For many of us, particularly those that were based in the office, we are now in a world where working from home is the new norm. With the influx of so many online tools such as Skype, MS Teams and Zoom to name just a few, it is just as easy to work from home and conduct meetings from our home office rather than going into the office or visiting sites and/or clients.  For those of us used to being out on site we are now being urged to attend more online meetings where it’s not as easy to meet face-to-face as we used to do.

However, are we getting the best from these meetings?  It is all too tempting to be checking our emails than paying attention to what John is telling us about the finance report for the last quarter. I have been working from home for the last seven months and manage many online workshops for our clients. There are many distractions or people may have poor internet connection, so I always like to set the tone at the start so we all know what the conditions for success are, and how we can have the most meaningful workshop.

We often have a key speaker, perhaps a senior director of the client who will introduce the team to the workshop and the importance of their attendance and use of their time. Speaking with his or her team are they presented in the best possible light?  Most of us just get on with the job at hand, before even considering how we come across to the rest of our team or workforce.  I have summarised below some of the key things you can do to get the most from meetings, online workshops or simply having a conversation with a colleague or member of staff.


Have you got my best side?

It’s worth considering how well you come across online when you’re working from home.  If your laptop is on a table in the living room, the chances are that you are looking down at the camera, but the people you’re meeting may feel that you are looking down on them too.  A simple solution is to raise the laptop up on a shoebox or a few books so that your eyes are at the same level as the camera.

Consider also, what is in the room where you are working?  Is there is window behind you will that cause glare on a bright day?  If so, you may need to move, shut the curtains, or change the laptop angle.  If you’re in the bedroom, did you make the bed this morning?  Chances are people are nosing around at your room and are not paying attention to what you are saying.

It’s also important to consider how you sound when you’re online.  From a technical perspective, you can hear yourself fine, but can other people?  Online conferencing tools allow you to test your audio before joining others on the call.  In fact, I would recommend testing out the audio at least a day before your meeting, especially if you’re using untried software.  This gives you the option of making sure everything works and sourcing a new set of headphones/microphone if not.

Also be considerate of the non technical issues.  In a face-to-face meeting you can read visual cues that tell us people may be getting fidgety or bored.  Not as easy when you can only see head and shoulders.  To aid this, keep yourself upbeat.  You don’t need to impersonate a radio DJ, but add in some light and shade to your voice.  Make things interactive and be pro-active in getting others to speak up.  Encourage people to contribute using the chat feature if they don’t want to interrupt.


Sorry, I missed that?  Are you there? You’re breaking up?

Nothing is more frustrating than a lack of decent bandwidth on the Wi-Fi for you and your audience– people can’t hear you, you may come over garbled, video stops and starts or worse case scenario you drop out of the meeting altogether.  If you’re hosting the meeting then EVERYONE drops out.  Whilst your internet connection may only be as good as your supplier there are a few simple remedies that you can utilise.  Switch your phone off or disconnect it from the Wi-Fi.  Turn off any other apps such as email, vpn etc.  Each of these things can be a drain on an already pushed internet and eliminating these will free up some bandwidth to improve the connection.


Mummy! Eric stole my barbie!

Agh, who hasn’t been working from home and in the middle of an important meeting when your child walks in.  What a nightmare right?  Wrong.  We’re all human, and working from home with our children in the next room is all part of life.  If your child needs attention mute yourself, turn your video off and give them a few minutes of your time.  Maybe get them to say hello to everyone in the meeting rather that shooshing them and praying they will give you enough time to complete the meeting. Allow the distraction and move on where you are able.  Your colleagues are human too.

Talking of distractions, have you ever spent a day at work looking in the mirror?  No, me neither.  And yet we do this online.  Looking at, or even noticing yourself takes up 30% of your concentration.  If the software has this feature; you can ‘hide self view’ and if it not, simply put a piece of paper in front of your self image which usually sits bottom right of your screen.

Taking a few moments to consider how you come across to other people, dealing with distractions, internet connection etc will all help to improve the quality of conversations that you have online and you may find yourself getting more out of these sessions.

Melanie Hills, Communications Manager.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash