Are we all sick of virtual meetings yet? Personally, I kind of like them. I'm an introvert by nature, so this quarantine has been relatively status-quo for me. Of course, I miss being able to sit at my favorite bar and catch a baseball game. Besides that, the online meetings have been quite sufficient to quench any need for social interaction. That said, there are others of you that are seriously jonesing for some quality "we" time. Since we're going to be living this reality for a couple more weeks (At least those of us who are content with waiting for this thing to calm down a little further, are) I figured I'd share a few tips on making the most of those virtual meetings.

To be clear, most of these suggestions pertain to not only business meetings but family and friends connecting as well. I have played poker with my group 2 or 3 times over the last couple weeks. The game we play is online (of course) but has no video component. We simply jump on a Zoom call and are able to "visit" with each other as though they were right here at our kitchen table (almost). I've connected with my family and friends this way and, of course, had a handful of business meetings. The goal here is to increase the personal and social aspects of these meetings.

One of the main goals for you, the person who will ensure this meeting is awesome, is to emphasize the social component. It's true that having murmurings and tertiary conversations during a meeting is incredibly disruptive and rude. But for every thing there is a season. Allow time for re-connections and gabbing. People are going to make mistakes. Some folks will be wearing pajamas (like me....every day!). You can instigate some of this casual conversation and fun and even encourage it as folks begin to arrive and get settled. Again, you don't want it persisting throughout the meeting, but it is important that folks get more comfortable with being "online". Remember, this is not common for most of us.

Every one of us is handling this situation differently. I have had emotions ranging from true desperation and depression to a lack of concern and a flippant attitude towards the whole thing. And I continue to bounce around that spectrum on a weekly basis. Each of the meeting attendees will also be somewhere along this range. It will depend on their overall attitude, state of mind, and which horrible news they've been watching. (We've all heard enough of their negativity and sensationalizing to last 10 lifetimes!). If you can set the tone early-on in the meeting, it will serve you well.

You can't simply ignore this pandemic, but you don't have to focus on it. Acknowledge it. Express that we're all feeling a little uncertain. Even feel free to share some of your own thoughts and feelings, but try to migrate that into a positive somehow. I think we're all experiencing the hooting, hollering and fireworks at 8pm every night (Isn't that cool!?). Encourage folks to share some positive experiences they have had or seen. Without exception, sharing (and even listening to) positive thoughts and feelings improves our attitudes and helps elevate the mood.

Moving beyond that, encourage each of the members to keep their cameras turned on. One of the more limiting factors of our modern day communication is the inability to SEE how someone is reacting to what we are saying via telephone. There is nothing more gratifying than being able to see your friends, co-workers and even listing clients or real estate professionals while you are talking to them. A simple quip may elicit a smile or a giggle that would go unnoticed on the phone. Being able to see everyone's face simply makes the connection stronger and makes the whole conversation more personal.

I encourage you to get a decent headset or a pair of bluetooth headphones. Having to sit still (being tethered to a computer) for an hour or more is simply painful for me. (Hey - Squirrel!) This also helps clean up any background noise in your home and is infinitely better for you hearing everything that is going on. "I strongly recommend wired or wireless headphones for any online meeting (or phone call)," notes Badger Realty agent, Diane McGregor. "It allows me to be hands-free during the meeting as well as be more relaxed and simply enjoy the connection more," she continued.

Last, but not least, be aware of your background. In many ways, you are holding this meeting in your home and all of the members of the group are going to be sitting in front of your desk facing you. Take a second to spin around in your chair and tidy things up. It is also imperative that you not have a window behind you. (You will end up looking like you're in witness protection!) I have colleagues who have hung a simple sheet behind them and then used the meeting software to display a fake background (some of these are quite fun!).

Online meetings are going to continue to be a strong component of the business world and (for a limited time) the personal world. You may as well get yourself set up for them now. I strongly believe the more comfortable you are with online meetings, the more likely you will be to start initiating them with your friends and family. I can't encourage this behavior enough! Get to it! We all need to connect and this is the best option we've got for now. See you online!

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