As remote work continues to grow in prominence and acceptance, video conferencing applications are exponentially growing in use. Applications like Zoom, as well as Microsoft Teams, provide an invaluable way to keep the essence of “face-to-face” meetings, even when you are miles or hundreds of miles apart. Just as leaders need to find a way to keep everyone focused and on task, participants in the meeting also need to make sure they are ready to engage. Follow the tips below for the best way to be productive when you attend a Zoom meeting and win over your coworkers and bosses.
Look Directly into the Camera
If you are looking elsewhere on the screen during a Zoom meeting, it’s a clear indication you are distracted by something. Sure, you may be reading facts and figures relevant to the discussion. You could also just as easily be reading the news or a webcomic. Direct eye contact with the camera will give everyone the impression you are directly engaged in the topic and conversation. Most laptops require you to look down a little and that’s okay. All that matters is that you are looking directly into the camera. This helps simulate the “eye to eye” connection you would otherwise have in an office.
Check Your Surroundings
Another primary step in ensuring good participation when you attend a Zoom meeting is awareness of your surroundings. Being remote also raises the possibility of background noises inadvertently entering into your Zoom meetings. That means kids yelling in the background, the landscaper working outside, neighbors playing music too loud, etc. If you are not speaking, then it’s a good practice to make sure your microphone is muted. The same goes for the background when you are on camera. Make sure you don’t have anything distracting in the background like a movie poster or closet full of dirty clothes. Similarly, turn off the ringer on your phone. The last thing you want is for it to blare your ring tone while you are talking or off mute.
Have Good Lighting
Zoom participants can decide whether to share themselves on camera or not, but if you do, have good lighting available. That’s not to say you need to be outdoors in direct sunlight, but try not to choose a dark room either. Other people in the meeting want to see who they are communicating with, so be mindful of poor lighting. If you are sitting directly in front of a window, sunlight may be picked up by a web camera, and the exposure will make it hard to see and for others to see you. Instead, face the window rather than putting it over your shoulder. If you are in a home office with less than good outside light, invest in an inexpensive lamp. Better lighting will make it easy for everyone to see you.
Chat and Reactions
If you are listening to others speaking during the meeting and want to engage without interrupting, Zoom has chat and reaction functions built in. The chat option is a great way to ask a question without interrupting while someone is speaking. It’s also a great way to add information for anyone else interested in the topic without interrupting the current speaker. Similarly, Zoom has dual reaction buttons built in. These are quick and easy ways to show your excitement without cutting someone off. Both steps show management you are engaged and actively participating without breaking someone’s thought while they are talking.
Use Your Inside Voice
This is another idea that should be fairly obvious when you attend a Zoom meeting, but talking during the meeting is no different than talking to someone sitting next to you. With that in mind, make sure you are using your inside voice when talking. If you have a good microphone – and nearly every semi-recent laptop or desktop comes with one – there shouldn’t be any issues picking up your voice. Speaking at a normal talking level will keep listeners tuned in. Inadvertently shouting could be enough of a distraction that it throws a meeting off course. It’s an easily avoidable problem, so use your inside voice and carry on.
Dress for the Job You Want
This is another entry into the no-brainer list, but make sure you are dressed appropriately for every instance you may appear on video. Just as you don’t want a distracting background taking attention away from a speaker, the same is true for what someone is wearing. Lose your favorite shirt from the concert that happened twenty years ago or your pajamas and try something more professional-looking. This won’t be an everyday instance, and part of the benefit of working from home is to be more comfortable, but that really depends on your job and whom you are speaking with over Zoom.
Don’t Eat During Meetings
There is little chance any of your coworkers want to see or hear you eat during a meeting. It’s okay to do so while you are on mute but if you are on a call where active participation is likely or required, save lunch until before or after the meeting. It’s true that might not always be practical, but more often than not, it likely is, so don’t eat during meetings. If nothing else, turn off the video and mute your audio so you are not distracting anyone or making anyone else hungry.
Just as leaders need to do their own work to keep a meeting on schedule and on topic, participants are equally responsible for that as well. Each of the tips above will help ensure that Zoom meetings you attend are valuable and a good use of time. If you happen to be leading a Zoom meeting, follow these tips to make the meeting productive as the leader.