We may not be in the office, but it’s still absolutely essential to be prepared and ensure that meetings continue to be conducted in a professional manner, especially now that we can’t unsee that recording!

Even after global lockdowns end, it is very likely that a lot of business meetings will continue taking place via video conferencing – be it Teams, Skype, Zoom or Vox Air.

We have all seen the videos of video conferences where participants’ children are running in and speaking to the parent, or their pets keep interrupting. Even worse is unknowingly ending up in a situation like Ben. Yes, that Ben.

While these video clips bring smiles or even laughter to millions, these incidents can be quite disruptive for other participants during the actual call, and can take away valuable time from getting actual work done.

Here are a few tips to ensuring that you have a professional and productive video conferencing meeting at home:

1. Create your own workspace

In this new way of working, we have to educate housemates, spouses or kids to be respectful of our workspace, and be more attentive when it comes to noise and interruptions. If need be, get a “do not disturb” sign or stick a note on your door.

2. Be prepared

Just because you are working from a more casual environment, it doesn’t mean that meeting preparation should be any different – besides, it’s disrespectful towards other participants if you are not prepared. Make notes ahead of time – perhaps even provide an agenda before the meeting – and bookmark anything that you may need for reference during the meeting.

3. Dress appropriately

Wear something that would be appropriate for a face-to-face meeting.  As tempting as it might be to stay in your pyjamas or sweats all day, remember that you still need to look professional for video conferences you may be attending.

4. Tidy up

Create a neat and tidy work environment, steer away from clutter and ensure that your wall art, for example, is work appropriate. Some applications allow for virtual backgrounds or the ability to blur the background, so make use of them.

5. Check your equipment

Don’t be that person that delays the entire meeting because your tech is not working correctly.  Test your equipment ahead of time, e.g. WiFi connection, microphone, camera and speakers, and if necessary, do a couple of test runs ahead of time. If you use a Bluetooth headset or earbuds, ensure that they are paired and switched on.

6. Be on time

Better to be early than late! And while it’s easy to sneak into a physical meeting late, on a video conference, everything is a lot more visible.  When in a group call, remember to introduce yourself before you talk. And if you are running late or unable to make the meeting, ensure that you communicate this timeously to the person leading the meeting.

7. Maintain eye contact

Even though it’s natural to want to look at other participants on the screen to gauge interest in what you are saying – one of the reasons why you’re having a video conference and not conference phone call – you should look at your camera, especially when speaking. Looking directly at the lens is the same as looking into someone’s eyes, which helps you come across as more professional and engaging.

8. Mute yourself

If you are not speaking, mute your microphone. Background noise can be very distracting. By the same token, also remember to disable notifications during meetings – no one wants to hear your rings and dings!

9. Stay focused

Another temptation is to check email or surf the Internet whilst on video calls.  It’s very easy for other participants to pick up on whether or not you are focused and it’s simply rude. The same goes for “sneaking out” for a snack or letting the dog out – just don’t do it!  If you have a conflicting appointment, rather let everyone know at the beginning of the meeting.

10. Bring your old tech to life

You can improve your home office setup by reviving some old equipment you may have lying around. For example, turn an old tablet into a video chat piece or a second monitor for your PC.

Remember, it’s not only about appearance but preparedness. No one can predict how long the effects of the lockdown are going to continue and as such, remote working should be treated the same as if you were going into the office. Keep it clean. Keep it professional. Don’t be like Ben.