The word “zoom” has taken on new meaning, and we have all learned that conducting business through virtual meetings can be daunting and requires that we continuously navigate unexpected technical and interpersonal challenges.
To help you feel more prepared for your next online interview, presentation, or business call, we met with Schaun Davis, a career coach at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business. Below are three tips from her that you can implement for a seamless Zoom meeting.
1. Refine Your Set-Up
We all want to appear professional when we are conducting business, and when it comes to Zoom meetings, the devil is in the details. Just as you would dress to impress, you want to set yourself up for success by preparing your virtual setting in advance so that it highlights your skills.
Bright, diffused lighting will ensure that your face is able to be seen well during your Zoom meeting. Davis recommended sitting near a window or positioning lamps near your camera so that the source of the light was facing your front.
Framing is also important, Davis emphasized. A proper camera angle should show your entire face from a moderately close frontal view. Although you do not need to look directly at your camera the entire time, reorienting your workspace so your camera and computer screen are close to each other will help display your full face and show that you are fully present in the meeting.
It is equally important that you curate your background to suit your meeting. You do not want your backdrop to distract from the meeting, so when possible, curate your workspace so that your background is tidied and has minimal movement. Sometimes this may require communicating with your housemates when you will need the space to yourself or rescheduling your meeting time to a time with less activity in your workspace.
Alternatively, you can opt for a virtual background through Zoom’s presets or of your own design. Davis cautioned that if you are using a virtual background it is crucial that you be to be self-aware of your body positioning and movement, as sometimes parts of your face may be blended into the backdrop.
Utilizing your resources by reserving a private room at your library or career services building provides another good solution to those looking for a quiet space with minimal distractions.
2. Use Your Voice to Lead
When facilitating a Zoom meeting, it is helpful to set clear expectations for the other participants at the beginning of your meeting. Including a specification within your introduction – such as “Ask any questions you may have in the chat” or “We ask that you mute your microphone until you have been called upon to speak”– will help set the tone of your meeting and adequately prepare participants to be professional.
Even with proper preparation, it is impossible to avoid the awkward silences that occur during transitions or after questions. Davis addressed this with the recommendation that we “embrace the silence, be willing to wait.”
Being patient and courteous toward others is crucial in creating a comfortable setting within your meeting. An inclusive leader will provide everyone with ample time to speak, sometimes requiring that you limit one participant to give the opportunity to another to contribute their thoughts.
Using the chat function can help smooth over some of these issues. However, as a leader, you will set an example of conduct for the other participants. If someone has a lot to say, offer to follow up with them after the meeting and express to them your thankfulness for their active participation. Additionally, sending a private message to someone with gentle correction shows that you are considerate and alerts the person to any possible problems at hand.
3. Engage with Others
Online communications can often feel sterile and robotic. Davis encourages Zoom participants to counteract this by saying, “It is important for us to be ourselves as much as we possibly can.”
Although you are meeting online, you are still human; show your individuality by being emotive and sharing personal stories with the other participants. Being genuine in your responses will promote a sense of belonging within your Zoom meeting, which will cultivate a more comfortable and thus more productive atmosphere.
Take time to breathe fully and embody the message that you are trying to communicate within your meeting through active body language and thoughtful responses. “It is also important to be muted when it is not your turn to speak, so household noises and things like coughing or sneezing don’t interrupt the speaker,” Schaun said.
It is often necessary that we engage ourselves within the meeting before we are able to engage with others fully. Reducing online and in-person distractions as much as you can will ensure your full engagement during the meeting. To increase mindfulness, you may want to ask yourself intentional questions – such as “What do I want to learn?” or “What do I want to give to this meeting?”– which will bring greater purpose into your participation.
For more professional meetings, like interviews, you may want to rehearse your Zoom call by opening a private meeting beforehand. Practice speaking slowly and enunciating, using even intonation, and limiting fidgeting. Rehearsing your Zoom calls also provides an opportunity to troubleshoot technical difficulties and ensure that your setting looks as professional on camera as you do.