It has been almost three years since the COVID-19 breakout in 2020 that changed the world and how we do business. A client meeting used to be held at the office or at a restaurant; now, many meetings are virtual. According to Zippia, 50% of employees have at least one to three virtual meetings per week.[i]
While most of the pandemic has passed and most people have found themselves back at their offices, virtual meetings are still very prevalent in the workplace. The reason behind the popularity of virtual meetings is simple; they are convenient. Getting from one place to another while managing a tight schedule can be incredibly complex and waste time.
Furthermore, with the price of gas and airfare, travel has become increasingly expensive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, airfare rose 42.9% from September 2021 to September 2022.[ii] Simply put, people have realized that virtual meetings are time and cost-effective.
With almost three years of experience, you would think most people are experts in virtual meetings. However, this is not the case. There are still plenty of virtual meeting blunders seen today.
Here are five mistakes you might be making in your virtual meetings:
1. Background noise:
In a study on what annoys people the most when it comes to a virtual meeting, over 50% of respondents said that loud background noise was the most annoying[iii]. We've all been in a virtual meeting with that one person who doesn't seem to grasp the concept of the mute button. Dogs are barking, sirens are wailing outside, and a TV is on, all in the background. It is incredibly annoying to other participants and can look sloppy on behalf of the noisy participant.
Don't be that person! A simple way to ensure you are always muted is to select the option which says 'mute on entry' or something of that nature. Most virtual meeting platforms will have that option. Setting it ensures that your audio will be muted every time you enter a meeting, so you start muted.
Another tip to eliminate background noise is to get into the habit of only unmuting when you are actively speaking. For example, mute yourself if you are in a meeting and someone else has been explaining something that doesn't require a response from you. Even if you are in a quiet space for your meeting, this trick ensures that your background noise will not become a problem, no matter what surprises may occur. Once you get into this habit, it will become second nature.
2. Technically Difficulties
In the same study, as referenced above, over 45% of people stated that an aspect of virtual meetings they found the most annoying was 'technical difficulties.' We've all been there. You're supposed to be on a virtual meeting, and suddenly your Wi-Fi goes out, your Bluetooth headset won't connect, or your slide deck isn't loading. You can't always be perfect, and some of these problems are hard to avoid.
One thing you can do to combat these technical difficulties is to get to the meeting five minutes before it starts and test things out. Check if your materials are loaded and ready to go, check your audio and video, and ensure your Wi-Fi is functioning. These five minutes will be crucial in helping you look calm, confident, and professional in your virtual meetings.
Often, we find ourselves waiting until the last moment to hop on a virtual meeting call because there's no travel time. Unfortunately, this is not a good habit for looking put together in virtual meetings. Use this five-minute rule for all your meetings. The more important the meeting is, the more time you should make beforehand to ensure everything is up and running.
3. Not Looking in the Camera:
Nothing is worse than giving a long, well-thought-out virtual presentation only to see all the attendees looking elsewhere. Trying to keep eye contact with the camera is hard, but it demonstrates confidence and shows you are listening. Showing a client or prospect that you are actively listening and engaging with what they say is instrumental in maintaining strong client relationships.
Most virtual meeting tips will say, 'just look into the camera,' but that is much easier said than done. Often, we get distracted or look at our screen instead of the camera. One trick I learned to help with this is to put a sticky note with a smiley face by your camera.
It seems silly, but it helps to have a face to look at and reminds you to look at the camera. With this tip, you can look more confident and engaged in your meetings. Your clients want to feel heard, so make sure you look like you're listening.
4. Texting or Looking at Phones
This is the era of multitasking. You can always do something else at the same time as what you're currently doing. Almost 90% of people multitask in virtual meetings [iv]. There are several reasons why this is harmful.
The first is that if you are looking at your phone, you are not looking at the camera, and the other attendees can see you are not engaged in the meeting. This could be very damaging to your client's perspective of you.
Another reason checking your phone during a meeting to multitask is harmful is that multitasking can temporarily lower your IQ. In fact, in a study done by the University of London, people who multitask while trying to perform cognitive tasks experience a 15-point drop in IQ.[v] That means that if you are trying to have a productive, intelligent meeting with a client, you are not showing you best.
The best advice I have to stop looking at your phone during a virtual meeting is to put it out of reach. It's that simple. You will be on camera during the meeting, so you can't get up and get your phone.
It is truly out of sight, out of mind. When you get into the meeting five minutes early, place your phone somewhere out of reach. This removes the temptation to multitask during virtual meetings.
5. Missing or Forgetting Virtual Meetings
This is a mistake that can be detrimental to your client relationships. Just like no one wants to be stood up for a date, no one wants to be stood up for a meeting. Because you don't go anywhere, you think about the logistics of the meeting less than you would in an in-person meeting. This lack of thought can lead to the meeting slipping your mind completely.
Suddenly you find yourself rushing to your desk, frantically opening your calendar, and tumbling into your virtual meeting, flustered and late like an unprofessional intern on their first day instead of the confident professional you indeed are.
There are several ways to tackle this challenge presented by virtual meetings. The first suggestion is to turn on calendar notifications on your phone during work. Every time you get up, take your phone with you.
Another way to avoid being late or missing a meeting is to check your calendar at the beginning of each day. A great routine you can implement is day planning. As soon as you get to your desk in the morning, note what's on your calendar. Plan your day around your meetings and set goals for what you want to accomplish. This will not only ensure you remember your meetings but also help you make your day more productive.
With three years or more of virtual meeting experience, don't let yourself make these rookie mistakes. Utilize these tips to ensure your virtual meetings run as smoothly as your in-person meetings and your clients leave with a great impression of you, whether they meet you virtually or in person.
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