We need to talk about video meetings.
Whether you’re working in the office or from home, they’re an important part of the daily lives of many of us.
Are meetings the enemy of work?
Unless you’re being paid to have meetings, meetings probably don’t represent the core of your work.
You probably know someone who has too many meetings and isn’t able to get anything of substance done. (Perhaps you know them quite intimately.) And if this is you, stay tuned for some tips of setting up some boundaries.
- What is your core work or core business?
- What actually moves the needle?
- What does your job description actually say?
- What are your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)?
Sometimes meetings can be important. Sometimes you will need some input or discussion to help make decisions about the direction of your work. But focus is everything.
Does this need to be a meeting? Could it have been an email?
Meetings are an opportunity to gain feedback, express opinions and establish priorities.
If you are just issuing demands or reminders, you probably should have just sent an email or a text message.
- What is the purpose of the meeting?
- What do you hope to get out of it?
- How will you know if it is a success?
- Is it focussed around a single topic, or a small number of topics?
- How will you manage out of scope topics that crop up?
Setting some boundaries and reclaiming your time
Some people really like to talk. There’s a good chance if you know such people they will want to fill your calendar with meetings.
But as we’ve already established meetings can be the enemy of work.
So how do you set up some boundaries?
- Is there an agenda? If there isn’t, the meeting is likely to be unfocussed.
- Do you need to be there? If not, politely decline.
- Are you the most appropriate representative from your team to attend?
- Email, notifications and calls can take you out of the flow of deep work. Establish some parameters on how and when you will check these things.
How are you showing up on camera and on microphone?
What do you actually look like and sound like when you attend video meetings?
Can people see you clearly?
- Can people see you clearly or are you peering out of the shadows?
Consider facing a light source (such as a window or a desk lamp or some serious Elgato Key Lights).
Where is your camera actually positioned?
- Are you looking down on people?
- Are they looking up your nose?
- Are you in the frame at all?
Laptop web cameras are notoriously stuck in place, but otherwise you should have some flexibility in positioning your camera. I highly recommend having some desktop tripods on stand by. But if you don’t have any, improvise with whatever you have lying around. In a former job I used a bunch of old textbooks as a microphone stand. It got the job done.
What’s in your background?
- Is your background busy and distracting?
- Is your boss going to notice that voodoo doll likeness of them on the bookshelf behind you?
- Is there a heap of clutter behind you?
Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom and other platforms have the ability to use Virtual Backgrounds or blur your background.
You can physically curate how the background looks by rearranging the furniture and making sure your space is tidy.
You might like to consider the use of a green screen and chroma key if you want complete flexibility in your set up.
You might like to use OBS Studio’s Virtual Camera option to adjust how your web camera looks on programs like Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Zoom. (This is also a great opportunity to incorporate branding elements such as colours, logos and fonts.)
Are you dressed for the occasion?
Roxette urged us to Dress For Success. Now what that actually looks like probably depends a little on your industry, business and work culture, but making a little effort will can make a real difference.
You’re on mute
We’ve all experienced this. For some of us it’s an everyday occurrence.
Someone in your meeting is talking incessantly and doesn’t know they’re on mute.
It’s easy enough to do. But it can make you look bad and induce rage in your co-workers. (Chronic facepalming is a real condition, look it up.)
To toggle mute on Microsoft Teams:
Ctrl + Shift + M
To toggle mute on Zoom:
Alt + A
To toggle mute on Google Meet:
Ctrl + D
Of course if you have an Elgato Stream Deck, this is a great opportunity to create a button to Mute yourself on whatever platform(s) you’re using.
- Go to the Stream Deck app
- Find the Hotkey option from the System category and drag it onto an empty spot on your Stream Deck
- Give it a title (“Mute”).
- Click into the Hotkey box and hold down the relevant keys.
- [Optional] You could also change the button icon if you like.
Check your status before you speak. Everyone will appreciate it.