Navigating the New World of Virtual Meetings

By: Breann Pauley, VP, Learning Process & Architecture, PSCU

In just a matter of weeks, the U.S. workforce at large has been plunged into a new normal. Face-to-face meetings and training are suddenly not possible due to social distancing guidelines. Thankfully, technology enables us to adapt, flex and stay connected with one another as the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis continues to unfold around the world.

Now more than ever, we are seeing the many benefits of virtual meetings. They’re cost effective and can connect you to anyone from anywhere while sharing screens, documents, videos and links. We can even still see each other face-to-face with the help of webcams and live video tools.

Of course, the current remote working environment poses some unique challenges that many of us have likely already experienced: Connection issues? Barking dog? Kids running around? Check! Check! Check! While we can’t help manage your dogs or your kids, we can lend you a helping hand in learning how to navigate our new virtual world.

With the plethora of virtual meeting tools available to choose from, rest assured that no matter what tools your credit union is using, these tips and tricks will help you and your team succeed while socially distancing.

Preparing Your Virtual Meeting

To enhance your virtual meetings, consider the features of the virtual tools you’re using and the content you’re presenting:

  • What are good stopping points in the presentation for your audience to ask questions?
  • Are there points in your presentation where the audience could provide their feedback through a chat box, annotation, whiteboard or poll?
  • Is there a way you can visually represent what you’re saying on a slide with a picture, graphic, video or audio clip?

Review the attendee experience: To better understand your attendees’ view and capabilities, practice presenting to somebody before hosting your first meeting. Partner with a co-worker to test out features or functionalities you plan to use during your meeting.

Set meeting expectations: Inform your audience about the format and if you will be sharing content, recording the meeting or requiring them to be on video, etc. For virtual meetings to work, everyone should be on the same page. For example, if some of your team members choose to video conference into a call while others dial in via their phones, that creates odd imbalances and pauses.

If you have webcams, use them: Video is the next best thing to being live and in person, and much more engaging than a phone call alone. You can see your team members’ reactions, facial expressions, body language (and the occasional entertaining cat). Most virtual meeting tools allow you to view everyone on the same screen – it’s like watching the opening of the Brady Bunch, but with the people you know and love!

Providing a Quality Meeting Experience

If you’re presenting, follow these tips to provide the best possible experience for your audience:

  • Dress as if you would for an in-person meeting.
  • For the best lighting, try to have natural lighting behind the camera facing you.
  • Position yourself close to the camera so your face is clearly visible – like a headshot photo.
  • Look at the camera as you speak.

To mute or not to mute? As a rule of thumb, always put yourself on mute unless you are presenting or speaking. Muting prevents echoes and feedback on the line, and helps to cut down on the background noise (such as dogs barking). Use caution when using a double-mute function if you dial into a meeting via your phone and computer audio (VOIP). In order for others to hear you, you may have to unmute both your phone and your computer.

Engage your audience: As you would in a face-to-face meeting, you’ll want to ensure your audience is engaged in the conversation and actively participating. Instead of speaking at them for the duration of the meeting, interact with them by asking questions and utilizing the interactive features your web conferencing tool provides (such as chats, polling, annotation and whiteboards).

Latency/connection issues: Here are some tips from our PSCU IT pros for dealing with these pesky problems:

  • Most meetings start at the top of the hour or half past the hour, which can cause connection issues when multiple meetings occur at the same time. Instead, try starting your meetings at a different time. For example, instead of 9:00 a.m., schedule your meeting for 9:10 a.m.
  • Close any unnecessary applications, as audio and video compete for the same resources and will impact the quality of your collaboration experience when under pressure.
  • If you do not have a strong WiFi connection, lower your video quality or turn off your camera. Also, consider sharing any content before the call.
  • If you’re attending a virtual meeting and do not have access to WiFi, use the direct dial numbers in the meeting invite to attend the meeting instead.

The best advice we can give you as we all navigate this new world of working together virtually, is to simply do the best you can to stay connected. We are all doing our best in these unprecedented times.

Breann Pauley is Vice President, Learning Process & Architecture at PSCU. She has over 18 years of experience in facilitation, instructional design and the financial services industry. Breann’s team of Learning Architects support PSCU and its Owner credit unions through their dedication to the development of high-quality agile learning solutions that enhance the learner experience.