Here’s your online meeting preparation checklist! We cover technology requirements and recommendations, your physical space, and your personal appearance. Preparation can fuel success in virtual meetings.
Link to Printable Shownotes HERE: https://talkabouttalk.com/podcasts/#shownotes
Link to Printable “Meeting Prep Checklist” HERE: https://talkabouttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/69-ONLINE-MEETINGS-Preparation.pdf (see pg. 3)
Online Meeting Prep Checklist
SUMMARY: PREPARING FOR ONLINE MEETINGS
- Stable internet connection!
- Recommended tech hardware:
- Corded earphones – no worries about the connection or the batteries
- A ring light.
- Enable the videoconferencing platform
- Do you need to download an app?
- Check your background and your title (name) before the meeting starts
- Enable the videoconferencing platform
Your Physical Space
- Where are you?
- Not seated on your bed! Ideally we cannot see your bed.
- Lighting should be natural (as in daylight) and indirect (no sunbeams on you). No shadows. Use a ring light, if that helps. The light source should be in front of you, not behind you. Face the window or the light.
- Tidy up
- Furniture set-up
- Sit or stand up straight. Your kitchen or dining room table and chair are fine!
- Ensure you have a big enough platform for your computer, papers and whatever else you need close at hand during the meeting. Consider a standing desk.
- Adjust your camera to be at eye level
- We don’t want to look up your nose or down on your big shiny forehead!
Your Personal Appearance
- On top: Solids look better than patterns. Blue is a universally flattering colour on camera
- Wear pants….I had to say it
- If you wear jewelry, make sure it’s quiet
Online Meeting Prep Checklist
- Keep this list in the notes on your phone, or perhaps on your bulletin board above your desk. Update it as you think of things that help you be more productive in meetings.
- See printable list HERE: https://talkabouttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/69-ONLINE-MEETINGS-Preparation.pdf. (see pg. 3)
Online Meeting Prep Checklist
- Stable Wi-Fi connection
- Quiet (no loud fans & ask your “room-mates” to shush)
- Microphone & earphones
- Videoconferencing platform (downloaded, check audio settings, background & name set)
- Phone on silent mode. Close all other windows on computer and turn OFF notifications
- Lighting set up
- Table & chair set-up
- Camera at eye level
- Small water glass (on another table in case it spills!)
Personal & Meeting Prep
- Appropriate clothing (no noisy jewelry, yes, wearing pants)
- Pen & printed meeting agenda with attendee names
- Bio-break before meeting starts
Online Meeting Apps & Websites
- Most downloaded apps of 2020 – https://startuptalky.com/most-apps-downloaded/
- Fastest growing companies of 2020 – https://www.investors.com/research/fastest-growing-companies-2020-despite-coronavirus/
- website – https://zoom.us/
- growth (Bloomberg) – https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-22/zoom-daily-users-surge-to-300-million-despite-privacy-woes
- ROOM RATER
Andrea’s Recommended Equipment for Online Meetings*
- Corded Earphones with mic – https://amzn.to/3sVpmSq
- Ring Light – https://amzn.to/3phvVMY (yes this is the one I bought! Love it!)
- Mobile sitting / standing desk: https://amzn.to/3a7uSsm (game changer!)
Talk About Talk & Dr. Andrea Wojnicki
- PODCAST EPISODE #70 ONLINE MEETINGS part 2: Leading & Participating – https://talkabouttalk.com/70-online-meetings-lead
- Website – https://talkabouttalk.com
- Podcast – https://talkabouttalk.com/podcasts
- Email – Andrea@TalkAboutTalk.com
- Free Weekly Newsletter – https://talkabouttalk.com/blog/#newsletter-signup
- Andrea on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreawojnicki/
* These are affiliate links for products that I personally use and recommend. These links don’t impose any extra cost on you, and they help support the free content provided by Talk About Talk.
Hey there – I’m your communication coach, Dr. Andrea Wojnicki (please call me Andrea!) Welcome to Talk About Talk.
Talk About Talk is where ambitious managers catapult their careers by improving their communication skills. Maybe you’re a life-long learner, or maybe you’re trying to get noticed and advance your career, or perhaps both, then you’re in the right place.
