More ways to improve your next video conference.

Looking for more ways to improve your virtual meetings? These six tips can help you do more during your next video call.
 

Show your face.

As tempting as it may be to hide behind a black square with your name on it, keeping your camera on encourages you to stay present and focused and minimizes the urge to multitask. It also provides important context clues: Facial expressions and body language allow meeting leaders to understand “if people are tracking what’s happening or if anyone is confused,” says Jori MacNaught, a human-centered design coach at LUMA Institute. “Having your video on also helps foster personal connections.” She suggests using gallery view because it’ll make “you feel like you’re in a room together, which is great for engagement.”
 

Use the chat function.

MacNaught encourages the use of chat messages because it gives people a secondary pathway to have their voice heard. “It’s equally valuable as speaking out loud, especially for people who are shy,” she says. “And it helps people express their thoughts or questions in the moment while avoiding talking at the same time as someone else.” It’s also a useful way to share files and links.
 

Take advantage of breakout rooms.

This Zoom tool is especially useful for running small group exercises within a big group meeting. “You can break apart, do an activity, or have a discussion, and then come back together,” MacNaught says. “Just make sure to explain how much time each group has to complete the exercise.”
 

Create an agenda.

This tip goes for any meeting — in-person or virtual. “Without any information, it’s hard to know while you’re in the meeting if it’s in or out of scope,” MacNaught says. In the invitation details, include a high-level objective and desired outcome for the meeting; even one or two lines will suffice. For longer meetings — say, more than an hour — it can be helpful to create a full agenda, broken down by time blocks. For example, 15 minutes for key questions, 10 minutes for next steps, etc.
 

Watch the clock.

Avoid scheduling anything on the calendar too early (especially at 9 a.m. on Monday) or too late (such as at 5 p.m. on a Friday). If colleagues are scattered among different time zones, MacNaught recommends rotating who has to dial in extra early or late.
 
Also, don’t let the invite default to the one-hour block. Rather, think about how much time you’ll actually need. “And if a meeting is going to last between one or two hours, try to plan a five-minute break in the middle,” she says. At the end, leave at least five minutes to recap next steps or action items.
 

Have some fun.

In-person meetings typically involve some casual banter before diving into the material — and the same should go for video calls. MacNaught suggests starting with a five-minute ice breaker, which can “energize everyone and build personal connections.” During her meetings, she typically has everyone share a piece of good news, whether it’s personal or professional.
 
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