With Covid-19 running rampant throughout the world, its extremely common for meetings and other business functions to be held online. Normal business rules still apply to these meetings, however there are some additional unspoken rules that you might not be familiar with! For the sake of time I will only cover things that apply exclusively to virtual meetings, but another article might be coming soon for face to face meetings!
Mute Your Microphone
It can be incredibly difficult to concentrate during meetings when someone is being noisy, luckily we have complete control over the noise we make during online meetings! Whenever you aren't talking during a meeting be sure to mute your mic, this makes it so that everyone else in the meeting is able to hear. Our microphones can detect more noise than we realize, even to the point of picking up every mouse click and key stroke. An even worse case scenario is when your mic picks up your own computer's audio because you aren't wearing headphones. This can cause a very loud echo to occur during the meeting that has the possibility turn into a feedback loop. Because of this, it is better to be safe than sorry and just mute your mic. Most, if not all platforms have a push to talk option available, I highly recommend using this as it saves you the trouble of fumbling to turn your mic on and off every time you need to speak. In short, it is important for everyone who isn't talking to be silent so that the meeting can move along smoothly.
Camera Courtesy (the set up)
Most if not all virtual conferences you have will involve using your camera. It may not feel like a regular meeting but for the most part it should still be treated as one, there are a few extra things you need to look out for however. First off, you need to take care of the lighting. Make sure that there are no bright lights shining into your camera as they can obscure the view entirely! Try to make it so that whatever light source you are using is behind the camera so that the setting can be lit appropriately without causing any disturbances. In addition, if at all possible you should try to locate your computer setup near a window, as natural light looks more appealing. After you get your light situation squared away, you should start thinking about how your background looks! In an ideal world your background would just be a blank wall, but this isn't always possible. At the absolute bare minimum you need to have a background with no distractions in it. A few good tips for eliminating background distractions are to remove any decorations or bright colors, face the camera away from any doors (in case someone comes in), and to make sure that the room you are using is tidy. Pretty much you don't want anything in your background that will catch attention!
Camera Courtesy (in practice)
Now that you're done prepping your computer setup it is time to talk about using your webcam during the actual meeting. Keep in mind that your camera will get a better look at you than the average co-worker or boss will! This means that you need to be extra careful about your behavior during the meeting. A lot of people will try to get away with browsing websites or looking at their phones during virtual meetings without realizing how obvious they are about it! The camera is pointed directly at your face, meaning that everyone can see your eyes wander around the screen when you get bored and start doing something else, its even more obvious when you look down at your phone! Its way too easy to get too comfortable in front of your computer, so just try your best to keep in mind that your still at work and to not do anything now that you wouldn't do there.
Screen Sharing Safety
During a virtual meeting any presentation you make will have to be made through screen sharing. Therefor it is important to know what you can do to make the presentation as professional as possible. First of all, avoid sharing your desktop as much as you can! When you share your desktop anything you do on the computer will be displayed, including things yo u don't want your co-workers to see, be it your speaking notes or your embarrassing desktop background. For privacy and professionalism it is better to just steer clear of this option entirely! Instead of sharing your desktop, most screen sharing options provide the ability to share a specific application or window. For example this will allow you to share your power point presentation while everything else on your computer remains for your eyes only. This adds a professional touch to your presentation because there is nothing else on your screen to steal attention away from your power point! While sharing specific windows can save you a lot of hassle, it is still a good idea to close any windows and applications that you aren't using during the meeting. If you have YouTube open in a different tab your boss could see it, think that you haven't been paying attention, and it could cost you your job! So keep only the bare minimum open, its definitely better to be safe than sorry! Other than the small tidbits about privacy and professionalism that I've mentioned earlier, when you give a virtual presentation just deliver it as you would normally, just be sure not to turn off screen sharing until everyone has asked questions at the end!
In closing, just treat your virtual interactions as if they were face to face. The only thing that changes when transitioning from the offline world to the online world is how much effort you have to put in to appear professional! Hopefully this guide can help you out if you've been struggling with working from home, stay sanitary and stay safe during these tough times!