What You Should Always and Never Do in Remote Meetings

By John DiJulius06.29.2020

By now we have all seen someone on a Zoom call accidentally showing they are not wearing pants or someone saying something embarrassing thinking they were on mute. Literally overnight, just about every company was thrust into the virtual communication business. As a result, in many cases, the learning curve has been slow and painful. Video meetings with customers and team members are here to stay. It is critical that you train all your employees how to execute video meetings flawlessly.

Never and Always for Video Meetings . . .

Always put the video camera at eye level

Regardless of the device you are using, your phone, tablet, computer, or laptop, you need to make sure the camera is eye level. No one wants to look at your nose hairs.

Never have an unlit face

Make sure you can see yourself on video. I am shocked by how many people have an unlit face. This happens when all the light is behind them, maybe from the window, which casts a shadow over their face. You want your brightest light source to be placed in front of you.

Always mute yourself when not talking

Nothing is more distracting than hearing someone typing, papers ruffling, a cellphone ringing, or side conversations happening at home. It also is disrespectful to the person who is speaking.

If you have multiple monitors, I recommend turning them off during your meetings. I have seen people taking notes the entire time on another monitor. It looks like they are not paying any attention and multitasking, working on something else. If you want to take notes on your computer, take them on the monitor your camera is on, so you are always facing the camera.

Never have any other apps open

Use your DND (Do Not Disturb) feature and make sure all other applications, especially the ones that have notifications (e.g., messages, email, slack) ARE SHUT DOWN. This will keep you solely focused on the meeting.

Always turn video off temporarily if you cannot give the speaker your full attention

If you are on a long meeting with a group of people and for a brief moment you can’t give 100% attention, it is better to turn your video off and mute. It is distracting to the person speaking and everyone else if they see an empty chair (maybe you ran to the bathroom), you multi-tasking, or having a conversation with someone.

Always use chat

If you are stepping away momentarily, it is polite to post that you will be right back in chat.

Always encourage other attendees to turn their video on

I have found in both one on one video meetings and in groups, the vast majority will turn their video on if the organizer is on video. Obviously, it is each person’s choice. However, I have found that a simple nudge, “Denise, will you be getting on video?” usually does the trick. While it may not be some people’s preference, in the virtual world we are in today, it is critically important for building a connection to be able to see each other. Also being on camera ensures that everyone on the call does not multitask and remains present during the entire conversation.

Never have distractions in the background

No matter where you are taking your virtual calls from, examine your background for any distractions that can be seen on camera. Keep your background as clean and clutter free as possible. People notice everything. Having a bookcase behind you is fine as long as there isn’t a ton of clutter that can become the unintended focus of other attendees.

Always view all attendees

When it is smaller meetings (i.e., 12 or less) use the view all attendees thumbnail feature, especially if you are the organizer. This allows you to see everyone’s level of engagement and make adjustments to the meeting when necessary.

Never remain on a slide longer than you have to

As a presenter, a great habit to get into is regularly un-share your screen and return the call to a full video conference. While this is a little higher maintenance for the presenter, it is a significantly better experience for all the attendees. If you have made your point on the current slide and are going into detail or having a group discussion, people do not need to stare at the same slide for 3-10 minutes. A change of scenery, going from slides to all attendee view, helps stimulate people’s attention.

Always use attendee’s name

Calling on people to share their thoughts helps keep everyone engaged, on their toes, and paying attention in case they get called on. It also helps get valuable feedback and ideas from the people who don’t want to compete with the stronger personalities of the group, who may tend to dominate the conversations. And finally, it reduces people from talking at the same time or over each other.

Never present nonstop for more than 10 minutes

Even if you are supposed to present your content for 30 – 45 minutes and then take questions afterwards, you must engage the audience every 10 minutes. Think about live presentations, even though the speaker may be presenting for a long period, they still interact with the audience during their presentation with questions like: “How many of you have ever…?”, or “Of the following, which one is more important…?” This can easily be done using features like interactive polls and chat.

Always open with ice breakers

If you are the organizer and it is a small group (12 or fewer), opening with a rapid-fire icebreaker is a great way to get everyone engaged. For example, “I want each person to tell me how they are feeling in one word.”

Always have fun exercises in longer meetings

If you are facilitating a workshop, such as 2-3 hours with your employees, it is great to have a fun exercise in the middle to reset people’s brain. For example, you can play FORD trivia, where you show a list of information (e.g., loves boating, teaches yoga, training for their first marathon) where the attendees then have to guess who each person is.

Always have breaks at every 50 minutes

If you are the organizer, understand virtual is totally different than a physical meeting. In a physical meeting, most groups take breaks every 90 minutes. To avoid zoom fatigue, I recommend shorter breaks more often (e.g., ten-minute breaks every 50 minutes).

Always put the thumbnails by camera

Regardless of where your video software puts the thumbnails of attendees, which is often to the far right of your screen, I suggest you click and drag the thumbnails to directly underneath your camera. When I don’t do this and have re-watched the presentation, I see myself looking away from the camera the entire time, because I am always staring at the thumbnails.

John DiJulius is president of the DiJulius Group, which provides customer service content, consulting, and training.