morning hair and travelling without moving

My usual commute takes approx 15 seconds; longer if Marmalade the ninja cat decides it’s a day I’m worthy of her attention.

Once ensconced in the garden shedquarters (pseudo beach hut on the outside, ikea /inadequate heater on the inside), and armed with a half-pint of coffee I’ll quickly be in Singapore, Manchester, Silicon Valley or Boston.

I’ll be chatting with clients and friends (often the same); actually not just chatting, seeing each other, comparing the weather outside the windows, new spectacles and locations. Often someone will be shouting “at least let me run a brush through my morning hair before I turn the camera on!!”),

There is nothing whatsoever usual about this. Virtual teams are the norm and effective communication essential; so much of which is non-verbal.

Even though we all work in relationship businesses, many still shy away from embracing collaboration tools, and video via Teams/ WebEx/ GoToMeeting/ Zoom/ BlueJeans/ HangOuts is out of the question.

Please don’t stress. Having worked virtually from offices, airports, starbucks, taxis, or the aforementioned shedquarters, here’s a few tips and meeting etiquette nudges that might be of use:

DO

  • Test your connection in good time, and log in at least two minutes before a meeting is scheduled to start; longer if you are the host
  • Have and agenda (and respect it)
  • Use video whenever you can, it makes the meetings so much more effective. Don’t be shy; we’re in a relationship business, video builds relationships and increases comms effectiveness via body language and expressions
  • Remember where the microphone is when in a larger room during a call
  • Send a note to those waiting online if you will be late, especially as the host
  • Remember to regularly engage people not in the room top check they are engaged and still technically connected
  • Consider using a background blur feature on your video if you have to take the meeting in a busy office
  • Repeat questions/comments from folks that are softly spoken, or a long way away from the microphone
  • Mute your mic when not speaking
  • Consider the time zones of all participants
  • Include the local dial-in numbers for all participants, rather than a link to international numbers (you’ll know their locations)
  • Connect to a wired connection, or good Wi-Fi if at all possible
  • Use private chat to steer the conversation, or ‘all participant’ chat to note/assign actions
  • Be there, in the moment. There is little worse than having to have a question repeated when someone is not paying attention
  • End the call when the topic has been covered, if earlier than the scheduled meeting end time
  • Send minutes
  • Mute participants if you are the host for a large call
  • Use the conferencing system your client prefers (send yours as a placeholder, making it clear the client can change to their preference system)

DON’T

  • Use the mic and speakers your laptop; it sounds terrible to the client and you can appear arrogant/self-important
  • Breathe on your microphone
  • Use a handset, even worse use a handset held under your chin
  • Forget to use mute if you are in a noisy environment
  • Allow multiple people to talk at once if in a larger meeting. When more than one person is speaking in the room, the people online will not be able to understand what’s going on; whispers can come across as loud as the main speaker
  • Position your camera with a bright light source (such as a window) behind you
  • Attend the meeting from a car/train/walking, unless there is no other choice
  • Dial-in to a meeting from a normal phone if there is a chance to use a headset and video
  • Type loudly during the meeting (the only typing should be of meeting-related actions)
  • Do the video meeting in your pyjamas or slanket!
  • Set meetings longer 30 minutes unless necessary

KIT

  • Use a good conference phone/skype phone designed for the purpose
  • Even better, if you are the only person in a given location use a good headset, with mute button, volume control and non-sweaty earpads. With some models and an adaptor you can even use the same headset with your mobile phone
  • Use a separate webcam if your laptop plugs into a hub and separate monitor
  • If you have to do long conference calls on your mobile, get a splitter to allow charging and the use of a headset. Always carry a good-sized external battery pack