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Technology & Information


Delaware Department of Technology & Information



Virtual Meeting Basics


 

This support guide has information to help decision makers put electronic meetings into practice effectively and to help people learn best practices and etiquette.

Pre-Planning Considerations

Person on a ComputerYou can use Skype for Business or WebEx for state meetings (see Business Continuity Resources on DTI’s website); K12 is using Zoom for engaging students. Not everyone has online meeting experience: some participants are still learning to be at ease in this environment. You may attend non-State meetings on different meeting platforms, requiring using an app. Perhaps there’s just a voice only dial-up phone number for meeting participants because some can’t connect by computer.

Read on for helpful tips and see the box below for some pitfalls, the result of a search on “video conference etiquette”.

 

New to Hosting Virtual Meetings?

Try out the meeting application beforehand, if possible. Set up a meeting with coworkers to learn the tools. Here are key tasks:

  • Learn how to securely set up a meeting, including using security controls (setting a meeting password, using a lobby or registration to control who can enter a meeting)
  • Learn the meeting roles (e.g., host, presenter, moderator, leader, participant, etc.).
  • Locate meeting controls (are they separate or in the meeting window).
  • Figure out screen sharing (and how to delegate to another participant, if more than one will present).
  • Learn how to list participants and how to control them (can you mute the whole group, select individuals?).
  • Learn to use chat to directly comment, ask questions.

Decide if all or just the host/presenter will participate via video. Are you sharing a presentation or other content via the screen? If so, that’s probably more important than participants seeing each other. Is the subject personal, requiring intense deliberation and ethical decision-making? Perhaps it’s more important that the discussants can see each other. The meeting leader should decide, when setting up the meeting, whether to use video or not.

Helpful References

The Worst That Could Happen

24%
of Americans have said making a video call from the bathroom is the worst thing someone could do on screen. 6% have seen it.

21%
of people have admitted to attending a video conference wearing a professional top and pajama pants.

17%
of Americans have seen an attendee’s pet make an unexpected cameo in a video call.

7%
of people have seen someone participate in a video conference from their bed.

Source: Lab42 survey of 2,000 respondents ages 22 and up, conducted June 2015
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

 

Meeting Electronically

Enhancing Meeting Quality

Technical Quality Matters: Earbuds or a headset helps when using a computer’s Voice Over IP (VOIP) capability and avoids picking up background noise. When possible, connect from your device directly—avoid video conferencing using Remote Desktop (RDP)—quality will be better. Download the app to your device. Internet connections vary. Some participants may have better audio by using a phone to connect to audio. DO NOT duplicate audio: connect audio either through your computer app OR by dialing in by phone, not both). If your Internet connection is unstable, turning off YOUR video may help.

Meeting Introductions: Set a cordial tone. Don’t forego pleasantries: we are all social beings. Use quick name introductions and check-ins to break the ice, and “level set” the mood. Remember this step if you have voice-only participants or people who don’t know each other’s voices well as this helps recognize the identities of individual speakers by voice.

Audio/Verbal Cues: Pay attention to flow. In face-toface gatherings, people see and can follow the flow of communication. If there’s no video, the leader needs explain any pause in communication. If a host stops presenting to make notes, or to have a side conversation, other participants need a verbal clue, such as, “Pardon me while I check my notes…” or “I’d like to pause the screen for a moment; please hold on.” This saves people from wondering if they’ve lost their connection to the meeting. Beware of the perils of putting yourself on mute and forgetting to turn your microphone back on before commenting!

Pacing Interaction: Be conscious of lag— a two-to-three second delay for systems to communicate. Instruct participants to use conferencing system tools (chat, “raise hand” or similar flag) to signal that they have a comment or question. If only chat is available, consider using “!” as shorthand for “I have a comment” and “?” for “I have a question.”

Video Considerations: Lighting matters. For video sessions, a bright light source (e.g., lamp or, during daylight hours, a window) should face you. Bright light behind you means viewers will not see your facial features. Striped, patterned clothes do not transmit well. Reflections from shiny jewelry can be visually distracting. Avoid rapid movements, as these degrade video quality. Eye contact matters: in a virtual meeting, speak while looking at the computer’s camera. This virtual equivalent of looking the person/people in the eye and makes conversation feel more natural. Resist the temptation to watch yourself or other participants on your screen when you are the one with the floor.

 

Tips for Successful Virtual Meetings

Consider what your camera shows: declutter or change camera angle so the background doesn’t distract.

Hush audible distractions and background noise (pets, radio/TV, children) when possible or mute the microphone.

Mitigate connection problems within your control. Ask others who share your Internet connection not to engage in bandwidth intensive activities (streaming video, gaming) during your meeting.

Pause before speaking to allow for lag.
 

Always identify yourself first and keep comments brief.

Speak normally: volume and tone of voice matter.

Look at your device’s camera: when you speak, make virtual eye contact.

Be still: Try to move more slowly (lag makes video choppy); don’t fidget.

Be quiet: Avoid side conversations or noisegenerating activities (shuffling papers, eating/drinking)


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