We may not be zipping past our days and routines, but we are certainly ‘Zooming’ through them!
Entrepreneurs are finding new and creative ways to use online meetings for business – to connect with prospects, clients, teams as also for lead generation.
How are business owners, solopreneurs and freelancers using virtual meetings?
Q & A sessions
Check out 14 expert tips for awesome Virtual meetings for entrepreneurs!
If you have recently started virtual interactions for business or are looking to improve your online meetings, these tricks from virtual pros, personality & speaking coaches and photographers will surely help.
Start right – Virtual but still face to face
Laura Handrick, a contributing HR Professional at Choosing Therapy feels that an online meeting isn’t all that different than an in-person meeting. “When you set up an in-person meeting, you’ll typically welcome the person to the meeting, make sure they’re comfortable, perhaps offer them water.
In the online environment, those niceties are even more crucial. Entrepreneurs need to take the extra step and help the attendee get set up, make sure they can be seen and heard, explain how to use features such as video chat, and explain how the process works for asking and answering questions.
Small talk is still important! In fact, it’s helpful right at the start of any online meeting, to do a quick check-in with attendees. How is business going? What are they hoping to get out of the video call? Do they have time to stay for the entire meeting?”
Deborah Sweeney, CEO of My Corporation.com feels that the most important thing is to start on time, and not ‘running 5-10 minutes late.”Set a hard stop to the meeting so that everyone knows when it will be over and can get back to their tasks at hand.”
Liam Flynn, the Founder and Editor of MusicGrotto adds, “The key to making virtual meetings work, is making the time to find out what works best for everyone!In small meetings, “encourage everyone to introduce themselves. This creates a relaxed, comfortable space and makes everyone feel included. This will also keep everyone attentive!”
(How not to be in your face AND not out of sight either!)
Plan and Prep – Don’t be the (attention) loser!
It’s important to be prepared to talk and discuss like you normally would in a face-to-face meeting. Setting ground rules for participants at the beginning of the meeting, is another key. And there’s more.
Daisy Jing, CEO of Banish recommends being calm, focused and well-hydrated BEFORE the call.
“Treat it like you would a normal, traditional meeting,” Esther Meyer of GroomsShop suggests. “ After all, you would never come to a meeting without being ready, and being mentally prepared.”
Freya Huffman of Virtual Training Coach shares tips that are useful if you are running a panel discussion or a virtual summit. “Prep the speakers ahead of time on the expectations of the content, timing and speaker order.
“Keep meetings focused and on-point,” says Laura Fuentes of Infinity Dish with her long experience of remote meetings. Everyone on the call has other things to do, even if it’s just spending time with their families at home after the call.”
“You need to choose your resource (e.g Zoom, Webex or Google Meet),” says David Walter from Electrician Mentor. “Communicate the details – send out the login info and password if appropriate, and encourage the users to do a test run.”
Keith Myers of The Hempire runs a publication with 100% remote workers and likes to work with a clear schedule. This includes “the start time, how long the content takes, when to rest, as well as the end time.”
Ensure that you leave time for questions and open responses in every meeting.
Technology – Plan for – and around – glitches
“Do test calls,” Meyer says. “No matter how much you prepare for a meeting, if you can’t be heard or be seen during the meeting itself, it’s all futile. 48% of users said that technical difficulties most often detract from video communication experiences.”
Handrick says that the host should “needs to arrive 10 minutes early and get set up. Use that time to get your mic working, make sure any slides or applications you’re going to show are set up. And be prepared to greet each person as they arrive. Also ensure that you have adequate lighting, a good internet connection and audio/video quality.”
Saurabh Jindal of Talk Travel has some equipment suggestions
“A high resolution camera like Logitech Brio. With clear crisp videos and pictures, it beats any built-in camera on laptops.
Brighten up the space around your workstation with an LED Light panel like Viltrox.
A Clamp & Stand if you use the external camera webcam – place it at or above your laptop
Choose a good mic like Blue Yeti to produce crystal clear sound. “
Technology is great only if you know how to work it!
Drew Stevens of Stevens Consulting Group, feels that knowing your platform is critical to success. “Imagine how painful it would be sitting through a meeting where people are struggling with the tech.” He also recommends factoring in the time zones of participants.
“Practice with the technology, says Author & Speaking Coach Diane DiResta, of DiResta Communications, Inc. Rehearse your message on camera in advance. Know how to easily find and use the icons, chat room, sound, etc. Smile and relax.”
You can start by prioritizing video meetings but offer a dial-in option, if everyone is not able to join a video chat, says Flynn.
Bruce Hogan Co-founder & CEO of SoftwarePundit has a solution for a common problem.“Turn off desktop notifications for other applications. This is especially true if you’re presenting your screen. To mute these notifications, Mac users can install a free app called Muzzle. Windows users can turn off these notifications using the Focus Assist feature.”
Sashreka Pillai of Take Us Digital weighs in. “If you get kicked off, rejoin and find a natural pause in the conversation to ask that people repeat themselves. Only interrupt if three sentences later you haven’t caught up. You can also activate the bell when joining functionality – this alerts people that someone new has joined.”
