How to plan for a productive and professional telemeeting

If you're working from home due to the coronavirus, these telemeeting tips will help you stay connected with colleagues and win their support.

Most IT professionals think of communication the same way they think of going to the grocery under isolation--get in, get your needs met, get out. Yet because of the COVID-19 coronavirus and prevalence of telecommuting, telemeeting, also called video conferencing, is, for many, the closest thing we have left to face-to-face meetings. The few minutes of that meeting may be the only chance to make a real connection you have with that person that day. 

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs  (TechRepublic)

After 12 years of telecommuting and remote work, I've learned a few ways to set your meetings  up for success. These aren't skills to influence people as much as concrete things you can do to make remote meetings more effective.

Check your camera placement and appearance

Your laptop camera is a literal window into the world of your home office. Think about what people see when they enter the meeting. In my case, I took an actual picture of what I looked like while I was writing this article. Then I prepared for an actual meeting and took a second picture. Take a look at both.

matt-combined.jpg

Matthew Heusser before (left) and after preparation for a telemeeting.

Image: Matthew Heusser

That is my vacuum cleaner, and in the back, you can barely make out the remains of cardboard Fort Princess. To prepare for the second picture I took a shower, shaved, spent 10 seconds on my hair, turned the laptop about six inches, and put on a tiny amount of men's acne lotion that is also a concealer. Yes, folks, I am a geek, and have adult acne.

The library is a nice touch, and it took zero effort. If I wanted to put in a little work, I could organize the books, perhaps turn a few key books to expose the title for the reader. As for clothes, it's more important they be clean, well-fitting, and without wrinkles than looking dressed up.

Imagine a video meeting with the Matt on the left and the one on the right. They both claim they can fix the problem with the router sometime today. The Matt on the right, projecting a little confidence, is more likely to get off the phone quickly and get to solving problems, instead of trying to generate that confidence with words.

Set a meeting schedule

Most of us try to be in the room when a physical meeting starts at 11 a.m. With an on-line meeting, we may need to download Zoom, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, GoToWebinar, or some other tool. This is especially true if the meeting is with some other party. With new technology, there is the inevitable problem of getting your headphones to work, arguing about who has the problem, and a potential reboot. Do yourself a favor: 15 minutes before the meeting, download the tool, go to the meeting room, and check your microphone. If the meeting technology is established, still consider getting in five minutes early and reviewing the meeting invite or previous minutes. If you scheduled the meeting, make the goals of the meeting, and dial-in information, clear in the invite, and get in early.

SEE: How to use remote collaboration now and after the coronavirus pandemic (TechRepublic)

Scheduling meetings can also be painful. Most of us have experienced the meeting scheduling email chain that takes a month to schedule a 15minute call. If you can, consider making your available time public, and providing tools for people to schedule the meeting without you. Calendly is one free tool that integrates with Google mail and Microsoft Outlook to publish your schedule to the web and make appointment-setting self-service--only to the hours you are available.

Finally, remember that if only two people are meeting, the phone is always an option. This is especially helpful when meeting someone outside of your organization who might not want to download whatever meeting platform you are using. 

Your best teleconference now

During this coronavirus pandemic, teleconferencing is especially crucial. Spend a few minutes on your appearance, move the camera to the best angle, have a goal, and get to the call early. Come prepared: Spend those 15 minutes before the call preparing what you will say and how you will say it. These little things will set you up for success before you even click the link to start the meeting. 

Also see

Focused young businessman holding video call with clients.

Image: fizkes, Getty Images/iStockphoto