Virtual meetings have burst into prominence this year, following the global pandemic. Video conferencing is now all the rage. What had been a niche product, relied upon by remote workers and businesses at the forefront, rapidly became the mode of mass communication. Today, the virtual meeting is growing to rival the telephone or the email in its importance.

However, as will all new forms of communication, we’re still ironing out the kinks. New social norms are being created. New expectations developed: We’re all still in the learning curve.

One thing many have learned is the value of preparation. Whereas before, with an element of in-person interaction, meetings could be planned as you go. With virtual meetings, preparation is critical.

Here are some ideas to consider when preparing for your next virtual meeting.

Consider the backdrop

Imagine you are a director or cinematographer planning a scene. The image you display will say something to the audience. In this case, your fellow attendees. A cluttered backdrop or unmade bed give the impression of being disorganised or unkempt. Specific book titles will lead to assumptions about your interests or politics.

Such questions are often unwarranted. You could spend the morning curating your belongings to be perfect. To say what you want them to say. Or you could save yourself the hassle: use a virtual background. Check out Hello backgrounds’ office backgrounds for Zoom ideas. They have plenty to choose from, with hundreds of high-quality videos and photos. So, whatever image you want to display, they’ll have the right backdrop for you.

Lighting is everything

After you’ve sorted out your backdrop, it’s time to move onto lighting, we rarely give a thought to the lighting in everyday life. You might be thought of as vain if you start considering the best light source in a room. Yet in a virtual meeting, it is vital to appreciate.

If you are cast in darkness, people will struggle to see you. They may not notice your body language. It may even create an air of distrust. As people, we rely on being able to see each other to communicate from the subtle facial expressions to the movement of our hands.

Therefore, position yourself facing a source of natural light. Avoid having the light source behind you. It will cast you in silhouette. Try to stay away from using lamps. Though great for reading, they can cast dark shadows. If you need to use a lamp, consider a circular LED lamp. They’re portable and reduce shadows.

Dress to impress

When we’re home, many like to dress for comfort. It feels weird dressing up to sit in your kitchen or living room. But, our appearance matters. It is a statement about who we are and what we’re about. As the old saying goes, ‘don’t dress for the job you have, but the job you want’.

As such, you should always aim to look smart and presentable. While you might leave the three-piece suit or constrictive skirt, you might consider a clean, stylish sweater—a relaxed but smart casual shirt. And of course, iron your clothes. There’s nothing worse than a crinkled blouse or shirt.

Test your setup

You can spend as long as you want, doing your hair, sorting out a virtual background, or getting the light right. However, if you have a technical error or issue, it will all have been for nothing. Prior to the meeting, test your camera and microphone. You can do this with a simple video recording, or you can call a colleague to make sure everything is working. It will only take a minute, but it will save you any embarrassment. Make sure to check the right feed is selected and that the settings are as you like them.

Next, test out your internet connection. For virtual meetings with a sizable number of participants, your internet connection may be put to the test. If necessary, locate yourself near the router to maximise your signal. Additionally, if there is anyone else using the internet, request they refrain from heavy bandwidth activities, such as gaming or streaming, for the duration of the call.

Finally, review the meeting invite. Are there any details you have missed? Is there any preparation required? It might seem obvious, but we’ve all been blindsided before.

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