Your real life has turned into a virtual life. You left work one day and the next you were working from home. The adjustment was abrupt.
There has never been a better time to bring your best when you show up in whatever virtual format your meeting host has chosen. It’s probably true everyone at the meeting will be focused on the presenter or their own image, but why not show up the best for yourself? This means getting dressed in something you love to wear, turning on your own video (at least for the opening) and being prepared and present. Even introverts (and I am one) are starved for seeing some other real humans in real time doing normal things, so show yourself.
Here’s what I’ve learned from my first few virtual meetings.
- Being familiar with technology helps. Especially if you are the presenter. You should find someone to practice your presentation with ahead of time. Make sure you are familiar with all the features like sharing your screen, the chat box, turning on your video and audio, muting yourself and figuring out how to find out who else is participating. Each technology has a help section or introductory tutorial for you to check out ahead of time. If you need to download software to use the platform, do so ahead of time.
- Make sure your computer or phone video and audio work. It can help to use wired or wireless headsets. You won’t be producing as much background noise when you use these. You may need to give the platform special permissions to access your video and audio so figuring that out on a practice run will make it easier for the real thing.
- If you don’t want everyone to see the way you really live either find a place in your house that offers a neutral background or create your own. Some technology allows you to change your settings to a virtual background.
- Be prepared so you don’t have to get up and create visual distractions (remember your boss or co-workers will see you leaving the meeting or doing other work). Have your coffee, water or tea nearby. Have a paper and pen handy for notes or split your screen to take notes on your computer during the meeting. If possible close the door and put up a Do Not Disturb note.
- Try to figure out how the presenter would like to handle questions and comments. Taking turns and raising hands makes the process go more smoothly. It can be a challenge to get your ideas heard without stepping all over someone else’s input. This is even trickier virtually than it is in real life.
- Show up like you would if this were an in person meeting. Don’t make the same mistakes I have – by being late, or showing up in pjs.
- Be present. Don’t work on another project or scroll Facebook while you are in a meeting.
- Turn off any audible notifications or alarms.
- Put a little time into your personal appearance. Brush your hair, groom your beard if you decided to grow one, put on some earrings, wear some color and put on a smile (at least during your introduction). I’ve also noticed these meetings can be recorded and sometimes show up as a screenshot in various places. How would you want to show up if this were the case?
This could be the new normal for a while. How you show up virtually deserves the same courtesy and respect as an in person meeting. Be the person you want others to be and act accordingly. I am offering 30 minute virtual image sessions and technology practice so you can get more comfortable showing up online.
If you need a good laugh, I recommend watching this skit from Saturday Night Live’s virtual show on April 11.