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The Unspoken Rules Of Having A Productive Video Meeting

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a job that allows them to work from home right now, but if you do, you’re probably experiencing your own unique set of challenges — especially if you’re not used to working remotely. 

One of those challenges? Having a productive meeting with your colleagues. Whether it’s spotty Wi-Fi, a chatty cat, or a precocious child, there are a hundred ways a video call or remote work meeting can go awry. Here are some tips for keeping them in check.

Pick a good reminder app.

When you’re working in the office, it’s easy enough to remember meetings because everyone will pile into the conference room. When you’re working from home, however, you’re on your own. Make sure you have a solid app that will send you a push notification when it’s time for that meeting to start.

I use Google Calendar and Todoist to keep me on track throughout the day, and both of these are great for reminding me about meetings, too. Google Calendar can send a notification to your phone, email, or desktop a few minutes before your meeting, and with Todoist, you can sync your Google Calendar and the meeting will show up on your to-do list as a task with a timestamp. Chances are, you use Google Calendar (or some digital calendar), too, so take a moment to navigate to your settings and make sure your notifications are turned on.

If you’re the one calling and hosting the meeting, try to keep a hard stop and stick to the meeting end time. It’s easier for meetings to run over when everyone is away from their normal workspaces. If you want to catch up with your colleagues, maybe set up a separate meeting specifically for that purpose (or just for some general watercooler chat) so that your regular meetings don’t get too interrupted.

Find the right spot.

For the best lighting, put your laptop or desktop in front of a window and turn the brightness up on your computer all the way. This will ensure the camera doesn’t do that weird thing where it struggles to adjust to the lighting, trying to find your face.

Unless you have a pretty casual work environment, try to find a spot in your home with the least amount of visual distractions for your coworkers. That way, everyone can focus on the topic at hand instead of browsing your bookshelf or bar collection. Make sure there’s an outlet nearby in case you need to plug in.

My camera-loving cat Theo once jumped on my shoulders during a video call and scared the person on the other end half to death. It was adorable, but it was also unprofessional (but mostly adorable). If you have pets that love the camera, it’s probably a good idea to also pick a spot where they’ll leave you alone, or keep them behind closed doors until your video call is over. 

Put on some pants.

Don’t get me wrong, working from home is a great opportunity to spend the day in your yoga pants, and I fully support that cause. But if you dress the part for your meeting — or at least put on some casual clothes and wipe the sleepy gunk from your eyes — you’ll be less distracted with your own face during the call. After all, you want to maintain eye contact with your coworkers and make sure you’re listening to what they’re saying, so there’s something to be said for dressing the part for your meeting.

Learn some basic video etiquette.

Yep, there are some unspoken rules of teleconferencing, and they can help make the whole process easier. For starters, make sure to mute your mic when you’re not talking. You might not realize how much the background noise in your home or apartment picks up on video.

Second, if everyone else has their video on, you probably should, too. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, of course, and there are reasons why you might prefer to phone-in your attendance. But generally, if your colleagues are visually present during the call, you want to be, too.

As tempting as it is to check your email or browse your Twitter feed while your colleagues are talking, you probably wouldn’t do this to them in person, so try not to do it while you’re teleconferencing. You never know when the conversation might come back to you. On the flip side, if your colleagues have started talking about something that has nothing to do with you, and you really need to get some work done, you may just want to excuse yourself from the meeting, if that’s appropriate to do in your role.

Do a test run.

Finally, test your setup and make sure it’s all running smoothly and ready to go live. Grab your headphones and mic, charge your laptop, make sure your Wi-Fi is working properly, and find a decent, distraction-free place in your home, then test the connection.

Most platforms have a way to test your video and audio in-app, but it might be worth calling a friend to make sure the sound is indeed coming through clearly and there are no bandwidth issues. If you test everything in advance, your colleagues won’t have to wait around for you to fix any technical problems, and you can ensure your meeting is over as quickly as possible — always a plus.

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