The business travel industry was valued at approximately $1.4 trillion globally in 2019. The industry is so large because face-to-face meetings are simply more valuable and effective than calls and videos. But that doesn’t apply during these extraordinary times. While those that are used to traveling to in-person meetings adjust to life behind a computer, we’re here to help. Beyond the technical issues of muting your mic and testing your connection, we get into the personal issues of getting the most from your virtual meetings.
A situation where we are connecting multiple people in different work-from-home environments needs to start with understanding. Some people have the perfect home office setup, a separated workspace with no distractions in their home; others live in smaller spaces with other people (and pets) and the only place to work is their kitchen table.
Give consideration that some people will be struggling with their new work environment and be considerate of their issues. Do your best to provide a good experience for those who are watching or listening to you, but you don’t need to completely sanitize it. Its not the end of the world to see your 6-year old walking through the background, because that is your current reality.
Some video meeting software allow users to have virtual backgrounds, which can be a fun, but it also takes away from the personal context and understanding.
A huge amount of communication is non-verbal. Most sales people will tell you that reading body language contributes substantially to understanding the intentions of the people they are talking to.
However, there is more than just seeing the person’s body language – having a view into their home can open personal connections that we can’t easily establish by phone. So often, it is the social opportunities that come with business travel – lunch or drinks after a meeting – that creates that bonds that make business travel so valuable. One of the ways we can enable that is through this new window into people’s lives.
For some, this might seem intrusive or even creepy - its not for everyone. But if you turn on your camera and give others a view of your life, there is a greater likelihood other participants will do the same.
Anyone who has been on a conference call knows that conversation flow can be a challenge. For this reason, many calls and virtual meetings take long than those that are in person. At the same time, those challenges also cause people who are less assertive to hold their comments – and the group could miss valuable input. Enabling cameras can improve this flow, but it is works best when participants use overt visual cues, such as raised hands, to indicate who would like to speak. All of this also places a greater responsibility on the meeting host or facilitator, which can be a challenge if they are also speaking or making notes.
We all look forward to returning to in-person meetings – but for now, we hope these tips can make your virtual meetings a little more effective.