By: Abby Melone

It’s a brave new world for everyone. Quarantine, lockdown, self-isolation and sheltering in place characterize the new normal imposed by COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. In a virtuous cycle, people depend on strong businesses, which depend on a strong economy, which depends on strong businesses that depend on people.

 

The fact is that people, businesses and the economy shouldn’t just stop, even in such unprecedented times, and perhaps more so because of this crisis. Fortunately, this is also the era of high technology, and there is no time like the present to show just what that technology is capable of, especially in business dealings.

 

As the pandemic stretches on, more businesses are turning to virtual meetings to get things done. Skype, Zoom … these are the most vital tools for business today. But as everyone has intimately discovered, when an in-person meeting becomes virtual, much can be lost, and the road to disaster can be perilously short when you’re online. We all want to be as effective as if we were physically there, but how do we stay engaging and charming and avoid as many distractions, hiccups and potential disasters as possible?

 

Like any good professional, you need to know the tricks of the trade. Here are some tips to help:

 

Positioning of the camera. A wacky camera angle can be extremely distracting. Who wants to see directly into the inside of your nose? Pull down your computer screen slightly to make sure the camera is dead on rather than pointing upward, which most likely is your more natural way to position the screen.

 

Background noise. There is no better way to turn off the person you are meeting with than some distracting noise. Be conscious of your surroundings, especially now that you are most likely working from home: clanking jewelry, dog barking, roommate or significant other also working from home. 

 

Distracting background. Make sure you do not give the person you are meeting with the opportunity to focus on a picture of the sports team you love but they hate. Position yourself against an empty wall or something non-distracting.

 

Don’t look at yourself in the video. Very few of us can resist glancing, or even staring, at our own camera window. Don’t! The person you are meeting can see you are distracted by you and not them. Also, you miss loads of cues from the other person when you are staring into your own eyes. Is the person you are meeting with interested? Engaged? Bored? Distracted? You won’t know unless you are looking at them.

 

Try to maintain a dialog. It’s easy to steal the “conversation” and talk and talk and talk. Be sure to make time in your presentation to see where the other person is, do they have questions, are they following along?

 

Know your demo tools: both the functionality of the platform as well as the material you will be showing. The person on your computer screen is watching your every move, so the more comfortable you are with your tools, the more flawless (and therefore impressive) you come across in your meetings. Close out all windows you would not want someone to see before your meeting starts (email, social media, YouTube). Remember: when technology goes wrong, it can take you from being competent and impressive to the alternative in seconds.