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tips

5 tips for running a successful virtual meeting

Running a virtual meeting requires a different approach than in-person meetings. You need to figure out how to moderate the discussion, make sure everyone has a voice and feels heard and ensure all your employees are properly equipped to participate. But virtual meetings don’t have to be stressful — in fact, taking your meetings virtually can even help take work off your plate if you leverage the tools effectively.

Here are five tips on how to run a successful virtual meeting, whether it’s your company’s town hall or an after-work virtual happy hour.

Head into meetings with a plan

Virtual meetings can quickly run off the rails if they aren’t organized ahead of time, so try to send out an agenda and sign on five minutes early to make sure everything is running smoothly, says Tim Ihlefeld, CEO of remote interviewing platform Harqen. Even if you have everyone set up on the same platform, technical glitches can arise, as you can’t control individual meeting members’ Wi-Fi connectivity and any software bugs or hardware failures on their devices. Having a plan and establishing best practices ahead of time can save you from an IT headache during the meeting.  

Establish who will be responsible for fielding questions, troubleshooting connectivity issues and taking or distributing meeting notes. You should also decide whether you will need to mute participants, who will moderate the meeting, which participants will need screenshare and how listeners can ask questions. For smaller meetings, these issues may be less pressing and stressful, but for larger meetings it’s a good idea to set guidelines so everyone knows their role and what is expected of them.



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5 Tips for Working with Clients When You’re at Home

For those of you working from home right now (willingly or unwillingly), you can’t allow your surroundings to have an effect on your work and, more importantly, your client relationships. Clients don’t care where you are. They just want you to get the job done, and get it done it well.

By that same token, you can’t allow your interactions with clients to have a trickle-down effect on your home life. There needs to be a clear separation between work and home when working with remote clients.

Below are some tips for web designers and other freelancers trying to get a better handle on client management and relationships when they work from home.

 

1. Power Up Your Internet Speeds

When working from an office, you have the luxury of milking your employer’s or cowork space’s Internet as much as possible. But at home? You’re probably not too excited about paying for super-high-speed Internet when it comes with a hefty monthly cost and it’s only needed for eight or so hours a day.

Look at it this way:

The faster your Internet is, the more quickly you’ll be able to get work done. Plus, healthy Internet speeds are essential for streaming — and I’m not talking about streaming a funny YouTube video. I’m referring to those Zoom meetings you’re going to have with your clients (more on that below).

Keep in mind that Internet costs can be deducted on your taxes. Specifically, you can write off the amount you actually use each day for work purposes. So, some of that money will go back into your pocket come tax time.

 

2. Dedicate Specific Hours to Client Communication

It’s really important to avoid interruptions when you’re working. And clients present a huge opportunity for interruption and distraction if you let them.

A study out of the University of California discovered the following about interrupted work:

When people are constantly interrupted, they develop a mode of working faster… to compensate for the time they know they will lose by being interrupted. Yet working faster with interruptions has its cost: people in the interrupted conditions experienced a higher workload, more stress, higher frustration, more time pressure, and effort.

By dedicating an hour or two to client communication every day — and communicating this policy to clients — you can keep those distractions to a minimum.

Oh, and make sure anyone at home with you is aware of this.

It might’ve been funny when this BBC News interview was interrupted by kids in the background, but clients won’t be happy if you’ve given them a small timeframe to communicate, only for it to be interrupted.

 

3. Empower Clients to Schedule Meetings

Even if it’s only you running the show, you want to give off the impression that everything is being handled as well as it would if you had a team behind you. So, this is where your choice of software and your system of automations comes into play.

For starters, your website needs to have a meeting schedule link to empower prospective clients to schedule meetings with you. That’s going to save you time trying to coordinate schedules, setting up meeting details, collecting pertinent details, and so on.

Here’s how I’ve done it on my website:

Working with Clients from Home - Automate Scheduling

I first ask prospects to fill in a short questionnaire. This allows me to gather important details to prepare for our meeting.

I then ask them to schedule a call through Calendly:

Calendly - Schedule Client Meeting

My Calendly scheduler is connected to my Gmail calendar and Zoom. Once a request has been submitted, the software sets everything up without my having to do a single thing.

By setting the stage with self-scheduling, prospects who become clients already know how they can get in touch with me when they want to chat. To make it even easier for them and myself, I have a separate calendar that allows them to schedule meetings with me during my dedicated client hours.

Of course, you still want to control the flow of your project, so make sure your process includes meetings at key milestones — like the client kickoff, reviewing design mockups, and website handoff. That’ll lessen the likelihood that clients need to meet unexpectedly.

 

4. Use a Client-friendly Video Conferencing Tool

When you’re working from home, it’s important to have face-to-face conversations with clients. It’s not like every call requires a face-to-face meetup, but it’s nice to do it every once in a while, especially if you’re going to be sharing your screen anyway (like for a website walk-through).

There are a number of video conferencing tools you can use. Zoom is a popular video conferencing solution that you can use for free. If you’re a paying G Suite user, you can opt for Google Meet.

