What is it like when your dreams and nightmares come true at the same time? Well, we’re not positive, but we think you could ask the folks at Zoom. Before March, 2020 the comm-tech company probably dreamed of a world where everyone was meeting online. When their daily users increased from around 10 million at the end of 2019 to nearly 200 million in March, it must have seemed like a silver-lining in the world gone mad.
Very quickly, though, the massive influx of new users exposed vulnerabilities ranging from the disruption of ‘Zoom-bombing’ to more serious encryption and security concerns. But we’re not here to blog-shame Zoom. Their world changed overnight, just like ours did, and all of the carefully learned assumptions they lived by were turned upside down.
Now, just like our friends at Zoom (and every other industry from Accounting to Zamboni Manufacturing) we have to find new ways of working and video meetings are going to be a part of it.
As much as we love to make up our own rules, we decided, instead, to turn to our friends out on the inter-webs to see what they thought. In this entirely not-scientific survey, we asked what they thought the rules should be, what they loved, what made them a little crazy, and for the best advice they could give a virtual meeting newbie.
What did we learn? Well, a lot, frankly. It turns out that we weren’t the only ones thinking about the subject (possibly when we all should have been paying attention in a different meeting) and it led us to some interesting conclusions.
Let’s start with meeting punctuality:
It looks like the majority of people believe in showing up before a meeting starts, both IRL and virtually, so they can be ready to roll, but the show-up-right-on-timers edged up when we all jumped online. You roll-in-laters, we know who you are, and we still like you.
What if you’ve RSVPd but suddenly can’t make it? Almost everyone agrees that giving the meeting organizer a heads-up is the right thing to do. Manners matter, even on the internet.
Speaking of manners, now let’s think about a couple of etiquette issues:
For some reason, passing the conversation around in a natural way is tougher in a virtual meeting, and some of us are having a hard time being heard. It’s a small thing, but might be something your team needs to consider because we’re almost evenly split between signaling physically that we want to talk and just jumping into the fray.
One more data point here where we’re pretty evenly split.
Is your team logging out of meetings feeling frustrated because no one can get heard above the noise? What’s a simple but effective tactic you could be using to keep the meeting on track without squashing creativity?
Here’s some more great input along with our conclusions about what it all may mean.
Being able to meet from the comfort and safety of home – From feeling safer at home, to being more comfortable on their couch, to not having to wear real pants (#relatable), there seems to be a lot to love about meeting from your own place.
Bring able to see all of the attendees and share screens – This is literally looking on the bright side. When we’re all packed around a meeting table, we can’t see each other’s faces, share the same info at the same time, or generally be so fully on the same page.
Saving travel time-Whether you’re running from room-to-room or city-to-city, the travel between meetings was (still is) a time-suck and, apparently, it’s one that we’re happy to live without.
SEEING OTHER PEOPLE – Sure, working from home indefinitely seems like an introvert's actual dream, but everyone has their limit, right? Even when we can all be back together, this little perk will be a big deal for teams in different cities.
Our Conclusion: Meeting online, with or without real pants, is marvelously beneficial and it’s here to stay. It’s time to stop seeing online meetings as a stop-gap measure and put real thought into policies, tech, and best practices to help your team save time and money.
People not having the right tech or not having it ready and working – Hey, we get it. The mass exodus from offices all around the country meant that a lot of teams had to figure things out on the fly. Now, months into working from home, some of us have lost a little patience if people are lagging behind.
Background noise from mics/People forgetting to un-mute – It does seem like we can’t get through a meeting without dog/kid/traffic/phone/doorbell interruptions or the now-classic chorus of ‘UNMUTE YOUR MIC!’, but people generally think this too shall pass as we have more practice.
People working/having other conversations/distracted – To quote one of our respondents, “It gives the perception that their attendance is important but the discussion topics are not important enough for their attention.”
Distracting backgrounds - Some of us have really nailed our personal set design for online meetings with a clean and uncluttered space and decent lighting and some of us are still working things out.
People talking over each other - Maybe it’s that little bit of lag, or our excitement over getting to see and interact with PEOPLE, or all of the weirdness in the world making us worry we’re not getting heard. Whatever it is, people seem to be losing sight of some of our IRL meeting etiquette.
Our Conclusion –Some of the teams we heard from have already started to implement best practices - like muting mics by default, asking that cameras stay on, and requiring employees stay engaged in the meeting instead of multi-tasking. We have some things to learn, but we can get this right.
“Log in early and be ready to start on time.”
“Make sure you have the right tools to hear, be heard, see, and be seen.”
“Set up your space with video in mind”
“Pay attention to the meeting, don’t do other work or engage in other conversations while it’s happening.”
“Mute your mic when you’re not talking and remember to unmute it when you need to talk.”
“Make sure you say what you need to say and ask questions. Don’t let the format or the other attendees keep you from getting the most out of the meeting.”
“Embrace the bad angles of cameras, the potential connection issues, and trust that you can still accomplish everything from 20 miles away that you could’ve from 2 feet away. Teamwork and collaboration shine through as long as you have an open mind!”
Maybe the fact that so many of us were able to jump online almost instantly to keep moving forward in a very weird world is not just proof of our tenacity, it’s a sign that meeting online has been a great idea that we’ve resisted for too long. Our friends and colleagues that were already leveraging remote connections to collaborate with remote teams have valuable lessons to share so we can foster a virtual workplace brimming with human connection, creativity, and inclusivity.