“Bueller, Bueller, Bueller.” I suspect a number reading this remember that line. It’s, of course, from the movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Those who’ve seen the movie know that Ferris Bueller’s classmates, while physically present, were anything but engaged. While many meetings are returning to “in-person” most of us are still spending plenty of time in virtual meetings.
It can be easy to lose focus when you’re sitting in the room with colleagues; it can be even easier in the virtual world where no one can see you checking your phone or your secondary screen. And while you may be physically present (either in person or on video) the real issue isn’t your physical presence (as it was for Ferris). The real issue is whether or not you are mentally engaged in the conversation.
Here are some tips for staying engaged and keeping people engaged if you’re running the show.
- It can be tempting to multi-task and it feels efficient but the jig is up by the 3rd time you have to ask someone to repeat themselves. Shut down distracting apps, email and social media.
- Make sure you’re familiar with the platform du jour (Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, etc.). Know how to share your screen and how to go on mute when the dog is barking or someone fires up a lawn mower outside.
- Be prepared for a glitch. Yesterday, for some unknown reason, my video would not turn on for a Google Meet. I quickly turned off the camera and moved on instead of wasting valuable time with a client while trying to get it to work.
- Upgrade your bandwidth and know how to use it. I can prioritize my laptop ahead of other family members (please don’t tell my wife or son).
- If the sound quality goes south, shut down video. No matter how much bandwidth you have, there are times there’s a choke-point somewhere along the way as the data travels around the world (even though you’re in a virtual meeting with someone a few miles away).
- Speaking of sound quality, invest in decent speakers and microphones for conference and meeting rooms. Few things are more annoying than being unable to hear or an echo (or both).
- Show up on time and PLEASE watch the clock for the end time. With people often scheduling meetings back to back, no one has time to run over even by a few minutes. I often announce, “We have 10 minutes left, what is remaining to discuss?”
- Speaking of time, just because you schedule an hour meeting, doesn’t mean you need to use the entire time. People will appreciate an early ending. I’ve endured too many meetings that could have ended early but people seemed intent on filling the remaining time.
- Give yourself 15 minutes every so often to get some fresh air and take a stretch break to help you stay focused.
- And by all means, have an agenda and stay on topic. Know if you are trying to inform people or get them to make a decision and plan the meeting accordingly.
Hope this helps. Stay engaged out there!
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