Online conferences are a lot easier and more ideal than traditional meetings in many ways and have helped a lot of small and large businesses immensely. But despite these benefits, it is still far too easy to make silly mistakes while conferencing online, much more than it would be at an in-person get-together. At best they can cause mild embarrassment and at worse, they could negatively affect your reputation or cost you a major client. Here are four of the most common conferencing gaffes that people regularly make, usually without even realizing it, and how you can avoid them in all of your future meetings:
- Unmuted Microphones
SkyMoguls recommends muting your microphone whenever you need to take a break, otherwise your entire team could catch the sounds of you arguing with your roommate, slurping your coffee, or doing something even more embarrassing that you definitely don’t want to be overheard. We have all heard horror stories of somebody saying something negative about their boss or colleagues when they thought nobody could hear them, getting caught out, and losing their jobs. You can avoid this by taking the few seconds to mute your microphone and double checking it before you have to temporarily leave the call for any reason. This is especially important whenever you need to eat or drink, as these sounds are particularly disgusting when heard through a speaker.
- Outside Distractions
There are numerous advantages to working from your own home, but the downside is that there are also too many distractions and interruptions. It is easy to think you can get away with checking your e-mail, updating your social media pages, or even playing online games in the middle of the meeting when it becomes too boring. The truth is that microphones are so sensitive that they can pick up even the smallest of noises, so everybody will know if you are doing something else instead of paying attention to the speaker. Sally French said in The Wall Street Journal that even the sound of typing can be picked up. Even if you are taking meeting notes, it will be easy for people to assume you are doing something else that you shouldn’t be doing. If you need to take notes, use the traditional pen and paper method. Use a blocker to temporarily turn off your e-mail and other programmes if you have to. If you still find yourself becoming distracted, consider setting a stress ball on your desk to keep your hands occupied when you start to feel restless or bored. Many conferences can become overly long and tiresome through no fault of our own, but you should still be expected to give the meeting your full attention while it is happening. Remember, if you wouldn’t do it in the board room, don’t do it during an online conference either.
- Technical Glitches
Despite the versatility of modern software, technical problems can still happen, and they always seemingly occur at the worst possible moments. While most are unavoidable and forgivable, you can cut down on their likelihood significantly by performing a few system checks before your call starts. Check your internet connection and that there are no system updates scheduled on your PC that could prompt an unexpected restart. Check that your webcam and microphone are working properly. If you have a video to present, see that it is still playing properly. If you are hosting the meeting, open up the programme and perform a test run with a colleague before it starts to see if anything comes up. If problems do still occur, business video conferencing solutions such as BlueJeans will provide free technical support to help you out, but taking action yourself can still help to alleviate the need for this step.
- Things in the Background
Most people dream of working from their own bedroom in their pyjamas and slippers, but keep in mind that other people on the call have a good view of everything in the room behind you that is visible through your webcam. They can also clearly make out what you are wearing. To avoid this particularly embarrassing gaffe, open your webcam before the meeting is scheduled to start and see what is visible and check your appearance. This will give you the time to move anything you don’t want to be seen off camera, or even move to another room. If you can set aside a home office or a special space in the house for working and conducing online meetings, this is even more helpful. You don’t have to dress in black tie attire, but you should at least look presentable and professional.
If you are still unfamiliar with online conferencing, some mistakes may still occur while you adjust to this new way of conducting business. A little common sense and picking up good conferencing etiquette will eliminate almost all of these gaffes, allowing you to focus on your briefing without an embarrassing mistake.