a challenge. But if you apply at least some of the above tips, the chances are you will become a valuable contributor whose opinions are taken into consideration and whose presence is highly anticipated.
And our final tip: don’t forget that those Zoom squares are real people. Talk to them with plenty of energy and don’t forget to smile!
Now that you’re all set, get on it and rock your next online meeting!