Being Present and All In For Virtual Meetings

Let’s not kid ourselves, being present during meetings can be difficult. It’s easy to lose track of what’s going on, what is being said, and at times, who is saying it. Personally, this has been the case for me on more than one occasion.

When I transitioned from an office job to working with a remote work-force, spanning multiple time zones and locations, I discovered that being present was even more difficult, especially when your meetings are all virtual. The distractions are greater when you are at home, even if you have a dedicated work space like I do. The urge to multi-task overtakes you. The feeling that you should write one more line of code takes precedence. I discovered early on, that I was doing just this.

Imagine this scenario: you are in a meeting and someone is leading this meeting. At some point you start checking out, you start drifting off and thinking about other things that you need to accomplish that day. Then, out of no-where, you hear your name. You panic, because you realize that you have no idea what was asked of you or what the context of the discussion was even about.

I have to be honest, this has happened to me on more than one occasion. It’s an embarrassing situation to be in. But beyond the embarrassment that you feel, when you are not present for a meeting, you are telling your co-workers, clients, or whoever else may be a part of this meeting, that their time is not valuable.

How can we become present for virtual meetings? How can we be all-in when a meeting is going on? Here are some steps that I have put into place in order to make sure that I am present for meetings.

1. Do Not Disturb

Anyone that has ever stayed a night at a hotel, has seen the “Do Not Disturb” sign that hangs on the back of the hotel room door. In most cases, these signs go unused by a lot of people until housekeeping walks into your room and you are still sleeping. At that moment, the sign becomes important to you.

One of my favorite features of the various Apple devices that I have is the “Do Not Disturb” mode. By turning this on, I’m able to turn off most notifications that pop-up on-screen and also keep an icon from dancing in the dock when there is something new that could divert my attention.

I don’t stop at turning this on for my computer alone, I also do this for my iPhone and iPad.

2. Close All the Things

As I mentioned earlier, there have been moments where I have tried to multi-task. Most of the time, this comes in the form of writing code while a meeting is going on.
To help prevent the urge to multi-task, I close applications that can cause me to become distracted or will draw me into a multi-tasking mode. These include:

  • Browser Windows
  • Text Editors
  • Graphics Applications
  • Email
  • Chat Windows

By closing these, I find that I am able to focus on what is going on in the meeting.

3. Front and Center

Position your video camera, if you use one, so that you are physically centered in the focus area. This allows you to look directly in the camera, which in return, makes others in the meeting feel as if you are speaking directly to them and are focused.

4. Communicate Your Schedule

I always try to communicate my meeting schedule with my wife so that she is aware of what I have planned for that day. This also helps to prevent an unexpected interruption during a meeting. We have no plausible excuse to get upset if others are not aware that a meeting is taking place.

5. Get Rid of Background Noise

There will always be times when impromptu meetings take place, in the office and for the remote work force. One of the major benefits of working remote, is that you have the ability to work from anywhere, at any time. However, conducting a meeting from a crowded, noisy coffee shop, becomes a distraction for everyone that is involved in the meeting. It can also become a distraction for everyone in the coffee shop. Whenever we have a scheduled meeting, we need to take into account our surroundings and always ask this question, “Is this conducive for a meeting?”.

Conclusion

These are just a few tips that I have found that help me to be present during a virtual meeting. And to be honest, some are applicable for in person meetings. While all of these tips may not work for you, some may. I’d love to hear your thoughts or any tips that you may have. Share them in the comments!