Features – Use the tools!
Use visual tools, if possible. This breaks the monotony, helps you present ideas more clearly and effectively, reducing the time spent with the verbal explanation.”
Use these cool features in your next online meeting (including how to enable a large gallery view and filters to touch up those fine lines)
Stacy Caprio, Founder, Growth Marketing suggests having a chat and comment feature enabled for Online meetings. This will allow people to ask questions and engage without verbally interrupting others while they are speaking.
“When you are having a meeting, make sure that you are sharing your screen and providing your colleagues with visuals that they can focus on,” recommends Shawn Breyer of Atlanta House Buyers. “Trying to keep up with the conversation only by audio is really difficult for most people. Conveying your message in a simple PowerPoint (Keynote or Google Slides) is going to keep your colleagues engaged throughout the conversation.”
Terell Strayhorn, President, Do Good Work Consulting leads a dynamic team all working remotely now. He feels that, “using virtual backgrounds can be exciting. Encourage team members to do the same. Don’t be afraid to reserve time for staff to discuss their selections or share their creativity.”
Audio – Do you sound right?
“Use a microphone. Speaking through the computer audio can sound tiny and may have a slight echo. Simple earbuds will give you a better sound quality,” says DiResta.
Aaron Udler has another tip. “Hit the mute button when entering a meeting. And where you are not talking, make sure you are on mute. You never know what kind of background noise your microphone is picking up and it could be disturbing to others.”
Pillai advises pre-testing. “Use the testing capabilities that most virtual meeting software have. Many times people have an issue with their sound which could be resolved with a quick test.”
Andrea Gandica of Official Models NY emphasizes avoiding distractions. “Get a headset with Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) technology to block out background noise, this will also ensure that the users’ voices can be heard with perfect clarity.”
To Mute or not?
If you are teaching a large class, you don’t want noise. But smaller meetings or workshops might be different.
Keith Myers, on the other hand feels that “silence does not stimulate people to actively discuss.” Use (or allow) the “mute” function voluntarily. I recommend turning on the mic – at least say “yes” to let everyone know that you’re still in the meeting.”
He also recommends being in a quiet place. “Most of us don’t have a great deal of control over audio, so choose a quiet place. Decide on a location without noise or background interruptions. Also, keep in mind that your headphones might have a better mic than your computer.”
Isaac Hammelburger, Founder@ Search Pros says,“you should also ensure that everyone’s microphone is not on mute. This is to ensure that everyone is engaged in the conversation and they could share their thoughts and opinions.”
Starting or growing an Online Business?
(How to start, skills you need, where to find work, how to pitch, portfolio tips, success secrets…)
Appearance & Personality – Or how to impress
As an entrepreneur or freelancer, how to you present yourself for virtual meetings? There’s no doubt that you need to dress right when you are meeting online for business. But experts are divided on whether you should dress only for the camera or attire yourself in the work mode. Check out their recommendations and reasons.
Pants or Pajamas?
Stage yourself. Get close enough to the camera so that there are a few inches of space over the top of your head. If you lean back you’ll appear distant. Lean forward to appear confident. Dress the way you would for an in person meeting (at least from the waist up) especially if you are pitching investors.
Jane Flanagan from Tacuna Systems has 7 years of experience in conducting virtual meetings. She cautions on types of clothing choices. “Dress professionally. Avoid wearing patterned clothes as these cause distractions. Wear only solid bright colours.”
Noreen Lace, a writer and instructor at California State University feels that dressing up helps you and in multiple ways.
“Dress appropriately, this is still a professional pitch or interview and wearing sweats under a nice shirt or blouse might be an accident waiting to happen, but more importantly it helps the state of mind feel professional.”
Aaron Udler, President, OfficePro, Inc shares. “There is a joke in the video conferencing world: “Pants Optional”. One of my clients shared with me that while on a call, somebody’s kid popped up in the background and vomited all over the place. The parent, who was wearing a button down shirt, stood up to rush over to his kid only to expose his underwear on camera! (By the way, it’s ok for your kids to join your call. We are all human and everybody will understand this.)
Rafael Parra from Homeschool Spanish Academy shares his thought. “Dressing appropriately for the meeting is important. You might be staying at home the entire day. But putting on work clothes will get you in the right mindset to conduct the meeting.
Light it right!
Arthur believes that it is critical to think about this. “Avoid low-contrast lighting where people cannot see your face, and avoid brightness behind you as you speak. Both will create an underwhelming visual appearance and make you less professional. The best lighting is either a natural light (window) or warmer light place generally toward the front of you — but not so much that it distracts you.”
“Most, if not all, of the video software out there has preview modes before you go live. Use it to analyze your room’s lighting.”
Gintaras Steponkus at Solid Guides has a tip. “Always have two LED desk lamps on both sides of the table so you have the perfect lighting effect during the call.”
Pitching – How to share effectively!
