“You’re on mute!”. This is going to be the phrase of the year, as people all over the world adjust to the new way of communicating and conducting business using videoconferencing tools; and indeed, people are still adjusting.
In recent virtual business meeting I had, I logged in early together with another business executive. While we were waiting for the start of the meeting, I heard in the background his wife shouting at him, calling out the dirty towel he left on the bed. The poor guy, unknowingly had his microphone unmuted, shouted back.
Social media is littered with bloopers during business meetings using videoconferencing tools – from forgetting to turn off the camera while picking one’s nose to unknowingly focusing the laptop camera onto your bald head. Not only do these situations invite laughter from the participants, but also distract the meeting, wasting valuable time in the process.
That is why it is incumbent upon us in business to master the new medium – the virtual setting. Just like in the physical world, the virtual setting demands propriety.
In the ground-breaking book of Mike Schultz, Virtual Selling. He outlined seven technical and tactical areas to check in order to master the new medium of communication.
First is the conversation setup. This includes having the right bandwidth to sustain a meaningful virtual meeting. A decent speed to sustain online meetings is 20mbps. In our internet situation in the country, it is necessary to have a second and third backup providers as their service remains intermittent and fraught with downtimes.
Part of the conversation set up is being mindful that the other party receives the URL link to the meeting. The best practice is to include in the calendar meeting invitation the virtual meeting link, instead of depending on the platform’s auto-generated email invitation. The calendar meeting notice should clearly indicate the meeting title and agenda, to avoid being lost in the barrage of emails one receives.
Before the meeting, it’s important to check your video, bandwidth, audio, webcam, office scene, and lighting. Get your screens and files ready. If a meeting is very important, double checking will save you heartaches. If you are going to record the meeting, make sure you say it out loud and get your attendees’ confirmation—before you record.
Second is the platform to use – may it be Zoom, MS Teams, Google Meet, or others. Ease-of-use for client meetings should be your number one criterion. But if you have the choice, it’s typically best to select a meeting software that most people are used to.
Part of this is being mindful of your screen share hygiene. Have an appropriately professional background screen., clean up your desktop files, turn off screen pop-ups and close browsers and any personal files.
Third is video. It’s a best practice to use video for your virtual sales meetings, even if the other parties don’t have their video on. Seeing your face on the screen will help develop trust and rapport. If you’re organizing the virtual meeting, set expectations in advance to use video by indicating it in the calendar invite.
Use an HD cam. Your webcam affects your appearance, which is all important like in physical meetings. If you have a grainy webcam, it’s like wearing crumply clothes to a meeting.
Part of the virtual appearance is the head position. Be aware of where your head is. The top of your head should be 10 percent to 15 percent from the top of your screen.
During the meeting, always look into the camera. Don’t look left or right as this is distracting. Don’t look off to a second monitor for long periods. Position the camera at eye level or just above. Don’t turn your video on and off, and as a rule don’t get up and walk around. If you need to turn the video off, do so as infrequently as possible for as short periods as possible.
Fourth is sound. Prior to meetings, do a tech check to test your audio. Computer microphones aren’t typically very good, so invest in an external mic or quality headset that has a noise cancelling feature. Also, minimize background noises. Lastly, be conscious if you’re muted or not by always checking on the mic icon.
Fifth is lighting. Light evenly, with medium-to-light brightness. You can face a window or use an inexpensive ring light to do the trick. Avoid backlighting and overheads that create dark faces and shadows. Always test your lighting.
Sixth is your background. Prepared actual background settings that are neat, clean, bright, and professional are always best and convey authenticity. But nice virtual backgrounds are also acceptable. Curate your look and scene to project your desired brand.
Seventh and the last is you. Think “important live meeting”: Prepare your look and dress as if you were meeting in person. If you’re not sure, always dress up one level. Your look is a part of your brand. Remain approximately 1.5 to 2 feet from the camera. Think “TV news anchor” and adjust your distance accordingly.
(Originally published in Manila Bulletin, September 9, 2020)
Reynaldo Lugtu Jr is Co-Founder and CEO of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. And has engaged with several companies and organizations on digital transformation and innovation.
He is a digital and culture transformation thought & action leader, a sought-after public speaker, and an accomplished educator, author, business columnist, and innovation coach. And is a business columnist and writer for Manila Times, Manila Bulletin, and Business World.
Ray is the Country Representative of the Institute of Change and Transformation Professionals Asia (ICTPA). He is also Professorial Lecturer in the MBA program of De La Salle University and Lecturer on Digital Transformation, Leadership and Management in the Benilde – School of Professional and Continuing Education.