Have you experienced awkward Zoom moments in the past few weeks? Unless you were already working from home before the days of social distancing, you’ve probably had to adapt to remote meetings. Technology has enabled many companies to ensure business continuity, and video calling has been a crucial tool for that.
“Video calls bring remote teams together. They help teams achieve a common goal, learn new skills and create new friendships. Remote work can be isolating, and video calls often act as a lifeline for social fulfillment. Your presence on these calls can be instrumental in achieving company goals — especially for teams with agile structures,” says Marli Welgemoed, founder of Desk To Remote.
That being said, video calls done wrong can end up being a huge waste of time. Think about it like any other meeting: There are bad habits that can completely sidetrack the conversation and make attendees feel frustrated. From constantly checking your phone to forgetting to mute your mic, here are eight video calling habits to avoid for effective and pleasant remote meetings.
Not having an agenda
“It’s very easy for video meetings to go off-topic or go on too long to the point that no one can pay attention anymore. This usually happens when a video meeting is set up without a clear and concise agenda — having an agenda is key to conducting the video meeting effectively and keeping it on pace. Some general chit-chat is expected (and welcome), but there is a point at which things need to get down to business!” says Welgemoed, who recommends keeping the agenda on-screen during the meeting.
“It can be as informal as a few bullet points or a Trello board. This gives the entire team an idea of what needs to be discussed and helps structure the call and how long it will take.”
Lack of process
If you don’t set up a process for taking turns to speak, you end up constantly cutting each other off by accident and it can really break up the flow of the meeting.
“I have seen people talk over each other to answer a question or respond to a comment way too many times,” says productivity strategist and leadership and life coach Moe Abdelal. “Have a process on how team members can engage. Have a moderator for the call. Have team members raise their hand to have a turn to speak. Mute everyone — and I mean everyone — and make sure people are following.”
Booking group calls for nothing
When it comes to any meeting, there is nothing worse than gathering everyone for a conversation that could have been replaced by an e-mail thread or that is irrelevant to most of the attendees.
“For team calls, it’s really best to stick to topics that affect everyone — anything else should be addressed on direct calls or emails to people that are needed. If a topic needs plenty of discussion and planning, then a video call is definitely warranted. But if it’s simply a case of confirming something then email/Slack is completely acceptable,” says Welgemoed.
Several professionals are now juggling demands such as parenthood with the reality of working from home. Under these conditions, not having the perfect workspace setup is completely understandable. However, finding a spot where you can focus during video calls is crucial.
“Environment plays a key role in the success of a video call in my opinion. If the worker’s workspace isn’t clear, it’s easy to get distracted, which can make you miss key points of the call or important questions,” says Welgemoed.
“Start by having a quiet and illuminated area, somewhere that is bright, and where you can focus,” says Abdelal.
You’re not fooling anyone by checking your phone or replying to emails, so avoid the temptation to do other things while on a video call.
“It can be tempting to check emails or finish a quick task on a video call since everything is so easily on hand, but your shift in attention is very obvious to other people on the call with you,” says Welgemoed.
“Being distracted shows that you’re not focused or present and hurts your understanding of the conversation,” says Abdelal.
Keeping your mic on the whole time
Keeping your mic on when you’re not speaking is distracting to other attendees — especially if everyone is doing it at the same time. You may think there is no background noise where you’re calling from, but microphones are incredibly sensitive and pick up on a lot. “On many occasions, you can hear extra noises from unmuted calls, which can irritate everyone,” says Abdelal.
The current situation is less than ideal for many people. For others, it’s downright devastating. Sharing fears and being honest is healthy and human. But complaining non-stop or using your coworkers as an emotional punching bag can become toxic.
“How you show up can impact how your manager and colleagues see you. If you have a negative presence, you can negatively affect your team. It decreases trust, gossip grows, and productivity declines. Think about it this way: It’s not because you are working remotely that you are not part of the company,” says Abdelal.
Take a cue from Welgemoed, who always takes notes during calls so she can listen intently and refer to them later in the conversation. “This personally helps me keep track of what the current topic of the conversation is, and is really helpful when I need to reference back to things said in older calls,” she says.
And when it’s not your turn to speak, make sure you’re asking questions. “ It helps to try and really take an active interest in what is being said — you want to be respected and listened to by your coworkers when speaking so it’s good to offer them the same respect in turn.”