- Jul 23, 2020
Virtual meetings became an essential part of business and personal life since the start of the pandemic. Whether you are attending a large networking event, interviewing for a job, or working with others within your company, it’s worth investing a little time to improve the appearance and efficiency of your Zoom use.
Lucy Torres, Express Employment Professionals, frequently coaches job candidates for virtual interviews. She stresses the importance of preparing a proper space, dressing the part, and watching your posture — suggestions that apply to any professional meeting. Try out these strategies before your next Zoom call:
- Experiment with different locations and lighting arrangements to ensure that your face is not hidden in shadows or harshly lit by direct sunlight. A lamp placed behind your computer may provide the most even illumination.
- You’ll also appear much more comfortable and natural if you place your webcam at eye-level. Lucy notes, “Your posture and body language indicate how focused and interested you are in the conversation, so be aware of how you carry yourself.” Setting your camera or laptop on top of a few books eliminates the need to hunch over and presents your face at its most appealing angle.
- Be sure that the background behind you is neat and not distracting. If possible, position yourself in front of a wall or bookshelf. Bright windows will throw your face into shadow. Digital backgrounds were a fun novelty when the pandemic started, but users now find that they cause glitches and use too much bandwidth.
- Clean up and dress appropriately. Making that effort demonstrates that you value your colleagues’ time and opinion.
Once you’ve created the appropriate appearance, make sure you can use the technology efficiently. Practice using the various tools available, including the mute button, the chat box, the participant list, and built-in emojis. If the meeting is moderated, listen to instructions about when and if to unmute yourself. To communicate one-on-one with another participant, use the private chat function to avoid distracting others. Be sure you have a reliable WiFi signal; if your router is in another part of the house, improve your connection with an inexpensive WiFi extender.
Once you’ve polished your basic Zoom skills, consider how to approach virtual networking events. Networking goals are essentially the same in physical and virtual events, even though experience requires some adaptation. As PJ Weiland, ActionCOACH, notes, “How we network might have changed, but what we do has not. We still need to focus on building rapport, asking good questions, and finding ways to help one another.” PJ shares the following suggestions for virtual networking:
- Practice your intro: Write down your personal introduction before the event, and be sure it adheres to time limits. You want to be an active listener when others are speaking, and not be thinking about your remarks.
- Listen to instructions: Follow the moderator’s guidelines on when/if to unmute yourself, prompts for discussions, time limits, and other rules.
- Be positive: Use your online networking chats to celebrate successes, offer recommendations and provide introductions. You’ll keep networking chats on a productive track if you avoid dwelling on discouraging issues.
- Make connections: Use the chat feature to exchange contact information, request meetings or to build rapport with other participants. If you don’t receive a list of participants, reach out to the organizer to see if a list will be provided after the event.
- Follow up with individual connections by sending a one-pager about your business. Include a personal note demonstrating your interest in what they shared during the event.
Love them or loathe them, virtual meetings are likely to play a major role in business even after the pandemic is resolved. Preparation and practice will improve your comfort with the technology and enable you to make the most effective use of this crucial professional tool.