At Talk About Talk, we focus on communication-skills-topics like networking, storytelling and communicating with confidence – And you can access Talk About Talk across a variety of media or resources. You can choose what works for you ! There’s online corporate training, 1-on-1 coaching with me, online courses, the free weekly communication-skills newsletter, and, of course, this bi-weekly podcast.
Welcome to episode number 69! Today we’re focusing on ONLINE MEETINGS. As in videoconferencing. As in Zooming. In case you didn’t get the memo, our world has changed. Online meetings are now the norm. In fact it’s the default for much of our communication, isn’t it? And that goes for both professional and personal communication. Communicating with work colleagues, as well as friends and family.
This episode, #69, is the first is a two episode mini-series focusing on ONLINE MEETINGS. Today we’re going to focus on some context, and then specific advice for how to PREPARE for online meetings.
In the next episode, #70, we’ll focus on
- how to rock it during online meetings, and then also
- if you’re leading a meeting –how to maximize engagement from other online meeting participants, in other words, how to get people talking in online meetings
I can think of lots of other related topics to cover here. As always, I’d love to hear your ideas – please – email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
And – as always, you don’t have to take notes. I encourage you to relax as you’re listening, Keep doing whatever you’re doing – walking, driving, whatever,… Just keep listening and then later you can access the summary and transcript in the shownotes on the TalkAboutTalk.com website under the podcast tab.
OK – Let’s start with context. I’m going to be using the terms online meetings and video conferencing almost interchangeably. I’ll also reference ZOOM here a lot, but I’m talking about all videoconferencing software and applications, including MS Teams, Google Hangouts, Skype, GoToMeeting, and all the rest of them.
Since COVID-19 was declared a world-wide pandemic in March 2020, Zoom in particular has become: one of the most downloaded apps (no kidding). According to some of the statistics I found, Zoom was the 3rd most downloaded ap in 2020 on Google Play, after TikTok and What’s App. It was the #1 most downloaded app in the App store, ad it was the #2 most downloaded app overall, after TikTok.
It’s also one of the fastest growing companies. There are lots of stats out there that illustrate this point. Zoom alone had about 100 million download in 2020. And Let me share this stat from Bloomberg: In the span of just four months in 2020, videoconferencing software products like Zoom, increased their in daily active users by 2,900%. (Bloomberg). OK. That’s just a fancy way of saying their user numbers increased about 30x. But that’s huge, right? And many of those people went from participating in these videoconferencing meetings maybe once or twice a week. That was me. And now it’s an everyday thing. Some people (including my husband, I have to say!) are in back-to-beck meetings for most of the day, every day.
As a marketer who’s focused on interpersonal communication, I’m also fascinated with how the word ZOOM has also quickly become part of our common vocabulary. Unfortunately for some of the other videoconferencing apps like Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, House Party, – Zoom has become the generic term for online meetings or video-conferencing. You’ll hear people say: do you want to do this by phone or Zoom? When they actually mean telephone or some other videoconferencing software.
We also talk a lot about our ZOOM SKILLS and of course we complain about ZOOM FATIGUE, don’t we?
The truth is that while online meetings are certainly exhausting, there are some advantages.
It’s not all bad. Online meetings save us all a lot of time and money. There’s no travel, which is expensive and time consuming. And its’ just plain easier than traveling.
And compared to a phone call, video-conferencing is actually quite effective in terms of communication. Of course you can’t see 100% of the body language, but we’ll get into that in the next episode.
Here’s an upside to online meetings. Once a week, since March, my family has scheduled a weekly 30 minute cross-Canada Zoom check-in with my parents, and my siblings’ families. That’s pretty cool, right? And if you’re like me, you may have had some video-conference calls with people recently that might’ve otherwise have been audio only – just on the phone. It really is nice to SEE people, isn’t it?
So there are advantages. And you’ve probably heard again and again that online meetings aren’t going away. So let’s not fight it. Let’s focus on our online communication skills so we can thrive in videoconference meetings.
In this episode, as I said, we’re going to focus on HOW TO PREPARE for online meetings so we can rock it. Remember, in the next episode #70, we’ll talk about what to do DURING the meeting.
I have a Q for you: how much thought have you given to your preparation for online meetings? Well, I’ve got a checklist for you here. I classified everything in this list into 3 main categories:
- Your technology
- Your physical space and
- Your personal appearance.
I also have a bonus suggestion for you at the end. Something I do now that helps a lot and that I know will help you too.
