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Back to School!

Whether in a meeting or a webinar, there are some things you should do as a host to make things run more smoothly. And, there are things you should do as an attendee or panelist to ensure the same. There are two different types of events - those with a handful of people, and those with a larger group (whether there is a larger group in person, on-line, or both.) For meetings with a handful of people, usually a free form meeting works fine. But, when there are larger groups, let's go back to when you were in school.

If you want to speak, whether you're a panelist or an attendee - raise your virtual hand!! Waving at your camera doesn't count. And, speaking without being recognized usually causes interruptions, bad audio for others (as you cut off someone else speaking), or you not being able to be heard. Raise that virtual hand, and wait. If you're hosting the meeting - make sure you're paying attention to whose hands are raised, and make sure you call on them! Otherwise, this doesn't work.

In a very large meeting, with a lot going on, assign a co-host to keep an eye on who is looking to speak. Divide and conquer the tasks. When there are screen shares, raised hands, attendees to elevate - it's challenging to complete all of these effectively.

When you're ready to speak, unmute yourself! And, you don't have to ask if everyone can hear you. They'll let you know if they can't. In a long meeting, questions like this add a significant amount of time when everyone asks. If you make sure you're unmuted, 99% of the time other attendees and panelists will be able to hear you. Remember those Verizon commercials - "Can you hear me now?" Don't be him. But, also remember to turn your mic off once you're done. We've all been in virtual meetings when someone finishes talking, and someone in their house or office then starts speaking to them. Don't make the host do more work. Don't interrupt your colleagues this way. Be polite and turn your mic back off.

If you're planning on sharing your screen, have it ready. Make sure the host knows in advance you'd like to do that - they have to allow screen sharing, so waiting until you need to do it to request permission delays the meeting. Think of it as a full in-person meeting. If you were getting ready to speak, and had a presentation to distribute, you wouldn't wait until you were called on to open your briefcase and put the hand-out on the table to distribute. Treat this the same way.

Turn your camera on when you are getting ready to speak. We don't want to look at a box with your name on it. We want to see you. If you need to, brush your hair and change out of your pajama top before the meeting. But, let people see who is speaking. Our faces are expressive - use that to help get your message across. And, while we're talking about your camera being on, try not to be back-lit. If you're going to sit in front of a window during daylight, sit facing it. Back-lit attendees are shadowy characters!

Lastly, for this post, use the chat only for important reasons. Joining a meeting and seeing someone you haven't been in touch with for a while, and then chatting with that person (especially if everyone can see your messages) is distracting. The good news - your private chat messages aren't saved by the host, but if your counterpart in the chat saves the chat, those private messages are here forever. Hybrid meetings have completely different challenges and we'll talk about those next time.

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