Neil Russell shares his lighthearted and candid thoughts on virtual meetings - that which seems to dominate our work lives these days.
Neil is global Head of Recruitment, Learning & Development at RMA Group where he is responsible for the recruitment, talent and leadership development for the company. He is also an Associate Trainer for CIPD where he had delivered many HR and People Management courses for clients in the Asia Pacific region. 
Hands up those of you who are still enjoying all your calls on Zoom, Webex, MS Teams, or whichever other web conferencing tool you are using. If you are anything like me or my friends and colleagues, the novelty of such calls has probably worn off and, for a decent percentage of you, is something you are now trying to avoid whenever possible.
Recently, my nephew, while visiting my mother, called me on Facetime. We had a great chat. Why is it that I enjoy a chat with my nephew and mother on Facetime while a virtual meeting on Zoom has me yawning at the prospect?
Clearly, the technology is not the issue, have a look around the next time you are out and see how many people are happy chatting away on the phones, sharing the view with friends and relatives, laughing at silly jokes or sharing secrets. I’m not suffering from fatigue due to the technology, it must be the way we are using it in work.
Over the last few weeks I have been observing how we use these platforms and have come up with a list of issues:
Waiting, waiting, waiting - Many times we are waiting to start a meeting, for the one person who hasn’t come online yet. 
Video on or off? - We all know face-to-face is best yet often many people on the call don’t / won’t switch their cameras on.
Can you hear me? Are you there? - On more than one occasion, I have seen that people login but then do other work, taking a call, reviewing a document, discuss something with a colleague near them.
Tap, tap, tap - That sound you hear when someone else on the call is typing an email.
My fifth web call of the morning - Sometimes I seem to spend more time in the virtual world than the real one. Am I becoming my own avatar?
Who reads the document before the call? - How often has this happened, half the people have not prepared for the meeting?
Death by PowerPoint - Sitting through yet another 50-slide presentation. Why do so many people now think huge presentations are OK?
I expect you have experienced some, if not all, of these scenarios, or perhaps a few other things. On reflection, many of these are not only problems of the virtual world! We have all had face-to-face meetings when people turned up late, the presenter bored us to death with the longest presentation in the world or half our colleagues had not prepared for the discussion. But the world of zoom and its video conferencing friends seems to magnify these problems whilst removing the one saving grace of face-to-face meeting - the ease with which we can communicate through those little nods and winks around the boardroom table.
What we are finding is that web-based meetings take a lot more self-discipline, not just from the presenter but from everyone involved. 
So, here are my few tips for making our zoom calls better again (I can’t promise they will be as much fun as chatting to your friends on Facetime but it will hopefully reduce the dread you have about that call tomorrow morning).
Be in the moment - You’re going to be in the meeting, make sure you are and not distracted by other things.
Do your homework - Did you read the report that is going to be discussed? Read it, now!
Pretend you are not virtual - Remember the chit chat when you waited for a face-to-face meeting to start? Do the same on camera
Keep it short and to the point - The call does not need to take 30, 45 or 60 minutes, it can probably be done in 15.
Go on, give it a shot and make these virtual connections flourish for you and your teams!

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