First things first. You need a stable internet connection. Dropping calls is not cool.
- If this happens frequently, you might need to upgrade your modem.
- And depending on your connection quality, you might ask other members of your household to go on airplane mode (or at least stop streaming movies!) when you have an important online meeting!
- I was just talking to my neighbour – who shared her ingenious solution to dropping calls due to her unstable Wi-Fi. She has four people – 2 kids doing online school and two adults working with frequent zoom calls – They’re are all at home and online all day. Tired of dropped calls, she actually signed up with a 2nd internet provider. She didn’t switch providers; she’s actually paying two telecom companies to keep them online. Yah… that sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But the point is, we need a reliable connection if we’re going to be productive.
In addition to a reliable internet connection, I suggest that you invest in two pieces of tech hardware that’ll help you immensely: corded earphones with a mic and a ring light.
- Corded earphones with a mic – Earphones will help you stay focused, particularly if there are other people around making noise. But why corded? Well, because then you don’t have to worry about your Bluetooth connection, like I was just saying, and also so you don’t have to worry about charging your batteries. Just plug and play. Corded earphones are not expensive these days. Like under $30. Of course you can get a lot more expensive. And if you’re recording a podcasts you have to spend more! But I digress.
- A ring light. No, you don’t have to buy a ring light. You do need to ensure there’s light is on your face, not behind you. (That is, unless you’re in the witness protection program! ha-ha). I got a ring light a while ago for under $50. I’ll leave a link to it in the shownotes. I have it clamped to my desk and I can change the colour tone (like warm or cool) and intensity depending on the time of day and the weather outside. It’s such an easy helpful tool, and honestly I wish I’d bought one a long time ago.
So we’ve optimized our internet connection, we’ve got corded earphones with a mic, and we’ve got a ring light. What else in terms of technology? Well, we have to enable the video conferencing platform where the meeting will be hosted. Check before the meeting starts to see if you need to download an app. If you don’t have a zoom account you can still participate in others’ zoom meetings, as long as they set it up. All you have to do is click the link. For some other videoconferencing platforms you might have to download an app.
Then, if possible and depending on the meeting context, you might also like to update your Zoom background and the title that shows up under your image. Ideally BEFORE the meeting starts. I realized recently when I entered a Zoom meeting on my phone that I’d previously set the background to be a photo of Madonna – yes, as in the singer. As a joke. Then I forgot to set it back. That won’t happen again!
YOUR PHYSICAL SPACE
My first Q is – Where are you? You’re definitely NOT on your bed. Ideally your bed doesn’t even show up on the screen. A few reasons for this, including for starters, the simple fact that it looks unprofessional. Recently I attended an online networking conference, and one of the speakers, an otherwise impressive VP, was seated in front of her perfectly made bed. I kept thinking, “why are we in her bedroom! That’s just weird.” Beyond the professional aspect, there’s also all sorts of research about not working and sleeping in the same place. It’s not good sleep hygiene.
So unless you’re in a bachelor apartment, get away from your bed. Ideally you’re not in your bedroom. Ideally you should be in a room with natural and indirect light. Got that? Natural (as in daylight) and indirect (as in there are no sunbeams on you). And you can use a ring light as I mentioned, if that helps. You can create natural looking shadow-less light with a ring light. And as I also just mentioned, the light-source should be in front of you (not behind you). Most people put their ring light directly behind their camera.
What else about your physical space? Well, we need to tidy up. This is a meeting, not a dorm party, right?
Have you heard of ROOM RATER? If not, I suggest you check it out online. It’s kind of fascinating. There’s a whole phenomenon focused on rating people’s virtual meeting backgrounds. It’s one thing to be tidy and professional, but then ROOM RATER takes that to a whole new level. Like do you have a living plant in your background? A cushion? Is your colour scheme complementary?
Instead of prescribing what you SHOULD have behind you, I’d rather warn you about what NOT to have. Here’s the list: Nothing too personal, nothing inappropriate, not untidy and nothing distracting. Got it? Yes mom. I know.
So that’s your background. It needs to be professional. Next, you need to set yourself up physically so you‘re productive: You might have to move some furniture, but your kitchen table and chair might also be perfect! You certainly don’t need to buy a fancy executive desk and chair. But resting your laptop on your lap while you lean back on your sofa is not ideal. You need to sit up straight in a proper chair and have a platform – a desk or table – for your computer and papers and whatever else you need to have close at hand during the meeting.
