Virtual Meetings Get Real

By Robert Goldman

May 14, 2020 5 min read

Everyone loves virtual meetings, right? When we hear Zoom, our hearts go "Zing!"

Or do they?

Once you've had a few dozen virtual meetings (today!), you know that success in cyberspace exposes you to a new set of challenges.

Consider early morning meetings.

To participate, you have to turn on your computer, which means you have to find your computer, which means you have to crawl under your bed and hope that the remains of the pizza you ordered two weeks ago have not been declared a toxic Superfund site.

And it gets worse.

Once you've found your computer, you have to remember your computer password — not easy at a time of day when you have a tough time remembering your name. Then you must open the meeting app and, probably, enter another password, which was on the meeting invite email, which you then have to find — not easy to do when you have a few dozen unopened emails (today!).

Once you've gotten in and gotten out of the annoying "waiting room" experience, your problems are just beginning.

In Zoomland, everyone is a star. No longer can you melt into the background in a distant corner of the conference table. It's time for your close-up, baby. Everyone will see your looks of disgust and despair as the meeting drags on.

Is this progress — all the stress and strain required to participate in a meeting you didn't want to attend in the first place?

Unfortunately, after all you've suffered getting on, you still have to face the real problem of virtual meetings: getting noticed.

Which is where Melody Wilding comes in.

Wilding is a writer for Forbes. She "help(s) sensitive high-achievers thrive in the workplace." (This is probably why insensitive slackers like thee and me have never heard of her.) Her recent post is titled, "How to Speak Up and Get Your Voice Heard on Conference Calls, Even as a Reserved Person."

Whether you are reserved, sensitive or just anti-social, let's pause to pursue a passel of her suggestions.

No. 1: "Get to Know the People in the 'Room.'"

"You need to make an effort to get to know your colleagues and counterparts outside of meetings," Wilding writes. True that! A modicum of Googling could unearth a photo of your manager in their cosplay Oogie Boogie outfit at Comic-Con. With a touch of your screen-sharing button, this disturbing image will be seen by every participant. What happens after the meeting is over is not clear, but for a moment in time, you're a hero.

No. 2: "Keep a Cheatsheet."

You'll appear dynamic and organized when you "keep notes open on your computer while you're speaking." You can also use the app's in-meeting chat feature to debate who's the biggest idiot in the meeting. You can send private messages to the specific individuals you choose. Just be careful that you don't accidently hit "share with all," which would make the biggest idiot y-o-u.

No. 3: "Stand Up While You Talk."

The idea here is that standing up "will allow you to get more breath in your lungs and speak with deeper resonance, which subconsciously signals power." Maybe. What concerns me is when you stand up, your computer camera will be aimed at your midsection, which, you'll have to agree, was never a good look for you. After weeks in quarantine with nothing to do but eat, the situation is even worse. Remember: You want to put your best foot forward, not your best belly.

No. 4: "Speak Early."

Wilding recommends you "challenge yourself to make a comment within the first five minutes of the call." I recommend you save your comment for the last five minutes. Start off by explaining: "Listen up. I have an idea that will not only solve the company's problem but also deliver a major bump to the bottom line." When everyone in the meeting is focused on you, continue with, "It's really simple. All we have to do is ... "

At which point you freeze in place, using your off-screen hand to hit "end meeting."

The meeting is over, but your rise in the company is just starting. You've distinguished yourself as a person with ideas, and no one will blame you for what was obviously the doing of a malevolent hacker.

Or maybe you float the idea that the company's internet connection can't handle so many online meetings, which should be reduced to eight or 10 a day. This will give you time to slip into your Oogie Boogie outfit and relax.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: gracinistudios at Pixabay

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