Either of these tools would work well for these purposes as they’re well-known and easy for clients to get the hang of (i.e. they don’t require them to download or install anything). Zoom is the one I would recommend though.

As I mentioned before, it integrates with Calendly (and other online schedulers), which makes setting up meetings a breeze. Also, you can change up your background. This is helpful if:

a) You don’t want clients seeing into your home like software engineer Andrew Eckel who used a luxury apartment photo as a backdrop.

b) You want to have a little fun with your clients like video producer Dan Crowd did when he created this joke background:

c) You want to feel like you’re working from anywhere but your home.

 

5. Choose the Right Channel to Communicate Through

There are many different ways you can communicate with clients these days. Email. A phone call. Text. Slack message. Zoom video. Asana message feeds. Google Doc comments.

But you need to be careful with this. There’s a time and a place to use each of these channels, so make sure you get it right. If you use them the right way, then your clients will be less likely to abuse or misuse these channels. You know how it goes. First, they email you with a question. Then panic-call you hours later when they haven’t heard back. And then, as a last resort, bombard you with texts until they hear back.

Here are some suggestions for picking the right communication channels:

Email:

  • Confirmation emails;
  • Templated messages;
  • Short responses that aren’t time sensitive;
  • Moving Google Doc questions or comments out into a larger space to answer.

Phone or Zoom calls:

  • Client kickoff;
  • Milestone check-ins;
  • Website handoff;
  • Any time you have to share your screen;
  • Whenever there is an issue or disagreement.

Text:

  • Unless you have a dedicated phone for business, don’t do it.

Slack messages or Asana (task manager) messages:

  • Progress check-ins;
  • Milestone delivery notifications;
  • Light brainstorming.

 

It Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult Working with Remote Clients

No matter how long you’ve worked from home, it’s always a good idea to reassess and strengthen your client management strategy. Even if you only tweak things a little bit, you might find it easier to get work done as well as to keep clients happy.

 

Featured image via Unsplash.





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20 Slack tips, tricks and hacks for power users

Slack users tend to be passionate about the popular collaboration tool. “Slack has changed the way we communicate internally,” says Rob Shapiro, senior director of product strategy for Muck Rack, a digital PR and journalism platform. Slack’s easier access to shared files, discussion areas and notifications “made our team smarter, faster and more in tune with one another,” he adds.

That passion also tends to lead users to find ways to get even more from the app, which can be downloaded for Windows, for Mac and Linux.

We asked people from the Slack user community (as well as the company itself) for their top tips, tricks and hacks. These are 20 of their favorites.

(Note: The majority of these tips are aimed at desktop users, though some Slack tips apply to the mobile app as well.)



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7 Zoom tips for working from home

Despite disturbing errors of judgement such as this and this, Zoom appears to have become the most popular solution for online collaboration, in use across enterprise, government and individuals.

I’ve kicked it around to surface a few less visible features you might find useful – most of which should be helpful for every platform, not just Apple’s.

People don’t need to see you in your room

I’ve been on Twitter long enough to have seen plenty of people’s offices, rooms and other personal spaces in the background of the Zoom chat screenshots people seem so fond of sharing at the moment.

It’s funny how people seem to like sitting in front of their books.

It doesn’t need to be this way – you can use a virtual background if you choose.

Open Zoom Settings>Virtual Background and you’ll be able to select one of the default background options there so people don’t see you in your room – or you can use one of your own images….

The eternally tidy room trick

Which brings me to my next tip:

We’re all indoors and going slightly stir crazy, which makes it more than reasonably possible our rooms will become a little untidy. That’s fine when you’re in personal space, but what will your colleagues think?

Here’s an idea: Take a photo of the room when it is tidy from the same angle as the camera you use when engaged in a Zoom meeting and set it as your Virtual Background.

Now all your colleagues will notice how insanely tidy you are and won’t see the weird stream of consciousness poetry you’ve started writing on your walls.

Make you look (a little better) too

Zoom has a little-known setting that tries to improve your appearance during a call.

Open Settings>Meetings and enable the Touch Up My Appearance filter, which tries to improve your appearance like an iPhone Camera filter. It’s very basic, but it does smooth your appearance a little, and seems to work well with Virtual Backgrounds.

Control your sharing habits

Left to its own devices, Zoom wants to broadcast audio and video from the moment you enter a meeting.

Don’t let it:

  • Mute the microphone in Settings>Audio.
  • Turn off your video in Settings>Video.
  • When it’s time to speak, just tap the Space bar.
  • Also see below for keyboard tips.

Screen out dark video windows

Pretty soon everyone will either be sat in custom background images, or eternally tidy rooms, or have automatic video disabled (unless your boss wants it ‘abled).

That means that when you are in Gallery view in Zoom you’ll find way too many dark windows (you’ll have to live with the fake backgrounds in this tip).

If only there was a way to get rid of all those dark windows and just spend your time reading through your colleague’s book collections in the eternally tidy background.