Actually – I said sit up, didn’t I? You could also STAND up. I’ve heard enough people raving about standing desks. SO I just bought a convertible mobile sitting/standing desk. That means I can shift it up or down, depending on if I feel like standing or sitting. And mobile means it is on wheels, so I can move it around. Last week I hosted an online corporate workshop from behind my standing desk and I LOVE this new desk!
One last thing about your physical space. Before the online meeting starts, please adjust things so your camera’s at eye level. This is basic Zoom skills 101, but I can’t believe how many people don’t seem to know this yet. Or maybe they just don’t care. Make sure you’re looking straight into the camera – not up or down. (We don’t want to look up your nose or down on your big shiny forehead!)
YOUR PERSONAL APPEARANCE
I have to say this. I’d be remiss if I didn’t first mention that you absolutely should be wearing pants. There’ve been lots of jokes, and memes and stories about people working online, wearing their pajama bottoms – or worse. And some people have even lost their jobs, as you’ve probably heard.
So… dress for success (at least from the waist up!).
If you’re looking for more guidance – I DO have a few suggestions. Solids look better than patterns on camera. So if you’re trying to choose between two shirts, go with the solid, not the pattern. And blue is apparently the most universally flattering colour on screen.
One last thing regarding your appearance: be careful if you’re wearing jewelry. Avoid wearing bangle bracelets or noisy necklaces. And make sure your earrings aren’t clanging against your earphones. Yes, I learned that the hard way. Hopefully you won’t have to.
So that’s your personal appearance:
- If you wear jewelry, make sure it’s quiet jewelry.
- Solids and particularly blue tops look great, and
- Yes, wear pants.
Now we’ve covered preparing for your meeting by setting up your technology, your physical space, and your personal appearance.
As I promised, I have a bonus suggestion for you now before we finish here.
Let me preface this with a Q: Do you ever sign-in to an online meeting, then realize that you forgot to print the agenda? Or worse – you forget someone’s name in the meeting? Or you get a tickle in your throat and you forgot your glass of water?
Make a checklist of what you need to do in advance of an important online meeting, so you don’t forget anything. You can re-use this list every time you have a meeting . And update it as you learn what works for you. It’ll help you be prepared, and you’ll feel more confident!
I keep my “Meeting Prep List” on my phone. You are absolutely welcome to copy my list. And you can find a copy of it in the shownotes on the talkaboutalk.com website. I’ve got things in that list under ach of the categories we just covered: my technology; my physical space; and personal appearance.
Plus there are things on the list like:
- Having the agenda printed and a pen (I like to hand-write meeting notes on a hard copy of the agenda during meetings. Most meeting agendas include attendee names, so that’s a great hack for helping you with that.) Also on my meeting preparation list?
- Having a small water glass (on another table in case it spills!)
- Speaking of water I also have “bio break” on my list. You know what I mean by that, right? There’s nothing worse than having to go pee in the middle of a meeting (!) (Actually, of course there’s lots worse, but you get my point)
- I also make a note to put my phone on silent mode
- And on my computer: I close all other windows and turn OFF notifications (Have you noticed how annoying and distracting to hear other people’s notifications!)
As I said, I’ve included my updated online meeting checklist in the shownotes, and you’re welcome to copy it and modify it for yourself. In fact, I hope you will.
OK – hopefully you’re feeling much better prepared for your next important online meeting. We’ve covered your technology, your physical space and your personal appearance. And of course that coveted checklist.
Yes, I do all of these things myself when I’m preparing for an important online meeting or when I’m leading an online corporate workshop.
Don’t forget there’s a lot more to come to help you with the next episode, when we cover how to rock it DURING the meeting, and then specifically if you’re leading a meeting –how to maximize engagement from other online meeting participants
I hope all this helps! Please let me know. I love hearing from you.
On last thing: I really hope you’ll sign up for the Talk About Talk newsletter, if you’re not already! This is your chance to get free communication skills coaching from me every week in a simple to digest email. I promise no spam and no more than one per week. Just go to talk abouttalk.com to sign up or email me directly and I’ll add you to the list. You can email me anytime at Andrea@TalkAboutTalk.com.
That’s it! Good luck in your online meetings.
THANKS for reading – and Talk soon!
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