Getting to grips with online meetings

By: Peter Ley, Reflections

There are expectations around face to face meetings which most of us have grown up with and have often been developed further in our working lives.

Many people who are a little older or who have not had the benefit of recent office work will not be familiar with on-line meetings. There is a whole new etiquette to be learned and the need to work with hardware and apps. There can be a fear of the unknown and being “thrown-in at the deep end”.

We should also not assume that someone who is familiar with one app will immediately be able to pick up on the finer points of another app. With an array of popular apps and organisations’ contractual obligations, sooner or later we are all likely to be “the new user”.

To overcome any issues, we have found a little preparation helps. A talk with the person wishing to join-in, a simple written explanation of what to do (with pictures, if possible) and an end-to-end run-through of a meeting all helps. Someone at the person’s location with experience of what you are trying to achieve also helps. The person will need to be able to join-in on their own at a later date, so they should not be too reliant on help that may not always be there. It is worth highlighting that a live microphone and/or camera may cause embarrassment if not managed carefully.

On the first occasion the person joins a “real” meeting they are likely to need some support. The new person has to learn the etiquette around speaking at online meetings and the use of the “mute” button. The newbie will not be aware that regular users will quickly get frustrated by over-talking and by extraneous noises causing the app to switch its focus to a new live “speaker”. There will always be more to learn.

Even when you think you have (almost) mastered your chosen app you can easily come unstuck. I signed-up for a “how-to” webinar being run by Zoom at 4pm. Sure enough it ran at 4pm. Unfortunately, it was 4pm in California, which was 8 hours later in the UK. So, I finally joined the webinar at midnight!

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