I hate Zoom calls. This is probably a sentence that you've heard once or twice — okay, a lot. You probably told yourself that things would be better if they were just in-person or that you really felt such a disconnect. While some professionals feel the same way, it is hard to deny the business environment's increasingly virtual nature. In fact, 72% of knowledge workers said that they would want a hybrid remote-office model moving forward. Whether we like it or not, virtual meetings are here to stay. So how do we make the best of our professional video calls? Or dare I even say it, actually enjoy them?
Look no further than UBWA alumna Sandra Aleksova. Aleksova has experienced a shift towards a nearly 100% virtual work environment in her experience as a Service Line Finance Manager at Procter & Gamble. In March of 2020, Procter & Gamble pivoted in response to the pandemic, instructing over 10,000 office personnel to work from home. Since then, it has been difficult to ignore the lasting impact of this decision on work-place norms. Luckily, Aleksova is ready to offer her top tips on how to elevate your next virtual meeting.
Beginning with setting up the call, Aleksova offers us some initial tips on approaching virtual meetings. She recommends arriving on time, in front of a clean background, with a plan. Aleksova states: "In the professional world, meetings crop up like weeds and quickly fill up your day. If you come prepared and get to the point, people will love you." Taking these initial steps demonstrates to your co-workers that you value their time. Likewise, try to schedule your meetings in 25 to 55-minute intervals instead of 30 to 60-minute intervals. As Aleksova explains, structuring meetings in this manner "provides needed breaks for those who have back-to-back meetings." Being respectful of others' time allows you to be a more effective, courteous virtual meeting host. After all, a simple five-minute break could make just the difference in lessening virtual meeting fatigue.
Now that you have scheduled the call, how do you engage meaningfully and respectfully with the other attendees? Interrupting your fellow meeting attendees is a frequent challenge during calls as picking up social cues is less intuitive in a virtual setting than in-person. In Aleksova's experience, it is helpful to "keep yourself muted if not actively speaking to limit background noise" and "use the 'raise hand' feature if you'd like to speak." Just as you want participants to be able to focus on your ideas, you also want to make sure that you are allowing your fellow participants to have their own opportunities to do the same. Muting yourself and "raising your hand" signals to your fellow meeting attendees that you care about their contributions. Similarly, when you are in a small group, turning your camera on also demonstrates active engagement. Aleksova says her "rule of thumb is if a meeting is ten people or less, show your face. In larger groups, it is typically not necessary for your camera to be on unless you're an active participant." Having your camera on makes the other meeting attendees feel like they are communicating with an actual audience rather than a collection of boxes on a screen.
Creating more engaging virtual environments, while difficult, strengthens personal connections. Similar to turning on your camera during small meetings, Aleksova suggests practicing small talk during 1-on-1 meetings. She explains: "This may seem awkward at first, but building relationships is key, so engage by keeping the conversation genuine and friendly. It becomes more comfortable & natural the more you do it!" Quick discussions about how someone's day is going or talking about something they are looking forward to can make a world of difference in the level to which you both connect. Conversations such as these make your fellow attendees feel heard, because they acknowledge that they have activities and responsibilities outside of just attending the meeting. Moreover, Aleksova recommends looking directly at the camera rather than the screen to make the conversation feel more personal. Looking into the camera resembles the eye contact you would typically make when meeting with someone in-person.
Approaching virtual meetings mindfully and intentionally, we set ourselves up to effectively host and engage as attendees. Virtual meetings may be different from the typical work environment to which many of us are accustomed. Still, the more we learn to adapt to the ever-changing work environment, the better we position ourselves for the future. After hearing Aleksova's tips, I hope that you are ready to elevate your next virtual meeting. Now, go crush those virtual meetings, UBWA!
Thank you to the fantastic UBWA alumna Sandra Aleksova for lending us her knowledge on this topic. If you would like to learn more about the featured alumna in this post, click on the Featured Alumnae button on the blog's webpage! If you would like to learn more about handling virtual meeting etiquette or discuss this topic further, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.