How to have successful virtual meetings: your questions, my answers

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In our new world of working from home, having effective virtual meetings is now critically important for business.  But as we’ve all discovered, it’s not quite as easy as we thought.  The social dynamic on a virtual call is different to in-person meetings – we’re missing many of the non-verbal cues that prevent us from talking over each other, it’s easy to get bored and lose engagement, and it’s harder to get into our professional persona when we’re tuning in from home.

In this article, I’ll share a few tips on how to have more effective video calls based on the questions I get asked the most…

1. How should I dress for a virtual meeting and what should my background be?

Dress-wise, I always recommend smart-casual.  Business wear is overkill, but showing you’ve made an effort to wear actual clothes rather than your jogging suit, for example, shows that you take the meeting seriously.  Studies also show that our cognitive abilities improve when we dress more professionally, so it might even help you perform better on the call.

In terms of your background, opt for neutrality – a plain background provides little distraction and insight into your personal life.  A full display of your family photos, on the other hand, might be an overshare, and too intriguing to those joining the call if you want them to focus on what you’re saying.

For a more flattering camera shot, position your camera at your eye line or upwards by propping your laptop on books, and face a window to avoid dark shadows on your face.  And just in case you’re tempted, avoid joining a video call with your camera switched off.  It creates an imbalance of power with some people being exposed and some hidden, and can be considered rude.  Avoid muting your audio and leaving the room too – you wouldn’t walk out of a meeting at the office, so aim for the same level of engagement on a virtual call.

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