Workplace: Virtual Meetings and Meeting Rooms

Presenter flashback. Remember the days of traveling with markers, and overhead slides, and a CD with your presentation on it? Technology was sketchy, not always available, and not always reliable. During this clean-out season, I came back across a 1997 slide set for a National Rural Electric Cooperative Association conference.

Here are the seven reminders for creating effective in-person meeting spaces.

1. Determine the room’s purpose. What will we use it for: meetings, video-events, remote meeting participation, work-sessions, education, or what combination of purposes? Be certain that the meeting purposes will be supported by the meeting room/technology.

2. Time control. Put a clock in the room that is visible to all participants. Be certain it shows the current time in your time zone. Also effective: have clocks for all of the time zones in which you do business and label the zone above or below each clock. During virtual meetings, participants likely have a clock on their screens.

3. Light Control. All on or all off is not light control. Darkened rooms do not promote thinking, problem-solving, or positive workplace interactions. Meeting room lights work best when wired in zones: perimeter for safety and ambient light; center of the room for working; front of the room on its own zone so that it can be dimmed or off when a slide show or video needs to be seen. Windows also allow light into rooms. Use blinds so that you can adjust sunlight levels at various times of day.

4. Temperature Control. Have a thermostat in the meeting room so that it can be managed from within the room rather than with the rest of the building.

5. Ground Control. Is the meeting room/virtual meeting space accessible to everyone? Physically. Technologically. Environmentally. Parking spaces and sidewalks. Internet connectivity. Make certain that all of the physical and technological components of a meeting best serve the purposes and people coming together.

6. Sound Control. “I don’t need a microphone.” Yes, yes you do need a microphone when more than a dozen people are coming together to meet (in a room and of course online). Audio amplification as well as volume control is important for comprehension and  for resulting actions following the meeting. When in a meeting room, do not stand under, next to, or too close to the speakers because you will hear the high-pitched feedback that causes everyone to jump and cover their ears.

Sound control matters for video too. Keep the volume at a comfortable listening level rather than blasting. Also, when you are the speaker, here’s a reminder from my Betty Crocker Kitchen Tour-guide days: consider that the last person in the last row is wearing hearing aides and really wants to hear everything you have to say. This means you must speak clearly and at a speed that is easy to understand.

7. Technology. Does each virtual meeting participant (yes, video conferencing was virtual meeting during the 1990s) have the necessary technology and bandwidth to participate in the meeting? Can participants chat (during-the-meeting texting essentially) and listen to and watch each speaker? The bigger the audience, the more robust the technology needs to be so that all participants can see, hear, and feel a part of the meeting.

Today, we can add:

  • Implement audio, video, and conference technology that links everyone when they cannot be in the same room. Groups of three to several hundred are meeting virtually – and the technology is working. No, it’s not the same as being together in person. Yes, it is better than not being connected at all.
  • Have people mute their microphones until ready to speak.
  • Use the same process tools used during in-person meetings: agenda, hearing from everyone equally, and minute-taking.
  • Tour-guide tip for technology-held meetings: remember that each person who signed into the meeting has a different bandwidth, may experience a delay, and may not be able to hear you. Speak clearly. Check whether people can hear you. Help them use the technology.

Kudos to a local credit union for having set up a video-phone app for managing complex transactions before we were all sent home to work. We used it last week to manage several banking transactions and had a very positive experience. Kudos to Bradley and his credit union employer.

Our meetings, meeting rooms, and virtual-meeting technologies should support our work accomplishment. How can you improve your virtual and in-person meeting spaces? What can you remind yourself to do as effectively as possible during these times?

Workplace: Managing the moments of our day-to-day business lives takes work. Together, let’s explore what issues and activities affect us every day (or some days) that we go to work. – Jana

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