The increasing use of internet and improvements in the field of Information Technology has gradually increased the use of online meetings since the last few years even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the popularity has escalated from that time and virtual engagement has now been accepted and permanently adopted by many individuals, businesses, organizations and representatives across continents. It has made communication easier, effective and efficient by using some web conferencing software like Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Streamyard.
Our lives have changed in many ways since the pandemic, including the shift from physical meetings and engagements to more virtual engagements. Since this new hybrid has come to stay, your image in your virtual engagement is as essential as it is in your physical engagement. Your online communication is primarily audio-virtual. In some cases it may be audio only, and in others video only (sign language). Regardless of whether your communication is audio only, video only or audio visual, your image still plays an essential role. You need to focus your appearance, behavior and communication since although accepted, participating in virtual meetings is still new for many who do not know how to handle them right.
Virtual meetings and collaborations have become excellent alternatives to meeting in person as people keep connecting and communicate effectively online. In fact, with the sophistication of today’s web conferencing technologies, virtual meetings can be just as interactive and engaging as face-to-face meetings. As a result, even when participants are located in different countries and separated by oceans and thousands of miles, virtual engagements can make geographical distances seem insignificant and irrelevant.
Common features of quality online meeting solutions include streaming media, PowerPoint presentation capabilities, file sharing, integrated desktop video, instant messaging, whiteboarding and customizable meeting interfaces. With these and many other options available, online meetings can be fully tailored to meet the specific needs and requirements of each individual collaboration.
In addition to the long list of available features, web conferencing is equally impressive. Online meetings can be used to interact with a variety of different people and to achieve numerous different functions. From team collaborations and sales meetings to large-scale webinars and global product launches, virtual engagements enable better interactions and communications experiences. Virtual engagements are also ideal for conducting interviews, providing training sessions and for receiving technical support from skilled and experienced professionals. In short, online meetings are ideal for collaborations and conferences of all different types.
It is because online meetings can be used to replace such a wide range of in-person business encounters that they provide a very significant way for companies and organizations to help the environment. In particular, online meetings allow businesses to reduce their carbon footprint by greatly decreasing or even eliminating the need for business travel. When co-workers and clients can communicate just as effectively over the Internet as they can face-to-face in the same location, much of business travel simply becomes unnecessary. By eliminating car rides, plane trips and other forms of transportation from meeting practices, the reduction in carbon emissions is astounding – streetdirectory.
Online meetings offer a strong and effective platform for participation and communication between two or more remotely placed individuals or groups. Online meetings have made it possible to expose the entire presentation created by the professionals to the audiences across the globe. In this way online meetings have become an extremely helpful and effective communication tool for the businesses if used efficiently.
It can be very complicated to get every stakeholder at one place for a business related meeting as it will not only increase cost of the meeting but also create a chaotic situation. Online meetings have made it easier as well as cost effective to get all the stakeholders at one place without compelling them to move out of their office or home. Everyone can attend these meetings face-to-face just by making few clicks with their mouse.
All the participants attending an online meeting can interact with each other which may not be possible if a physical meeting is arranged. In fact, participants of a meeting of more than 20-25 people normally do not have enough time to interact with all the participants but in online meetings it can be possible. Online meetings are run on web conferencing tools like Zoom etc., which allows you to interact with other participants even in the short time period.
Sometimes the organizers of business meetings want to invite some expert to discuss their problems. Such things may or may not be possible in physical meetings but in online meetings the host can easily invite anyone to access the meeting without travelling physically to his place – eztalks.
Often, when face to face meetings are held, attendees are presented with a hard copy of the agenda and relevant papers. This is not necessary for an online meeting. Attendees in a virtual meeting can now view the necessary paperwork digitally. This saves on the cost of printing and also saves on time as no printing is necessary. The positive effect that it has on the environment is that more trees will be saved for the benefit of mankind as we continue move from the use of paper.
Participants not having to travel to attend a meeting that takes place online means that attending involves less commitment of time. Participants may also be able to drop in and out of the meeting, if they have urgent business matters to deal with. These factors provide an increased level of flexibility. The advantage about this is that more people are likely to be able to attend meetings that are planned.
Any business wants to use its finances wisely. This includes cutting back on spending. Hosting meetings online saves on expenditure because the business does not have to pay travel and accommodation costs for attendees. It is also worth noting that hosting meetings face to face may mean that a business has to pay for a meeting room and refreshments. This does not apply when meetings are hosted online – myownconference.
Now that we see how important virtual engagement has become, these are 4 guidelines to employ in your virtual engagements in your journey to image leadership.
- YOUR APPEARANCE
As tempting as it may be to wear anything, for instance a blazer with underwear just because it is a virtual engagement, that temptation must be avoided at all cost. You must always dress to look the part by wearing the appropriate clothes. You may choose to dress smart casual, business formal, business casual or business professional based on the type of online engagement you are having and they must be neatly ironed as well. Be conscious of your background. Ensure that your background is not distractive, your lighting is good and there is no intrusion people or pets.
2. YOUR FUNDAMENTALS
You must keep your hair neatly combed and away from your face and always engage with the frame of your face. Although it is a virtual session, it is important that you maintain good hygiene practices – orally for a good breath, skin care and restful sleep for good appearance and well-kept hair for a clear face. Seeing to these fundamentals builds an unconscious psychological confidence that will assist you in becoming more productive in your engagement.
3. YOUR ETIQUETTE
Ideally, you must try to eat before or after your online engagement. However, if the meeting is a long one that does not allow for breaks, you definitely have to grab a meal if the camera is off and you are muted. In a situation where you cannot be muted and put your camera off, it is advised that you use appropriate containers for your beverages: use spill-proof cup instead of a mug or tea cup, get the right temperature to avoid surprises and sip quietly without slurping. You must also avoid crunchy snacks.
- YOUR COMMUNICATION
Keep a positive body language – Learn to control your emotions as your body language is enough to give you away although it is a virtual session. Keep your back straight on a comfortable chair, and avoid slouching and swiveling. You must wear a smile and make sure to look into the camera for those at the other end to have a clear view of your face. Nod to show you are following what is being shared. Your phone must be kept on silence and stay away from it until after your engagement. Stay active, present and participate in discussions to show that you are listening actively and are present. Note your questions and concerns down and avoid interrupting until it is time for questions and answers. Keeping your video on during virtual meetings is a sign of respect to the moderator or speaker so keep it on. However, it can be switched off when something requires your urgent attention. Remember to always close out your conversation with continuity.
From the way technology has and continues to evolve, virtual engagements are no longer for just a small section of the human population or an option that can be overlooked. It is for this reason that your image in virtual engagement must be important to you now more than ever.
To learn more about your image leadership, grab a copy of my book, ‘The Essentials of Image Leadership’
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