“Pitching in virtual meetings is a unique skill,” adds Arthur. “If you are on video, you need to dress well and be sure that you are taking full advantage of your upper body nonverbals. Use your arms, have facial expressions, tilt your head. If you are audio only, you need to actually exaggerate your voice inflection in order to land your points in a way that gets noticed.
Being monotone in-person is bad enough, never be monotone when on a conference call.
Do emphasize key points. You probably need more movement and voice inflection than feels normal to you as you speak. To the person on the other end, it will not seem exaggerated.”
Pillai has a clever idea. “If you are joining a meeting with people from more than one company, update your profile so your name reads (First Name Last Name, Company). Another is to use a branded mug or t-shirt – it’s a great opportunity to promote your brand.”
Shaan Patel, Founder and CEO of Prep Expert feels that posture counts. “Work at a desk, kitchen table, etc. but make sure that you sit upright and at attention. All of these little habits easily transfer to a focused, professional demeanor on Zoom meetings, where you’re at attention, ready to go.”
Parra has another tip. “A huge advantage that online meetings have is that you can keep your pitch notes handy to make sure you don’t miss a beat. Keeping a second screen, a tablet or a phone with notes will improve your speech flow by a lot. Just make sure to make your pitch conversational, don’t read directly from a script.”
Tali Mandelzweig of MeetFox has another tip. “I have 2 screens and always have the client’s website, LinkedIn profile or any other notes that I need open just in case. This allows me to continue to look at my client while speaking but other notes beside me if I need it.”
Tell a story, differentiate yourself, and more from 8 experts…
Visual Appeal – Beauty lies in the eye of the camera lens
Jim Costa of Jim Costa Films has been a professional photographer and video producer for over 32 years.
“My best tip would be to consider your camera angle. For the most part when video conferencing, especially when using a laptop.You should raise your camera lens to either eye level or slightly higher than eye level by a couple of inches.”
Camera angles that are higher (or from above) are more flattering to those on screen. When you position your camera lower than eye level, it makes you look intimidating and sinister. In the movies, low angles are used to signal superiority and power and are often used when showing the bad guys on screen.
Plus, no one wants to look up your nose through the entire meeting – it’s not a flattering look for anyone.”
Eye-level angles are neutral – and the best! – so try those.
Look me in the eye!
You can also choose to slightly raise the camera above eye-level just a small amount. Camera angles that look down can communicate vulnerability, making it easier to speak freely. But not too high up because that angle projects weakness.
DiResta urges presenters to Look at the lens, not the audience. Good communication is eye-to-eye. However, this can be a challenge in a virtual meeting. Most people look at the screen to make eye contact. But on a computer screen you need to look directly into the lens. It will feel uncomfortable because you’ll actually be making eye contact with the camera. Yet the person on the other end will experience it as eye-to-eye communication.. This is especially critical when pitching.”
Bruce Hogan Co-founder & CEO of SoftwarePundit adds. “Place your computer’s camera at eye level. This ensures that you’ll appear to be looking directly at the other participants, which is most similar to how we engage in-person.”
“You must not be too close to the camera that all the audience can see is your big face,” suggests Werner Jorgensen from Heatxperts. “Equally important is not to sit too far like you are sitting in front of an artist to sketch yourself. Your arms and movements should be visible to your audience, along with your facial expressions.”
Setting – Your chaos doesn’t have to be theirs (Neutral does it!)
DiResta has a smart tip. “Create a backdrop. In virtual meetings it’s essential to create a pleasant background that communicates professionalism. Aim for a conference room or home office look. Zoom even allows you to choose selected backgrounds or upload your own(see in Features above) . A folding screen or room divider is another option.“
Leonard Ang from AQVA says, “ensure that you have a clean and work-appropriate background. If possible, choose a plain white (or neutral) one and without any clutter.”
Lace suggests ‘background fakes.’ If it’s a live interview or meeting; you might be hiding in the corner of your bedroom, but make the background either plain or ‘fake professional.’ Move the pjs out of view, and angle the camera at a lamp and plant.
Security – Keep it safe!
Sandy Yong, The Money Master warns against ‘zoombombing’ where random individuals will try to hijack your meeting and play inappropriate content or say offensive things. She recommends adding a password to ensure that this reduces this risk.
Here are some security measures you can use to prevent Zoom-bombing!
Looking for online work or virtual gigs?
Virtual interactions are here to stay!
Whether you’re doing business across locations or working with time and flexibility constraints, everyone of us will be doing more meetings online.
So plan well, prep right and wow them with your message and poise.
Pooja Krishna is an Entrepreneur, Business Mentor and Mom. She has worked both in large corporates and managed startups over the last 20+ years.
She’s a co-founder at Maroon Oak, and is founded Win Thinks, where she writes, speaks and teaches about Digital Media, Brand Building and Future Ready Businesses. A day trader for over a decade, Pooja launched Trading Paces to educate amateur and pro stock traders. As a classroom mentor, Pooja loves teaching students across the U.S. about job skills and entrepreneurship. Read about her on Huffington Post and Forbes.
A trivia buff and yoga & hula hoop enthusiast, she’s discovering the pleasure of drawing Zentangle patterns for ‘creative mindfulness.’