Having spent the last five and a bit years freelancing, the lockdown hasn't really affected my work as a communications consultant. Remote working is my norm and I am lucky to have a dedicated home study.
However, there is one area where I have had to get up to speed, that of the virtual meeting. A couple of weeks ago, I hadn't even heard of zoom. Now I am attending zoom meetings once or twice a week and after a rather shaky start, I think I've more or less mastered the art of attending and even hosting a virtual meeting. Here are my top tips:
1. Preparation – just as you would for any meeting, prepare thoroughly and circulate an agenda if you are the host. It’s also worth logging in a few moments early to check your microphone and speaker. If you're hosting, you may wish to hit the record function. I have found this feature invaluable because it means you don't have to look down to take notes as you can review who said what afterwards.
2. Camera - I'm told that having the camera higher rather than lower is more flattering so I now put my laptop on some books so that the camera is more or less at eye level. When a colleague is talking, try and avoid looking directly at them but continue to look straight at the camera as this will give the impression that you are looking at the speaker.
3. Lighting - now this is tricky. Too bright and you're look washed-out, too dark and you might as well be on the telephone. My study is east facing which is ok in the mornings but by midday the light isn't really working so I turn the lights up and put a lamp on.
4. Background noise - zoom automatically focuses on the person making the most noise so unless you are the host, consider putting yourself on mute except when speaking. Easier said than done but if you have small children (or larger ones), try and ensure they are out of the way. I stick a large "no entry" sign on my study door. It sometimes works.
5. Timing - now this really is important. If you are a basic zoom user, the meeting will time out at exactly 40 minutes. This is a rather handy feature if you're in a meeting with a time-waster but not so good if the call cuts out abruptly during an important client catch up. This happened during my first zoom call. I learnt my lesson so I now remind attendees when the meeting will end which tends to ensure that everything wraps up in a timely manner.