Go to Settings>Video>Meetings, and check the box marked Hide nonvideo participants. Now only windows with video will be visible.

Keep a record

The problem with meetings, even virtual ones, is that decisions get reached and things get said, but typically not every decision is noted down.

(That’s not the case if you have someone taking efficient minutes during a meeting, of course).

Thing is, meeting hosts can record meetings, save them to your Mac, though not to a mobile device, and then upload them to the brilliant Otter.ai service which will transcribe them for you (once you strip the audio).

You’ll never lose a relevant action point again.

Record in Settings>Recording, which must be toggled to on. Zoom also offers paid plans which let you record meetings from a mobile device.

Now read the manual

I do hope I’ve managed to provide you with a few useful tips to get more if you are using Zoom.

While it’s nowhere near as private as Group FaceTime, it is way more cross-platform – and there are lots more shortcuts to explore.

These include numerous useful keyboard shortcuts, including mute/unmute audio/video, display and hide chat, switch camera and tools that let you share and give control over what’s happening on your computer screen.

You’ll find much more about using Zoom here.

More info for remote workers

Feel free to explore my extensive selection of guides that should help the many Apple-using remote workers and enterprises that employ them:

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Sharepoint tips and resources for your COVID-19 communication site

It’s amazing how the tech community has come together to create resources for people now working from home and staying connected during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Microsoft has published a helpful how-to guide to build a crisis management communication site and created a way for SharePoint admins to easily provision the site design in your own tenant from the lookbook.

I’ve created multiple COVID-19 sites for clients in the past two weeks using this template as a starting point. In the course of making these sites and working with some amazing people, I have also gathered some helpful and reliable resources for the pages in these sites. Here’s what I’ve learned and some content you can re-use.

Create a COVID-19-specific site

One of my clients already had a “general” Crisis Management site. We learned pretty quickly that adding the COVID-19 specific content to that site makes it difficult to both manage and maintain – especially across a global organization. We have come to realize that it is better to create a topic-specific site for this crisis.

We know there will be other crises and in the spirit of keeping our site architecture flat and allowing users to follow sites for topics that are most relevant to them – and having a reusable template to deploy the next time a occurs – we have learned (a little painfully in one case), that we need a unique site.

One cool thing we are doing is rolling in COVID-19 specific news from local sites in major locations. We can’t use the News web part to do this, but we can use Highlighted Content web part with a query that looks for Pages on a specific site with (COVID* or corona*) AND Promoted State =2. This query will retrieve news pages where the page content includes COVID or any variation as well as corona. If your page source is a specific site, you can narrow the query to just a specific location or you can search across your entire intranet for any related news content.

Make the site an Organization News site

If you have a crisis-specific site, making it an organization news site allows you to easily “brand” the news about the specific crisis as authoritative. Learn how to create an organization news site.

Reliable external resources for the home page

Pointing people to reliable sources of information is important all the time, but is especially so during a crisis. Here are the links that my clients have added to their sites in a Quick Links web part with a list view and including descriptions:

Twitter feeds for your Twitter web parts:

Starter news posts

Here are some suggested News links for some initial site content. You may need to add a local image for some of these links:

Content for pages

Each organization I work with has a different culture and “personality,” but all of their COVID-19 content is a combination of both facts, policies, and “human” content. Here are some pages and suggested resources for the pages that have been very helpful in these organizations. Before you use them, it’s a good idea to check to see that the links are still valid – and that the content has not been updated.

  • How to Protect Yourself: This page has general information about what COVID-19 (coronavirus) is and symptoms. Some useful links on the page, in addition to text:
    • Call to Action web part: Understand fact from fiction! COVID-19 Myth-busters: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters
    • Quick Links, button, Self Assessment Resources: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
    • Prevention Strategies Videos
    • How to Take Care of Your Mental Health
      • Text web part with content from and a link to:
      • Quick Links web part with links to resources:
      • What to Do if You Feel Sick
        • Text web parts in a two-column section – one column has information for you, “Stay home except to get medical care,” and the other, “If someone in your home is sick.”
        • Resources:
        • Tips for Working from Home
          • You can search online for a lot of articles with great tips. Here’s one that has a lot of content you can adapt.
          • Your IT team hopefully already has a page with resources and “how to” information about working remotely. If not, post support resources on your IT site and link to it from the COVID or crisis site. You will need these resources again – and not just during a crisis. I hope that one thing we all learn from this pandemic is that it is possible to work very effectively from a variety of locations – maybe not while we are also home-schooling our children and maybe not all the time – but it is a great way to support your employees who may want or need alternative work arrangements.
        • Travel Policies and Guidance
          • This has been a key page for every organization I work with – even those where employees do not regularly travel. Some organizations have added a new corporate policy in their Policy Center and others have created a temporary page on their crisis or COVID site to keep employees up-to-date on their current guidance.

I hope these resources can save you some time and help you and your colleagues stay safe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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