By now, most people will have some experience with digital conferencing. But how do you make sure that the meeting is optimised and that everyone has listened to and understood each other?
– klik hier voor de Nederlandse versie van deze tekst –Over the past few months, I have led and supervised many digital (Works Council) meetings. I have summarised my experiences and those of my colleagues in this article. These 11 tips and tricks will ensure that you, as a participant and as a ‘meeting leader’, are heard better and that people understand what you want or mean. And as a bonus, the meeting is much less tiring for you!
preparation, preparation, preparation…
Each meeting requires preparation, whether it is a physical or digital meeting. But if you have done something many times, the practice will become much more manageable. That is why I am sharing these tips and tricks for an optimal digital meeting.
tip 1: ensure a quiet environment
Digital conferencing requires a lot of concentration. Occasionally, you’ll get distracted by family members who move around or make noise. That costs a lot of energy.
Therefor, the most ideal is a quiet environment, or at least a locked room where you are alone. If you cannot arrange that, make sure you have a good headset and turn off your microphone when you’re not talking.
tip 2: create a nice background
Make sure your background is as peaceful as possible. This gives the others the best opportunity to watch you, and you can get your message across without distractions. Sit in front of the bookcase or a wall with beautiful artwork.
In any case, do not sit in front of the window (see also tip 3). Also, make sure that your viewers cannot see the pile of laundry or the unmade bed.
tip 3: provide good lighting
The camera is in front of you; the light on your face must come from the same side. Make sure the light shines through the window in your face, or put a lamp behind your monitor. Have you ever seen a movie set or a tv studio? They have tons of lights! On camera, the light intensity is always reduced by half.
In any case, make sure you don’t have any windows or lights behind you. That would cause you to be seen as a black silhouette on the screen.
tip 4: be on time
Try to be ready at least 5 minutes in advance and log in to the programme. This gives you time to test your microphone and camera (and whether the light and your position in front of the camera are right). It also ensures that the meeting can start right away at the agreed time.
tip 5: see all participants
Each digital conferencing programme enables you to set up your screen in multiple ways. The most optimal setting for a digital meeting is when all participants are portrayed together and in the same size. This also conveys the non-verbal information as much as possible.
Take into account that the others are looking directly at your face. This is different from a physical meeting. This means that if you take a bite of your sandwich, or pick your nose, everyone will have front-row seats. So, don’t do that!
tip 6: look into the camera
Yes, that can be difficult. Presenters on TV have been doing it for years, but we’re not used to it. So here it is: you need to look INTO the black hole of the camera. That is most important when you’re speaking.
It is very tempting to look at yourself or the other participants all the time. The camera sits at the top of your screen or on top of it, so if you look at the others, you’ll be looking down. The participants will feel like you are not looking at them because you’re looking at the screen of the person you’re talking to, but they can’t see that.
tip 7: turn everything off
Turn your phone off and mute the notifications on your computer. This prevents any sounds from your computer to disturb you (and the other participants). It also means you will not be distracted during the meeting. Your attention will be 100% focused on the other participants.
tip 8: wear (the right) clothes
Wear something to suit your job, but that is also comfortable. If everyone in the office always wears a tie, that does not mean you have to wear one at home behind your screen. But if formal wear is the norm, make sure you wear a shirt or jacket, not a baggy sweater.
Oh, by the way, make sure you’re wearing pants or a skirt!
tip 9: use body language
When talking, use your hands and let them come into view. Also, use your facial expressions: smile when someone tells something nice, nod if you agree, frown if you don’t understand something. Your message will be more straightforward, and the others will respond to what they see.
tip 10: be your own technical service department
Test your microphone, camera and internet connection well in advance.
test your microphone and camera
Just as you need to be present well in advance in a meeting room, you need to make sure that your microphone and camera work before the meeting starts and that no one has to wait for you until you are audible or visible.
set the camera (height) up properly
Make sure your camera (laptop or computer) is just a little higher than eye level. So actually, you have to look up a little (that also makes sure your extra chins are not so visible). Do you have a laptop? In that case, put your laptop on a stack of books (and use a separate keyboard).
There is nothing so annoying as looking up into someone’s nostrils because they have their laptop on their lap.
Do not sit too close to the monitor or camera: make sure more than your face is in the picture. Think of a talk show on TV; you see people sitting at the table and using their hands and face during the conversation.
An easy way to remember this: make sure your eyes are at one-third of the screen.
test the internet connection
A good internet connection is the most important thing. The tip here is: make sure you have a cable connection, don’t use wi-fi. In my experience, the wi-fi connection loses some capacity, especially during long meetings. If you connect your laptop or computer to an internet cable, that problem is solved.
tip 11: use a laptop/desktop
A tablet (or smartphone) uses apps, and you can only have one open at a time. A tablet is ideal for reviewing your documents during physical meetings. If you need to use it to show something to the others, it often goes wrong.
Yes, these are all simple, straightforward tips. You can apply almost all of them right away. They are not self-evident, or everyone would use them.
As a final and most important tip, I want to recommend that you apply all tips consistently and continuously. Individually, these tips have a little effect, but all of them together make your digital meeting much easier and faster.
Good luck with your next digital meeting!
Note: Please note that we are a Dutch organisation and that all our information is originally composed in Dutch. For the benefit of our English-speaking customers we have translated some of our online information. We are still in the process of translating even more of our information. It could therefore be that you will come across Dutch pages on CT2.nl. Please contact us if you would like more information.