By CSU Global - May 4th, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a farther-reaching impact than almost anyone predicted — factories have shuttered, restaurants have closed, and schools have had to skip the bulk of their spring semesters.
According to Business Insider, 85 percent of Americans are under some form of stay-at-home order — that’s more than 275 million people who are no longer going to school or work. As a result, remote interactions through Facebook, Google, Zoom, and Skype are through the roof.
But it’s not easy to switch from a normal classroom or office to all-virtual meetings and classrooms. There’s something about seeing people face to face that’s hard to replicate from afar, but from our years of experience as an online university, here are a few tips to get your virtual meetings running smoothly.
1. Be Prepared
We’ve all been in a virtual meeting where one person didn’t know how to turn their camera off or someone else didn’t know how to unmute. Those cobwebs get shaken off eventually, but it still helps to do a practice run — especially if you’re the one preparing the meeting.
First, decide which technology you’ll be using to conduct the meeting. Are you going to be on camera? Do you have a good microphone? Make sure your audio and visual signals are working well and that your backdrop isn’t too bright or too dark.
If you’re presenting information, make sure it’s tailored for the medium. Create a presentation and ensure that you know how to share your screen before you get started. You can set up two computers as a test run to make sure everything’s working the way you want it to.
2. Get Your Technology in Order
Make sure you have a solid internet connection — your should be getting download speeds of at least 1.5 Mbps, which you can test here. You should also have a webcam. You can do meetings by voice alone, but you’re missing out on the facial expressions that help make these meetings more immersive. Finally, you’ll need a microphone and good speakers.
Most laptops have the mic, speakers, and webcam all built-in, but not all of them! If you don’t own a laptop, you’ll probably be using your smartphone, in which case a headset will deliver much clearer audio than the built-in microphone. Invest in a tripod or stand for your phone so you don’t have to hold it in your hands the whole time.
If you’re going to be working from home for a while, it’s worth investing in a webcam or headset to use for meetings — you won’t have to deal with grainy video or unintelligible audio, and they can be had for less than $50 online.
3. Location Matters
We’re all stuck at home, but not every room of the house is equally ready for remote meetings. If you have kids or pets, you’ll want to avoid any distraction or noise from them, and the same goes for open windows that might let in street noise. Find a quiet room, ideally one with soft furnishings and a carpeted floor, for the best audio experience.
Appearance matters, too. If you’re going to be on camera, you’ll still want to look professional. Take note of what the camera can see behind you. Take down distracting artwork, put away piles of laundry, and turn off any lights that are creating a glare. A few plants or framed photos here and there are fine, but a neutral background is best.
4. Treat Virtual Meetings Like Real Meetings
Sure, we’ve all let our personal routines slip a little bit since we’re not leaving the house — and if you want to embrace the #nomakeup or #quarantinebeard looks, go for it! But you should still shower, wear work clothes, and generally keep up your professional demeanor when you’re in virtual meetings.
That goes for your tech, too. Don’t be distracted by other open tabs while someone talks in the background. Leave your phone face down on the desk with notifications turned off, just like you would if you were seated around a conference room table. Avoid multitasking, and you’ll get the most out of virtual meetings.
Embrace Remote Work
We’ve all had to make changes to our routine, and some of them have gone more smoothly than others. The truth is, we don’t know exactly how long this will be our new normal, so you can’t just hope that everything will clear up in the next few weeks.
Instead, look at remote work and virtual meetings as an opportunity. There’s a lot that you can do virtually that you wouldn’t be able to do in person, like screen sharing and sending links. Embrace it!
The CSU Global staff continually researches topics that are of interest to CSU Global students. Our goal is to support student success and learning outcomes.