Online Meeting Etiquette – Part One

Online meetingI have at least one online meeting per day.  It’s an ideal way to have a first or qualifying meeting before you buy a plane ticket. Online meetings are a key element of effective time management.  Six is the most I’ve had in one day and I have NEVER had 6 onsite meetings in a day, save for a trade show.  But making your online meetings as productive and professional as your onsite meetings relies not only on your preparation, but your etiquette as well.  This post will deal with your online meetings, where you are the presenter.

  1. BE PREPARED – In addition to having all the information you need about the client, have all the website(s) open to the correct page, any collateral you want to show, spreadsheets, powerpoints, etc. open, displayed in the format you want and queued up. DON’T FORGET:
    • Close any non-work or non-meeting related browser windows or tabs.  If you were on Indeed.com and left it open, you could accidentally go there.  BAD REVEAL!
    • Either close your email software, or disable New Message Alerts.  What if a colleague emailed you “Have you met with those idiots yet?”  The idiots wouldn’t like it.
    • Close your bookmarks bar.  Nobody needs to see what websites you visit.  If you are comfortable operating your browser in Full Screen mode, set it up.
    • Put your phone on DND or silence the ringer, and don’t forget your cell phone, iPad and anything else that makes noise.  (Avoiding spicy food for lunch is good, too.)
  2. BE EARLY – Start your meeting at least 5 minutes prior to the starting time and have a Welcome screen of some type (it could be the title slide of your powerpoint) or the home page of your website.  Personalized, if possible, is better than not.  What you don’t want is for attendees to log in and see a screen that says “Waiting for Host to being meeting.”  Another benefit to this is chatting with the early arrivals.  Besides building rapport and setting a friendly tone to your meeting, you may learn something helpful about the group.
  3. BE INTERACTIVE – This may sound like a big “DUH” but the only thing worse than sitting in a stuffy conference room listening to someone doing a Ben Stein impersonation, is having to sit and stare at your monitor and listen on your phone or headset.  INVOLVE the group by asking questions, or using the Poll feature on your software if it has polling.  When one of the attendees speaks, take a 2-beat count when they are finished to make sure they are done.  You don’t want to have a “No, you go ahead” duel.
  4. BE TECH SAVVY – Some attendees may not have a lot of experience with online meetings, so make sure you are conversant in trouble-shooting when someone says they can’t hear or see something.  Be able to quickly get them into the meeting.  Not only will you save time, but you build trust as an expert.  OTHER TECH TIPS:
    • Use a headset, either USB or other plug in.  Dialing into the conference leaves you susceptible to any kind of interference, bad connection or call drop.  Cell Phone only in a DIRE emergency!  It is critical that you sound as clear and strong as if you were onsite.  You just can’t get that kind of clarity on a cellular or telco line.
    • Don’t take notes using your keyboard.  Participants will hear you typing and wonder who you are communicating with.  Go LEGACY with a pad or notebook and OMG a pen.
  5. BE TIME-SENSITIVE/WRAP IT UP – Everyone (hopefully including you) has other stuff to do, so keep to your allotted time.  Watch the clock in your system tray or on the wall and start getting to the punch line at least 10 minutes prior to the scheduled end of the meeting.  That will give you some time for Q+A or feedback.  And if you end early, you will have grateful folks on the other end.  If you can see all the names in your meeting control panel, try going “around the horn” by name to see if anyone has any questions and thank them for attending.
  6. BE SURE YOU’VE COMPLETELY DISCONNECTED – There’s a famous clip from a 60s live kiddie TV show where the host says “Goodnite Boys and Girls and remember your Uncle Buddy loves you!”  After 3 seconds you hear Uncle Buddy say “Are we off?”  A voice answers, “Yes.”  “That ought to hold the little bastards,” said Uncle Buddy.  Don’t be Uncle Buddy.  That includes the video as well. You sure don’t want them to see you answer your colleague with “And what a bunch of idiots they were.”

DO YOU USE A CAMERA?  If so, take a selfie to see what your background looks like. Does it look professional?  If not, stage things so that your background reflects positively on you when you’re on camera.  (I have diplomas, plaques and awards on the wall behind my chair.)  Check to see that you are centered in the frame, and an appropriate distance from the camera, so you don’t cut your head off.  Make sure, too, that you are dressed appropriately (same as if you were onsite) from the waist up.  Only you know you’ve got shorts and flip flops out of frame.

Some of these may seem trivial, but it’s the little things that loom large in this medium. Online meetings are a terrific and versatile tool.  But you need to master it to maximize your results.

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