Online meetings have taken over many of our lives to keep us safe from COVID, but are they driving us crazy?

I was recently watching a stock report about the top stocks in 2020 and the commentator joking stated that “if he had bought stocks in Zoom and plexiglass, he’d be a wealthy man”. To only have known then what we know now.

The truth of the matter is that the pandemic has sped up the advances in technology to the tenth power. Software platforms like Zoom, Discord, Microsoft Teams, and Google are all busy trying to capitalize on the new world of online meetings / learning, but did anyone stop to write instructions and protocols for these things? I’m sure that these documents, but no one in the meetings that I have been in have read them.

That is why for this article I have decided to compile a list of the top 5 things that people do during online meetings that make me crazy.

  • Being late for their own meeting- Nothing makes me crazier than people who take the time to organize a multi-person online meeting to discuss important matters and are then 15 min late for the meeting that they set up. To me that is a total sign of disrespecting the time of everyone else attending; especially when the person late is the host. I was recently asked to attend a meeting with a client who desperately wanted my help to grow her business, and then kept me waiting for 25 minutes waiting for her to log in and start the meeting. When we finally got the meeting started, she commented that she had another meeting starting at the top of the next hour. As the hour approached I gently reminded her that she had the other call, and that we should wrap things up. Her response was that the other call would wait if they wanted to speak with her. What!!! If the meetings were in person there is no way that organizers would treat meeting attendees in that manner, but some how it is ok with online meetings. I beg to differ. A meeting is a meeting, and people’s time is just as important as ever; especially with so many of us working from home. Everyone is trying to juggle multiple digital schedules and they are now really understanding the meaning of not having enough time in the day. Respect people’s time the same as you normally would.

 

  • Select a proper setting backdrop- We are all guilty of being in such a rush to get on the Zoom meeting that we often do not take a moment to look behind us. What does the camera see? Will the backdrop behind you distract people from what you have to say? Are there pets or kids playing in the background? The camera sees all, so be respectful to yourself and select a nice quiet place for your meeting. One with a very neutral backdrop. A personal example of having the wrong background for a meeting comes via my lovely wife. She was teaching an online class at our dining room table from home, and she forgot that I was working from home that day. She remembered when I walked behind her wearing my Army Regimental t-shirt while holding my big old bowel of Raisin Bran. While it made for some great comic relief during her class, I now have a desk in the basement. It is extremely hard to get an online meeting / class back in order after an event like that, so we now take extra measures to ensure that the speaker is the focus of the meeting and not the background.

 

  • Stop using fake backgrounds- We have all seen the McDonald’s commercial where one gent sends his friend a Big Mac with bacon and then scrolls through multiple backdrops until he gets to the inside of a McDonald’s restaurant. While this might be a great promo tactic for a commercial, those of us talking about green energy initiatives and marketing budgets are not in 8th grade. Again, select a neutral background so that “you” are the center of attention, and people attending the meeting can take you seriously. I recently had a kick-starter client in the US and the individual had a huge backdrop of Trump giving a speech at the White House. I could not concentrate one bit as I kept looking at things in the background. The background drowned out what the client was saying, as I simply could not take anything that he said seriously due to my personal lack of concentration.

 

  • Be in Frame- Test your video and audio connections before the meeting starts. You have no idea how many meetings I have been in where I was only seeing a quarter of the speakers face. To the person speaking they were fine, but the rest of the viewers had a rough time following the conversation. All I saw was the chat feature light up with people sending rude comments to the speaker who was obviously not paying attention to them. A little attention to detail goes a long way in increasing your professionalism.

Bandwidth- Please check your internet connection speed before logging on to a meeting. If the kids are home downstairs playing Call of Duty is your online meeting going to be seamless of or as choppy as the Bearing Sea on an episode of Deadliest Catch? Make sure that you are the only one online during your meetings by setting up a house schedule. There is nothing worse than trying to listen to someone try to make a point in an online meeting with a choppy internet connection. Everyone tunes out. Similarly, if you live in a remote area turn your video feed off. The audio will then have more bandwidth to transmit on, and your4 video and audio will not be out of sync.
We all know that video meetings and working from home will be part of our lifestyle for sometime to come. That does not mean that it has to be a frustrating experience. We can all use technology more efficiently to help us not only maximize our workflows and meetings, but give us more downtime to rediscover lost hobbies, and time with family. When “screen time” is an ongoing problem with kids and teens, it is also a problem with adults who are business driven. Let’s all work smart, work well, and work efficiently.