There is a list of stocks that I wish I had bought two months ago: Clorox. Who does Purell belong to? Cruise company (kidding). But mainly?
Coronavirus has opened a brand new world of hand washing, disinfecting, avoiding travel and … working from home. The term is “social distancing”, but the reality is that we all have to figure out how to act from a distant environment. I wonder how many people will have to find their first video-based business meeting from home in the next few weeks.
Here’s what I’ve learned: Running a video meeting is not a given.
I run one HR consultingWe have been experimenting and using remote interviews for over a decade, and have conducted face-to-face interviews north of 20,000 with candidates, many of whom are video conferencing.
It’s actually funny how many mistakes we’ve made with technology over the years. And even now, with a lot of practice, it is amazing how often we will see the same mistakes from candidates or customers if they are not familiar with this medium. So if you fumble around and try to find out, you are not alone.
Since much of the world has to figure out how to meet virtually, I thought I would share some of our best practices for a meeting (or interview) if you can’t be personal. I’ve figured out almost every one of these tips the hard way, but I hope my insights can help you adjust faster:
1. Choose a fixed platform
If you try out a platform (or if your employer has hired one) that seems to be faulty, here’s a news flash: everyone is. We have lost the number of different products that we have tried and we have never been able to find a seamless one. If you can choose your platform, I would join Zoom. I don’t own their shares (but man, I wish I had bought them back in January!), And I’m not paid to say that either. I just found the difficult way that it is undoubtedly the best option. The connection is smooth, the number of participants can be high and you can record the entire meeting.
2. Test your device and connection speed before you call
I don’t want to know how many hours in my life I lost when I started a call and one or the other party spent the first 15 minutes of the meeting saying, “Is that going?” I have found that I avoid WiFi during critical meetings and stick to an old-fashioned hard line.
3. Insist on video
Can you imagine calling a personal meeting and first drawing a curtain between yourself and everyone else? That is what you do when you “just go audio”. I always said, “I turn the video off so I don’t use too much bandwidth and call quality is better.” It’s just not true these days. What I found really means: “I want to have this meeting, but I don’t have to see it.” Yes, if you are on video you will be viewed. That is the idea. If you are worried that someone will see you poking your nose, remember that no one should poke your nose anymore. If you’d rather just make a call so that you can multitask while on the call, it may be time to reevaluate the need for the meeting. Virtual meetings require vigilant and unique attention – almost more focus than if you were personal.
4. Do not mute
Too often I’ve said some of my smartest things when I unknowingly hit the mute button. I know it seems nice, but it’s actually counterproductive. My friend Bryan Mileswho co-founded Security solutionsAccording to a virtual recruitment agency, they found that if you mute a small meeting, you won’t be having real conversations, even if you try not to be a nuisance. He says they have found that anything under a dozen means implementing their “no one is allowed to mute” rule. This means that everyone has to attend, and it also means that no one can attend other meetings (such as replying to emails) if you want them to pay undivided attention to the meeting.
Reserve 5th place
Too often, people assume that working remotely means working from wherever and whenever you want. Not so. I have found that virtual work requires more discipline. Find a special place where you cannot be interrupted by children, spouses, or other distractions. I love your family, but I don’t want to hear Netflix or Fortnite during our work or interview. And as much as I love dogs, I hate hearing a barking (or even snoring) dog when I call. Intentionally create a workspace that is exactly that.
6. Check your angles
See how you look during your test! Sounds simple, but the natural angle of a laptop camera means that the camera looks directly over my nose and along my chin (usually it adds a few chins to me). Natural computer lighting makes me look washed out and overly blanched. Sometimes I interview people who stand in front of a sun-drenched window. And while the golden halo around a head looks good in Renaissance art, it’s annoying to the person you’re meeting. Check this in advance, and I bet you can improve the default settings by adjusting your angles and lighting. Don’t forget to consider (and maybe even change) your background. I can’t tell you how much I learn about a candidate I’m interviewing based on the books, trinkets (and even posters) that are on the shelves behind. A friend told me about a meeting with a colleague who was in a hotel, and the background incorrectly included that his wife got in and out of the shower!
7. Work from home, but get dressed for work
Teleworking is neither a synonym for casual work nor a permit to work in a bathrobe. You will work better if you dress for it. In addition, you will take the people on the other end of your call more seriously. Sounds crazy, but I actually had a couple I interviewed to answer their video call from their bed (they said they were reading, but I just can’t see them). Seriously, deep V-neck T-shirts and strapless tops can and often make people look topless on a screen. It rarely looks good. If you want to be treated like a professional, follow the bottom line of your team’s dress code, even if you work from home. This is very important in sales talks and cardinal in interviews.
8. Small details can make a big difference
Here’s a short list of little details that will improve your virtual meetings: Use headphones (but not your child’s Mickey Mouse headphones). If possible, use an external microphone if you have one. They have no blinds behind them (the light that moves in and out of them creates chaos on the other person’s display). Close competing applications on your screen and throughout your home (again Netflix and Fortnite for kids). Mute your computer and phone notifications for text, email, and other notifications that may be triggered during the meeting. And please don’t turn on your rolling desk chair. It looks weird and sounds like an earthquake on the other end.
If you need to learn the virtual world, please learn from my mistakes. By the time this corona virus is over, we will all adjust to a new normal. I hope that some of these practices will help you look like an old professional in our brave new world.
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