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‘Sorry, I was on mute.’ 5 tips for better video meetings

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Editor’s Note: A version of this story appeared in CNN’s Work Transformed newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.

If you weren’t a fan of all the meetings you had when you were in the office, you probably aren’t loving all the virtual meetings coming your way these days. I get it.

    It can feel a little awkward giving people a glimpse into our personal lives.I’ll admit to panic cleaning a little corner of my apartment and furiously applying makeup before hopping onto a video meeting. Read MoreBut here’s the thing: Having some face time with your colleagues is important. Not only does it provide some of the social interaction we are missing, but being able to see each other’s faces for reaction and feedback can help make a meeting more productive. Meetings are hard enough to run effectively when you have everyone sitting around the table. Virtual meetings are even tougher to pull off — and they come with their own set of challenges. I spoke with experts to get their best advice on how to pull them off successfully: Meeting leaders, listen up. You play a big role in running an effective virtual meeting: Create and share an agenda beforehand. That way everyone is prepared and stays on task. Give people space to talk, but don’t be shy about calling on people or designating a speaking order in advance. For instance: “I’ll start with Mary, then move on to Mike and Angela.” Don’t let someone hijack your meeting. People tend to babble more when they aren’t in their normal work environment, so you have to rein them in sometimes. Try saying something like, “in the interest of time, we’re going to move on,” or “let’s take that conversation offline.”Meeting participants also play a critical role: Maintain eye contact. Look at the speaker to help you focus. And don’t answer emails or send a text during a meeting. (You likely aren’t being as slick as you think you are.) Express yourself. Exaggerating facial expressions or positive reinforcements like a thumbs up can help provide social cues that are easier to convey when everyone is in the same room.Light is your friend. You want the lighting to be in front of you. If that’s not possible, add a desk lamp next to your workstation. And try to avoid using your computer’s microphone — it picks up too much background noise. Remember: Not all meetings have to be done via video. Sometimes an old school conference call will suffice.

    Managing in the face of a crisis

    Managing a team remotely in the middle of a deadly pandemic that’s created economic distress and job insecurity is no easy task.Now more than ever, your team needs you to communicate. Take the time to reassess priorities and give clear direction on projects and expectations.Flexibility is also key. Workers are facing extraordinary challenges working from home, so be adaptable when it comes to scheduling and try to maintain a positive tone. Walk the walk. It’s great when managers tell their workers to take care of themselves and take time off when they need a break. But that’s not enough. Managers need to show that it’s acceptable to actually take the time by doing it themselves. Read here for more tips about managing a team remotely.

    The faces of a global pandemic

    Everyone is feeling the effects of this pandemic. Millions of jobs have disappeared. Loved ones have been lost. Anxiety is running high and there’s no clear end in sight. CNN checked in with 16 people from 15 countries — workers, small business owners, teachers and musicians — who tell their stories of how they are coping with the economic fallout of the crisis.A small business owner in Ghana details how she shut down operations of her personal care brand in mid-March to protect her workers, but decided to continue to pay her employees for at least two more months. And a baker in India describes what it’s like to have cake orders suddenly stop coming in and what the future holds. Here are their stories and more.

    What workers need right now

    Employers take note: People are paying attention to the way companies are treating their workers during this crisis. “How a company handles the people it lets go is noticed by employees, as well as by customers and partners. And a failure to prioritize worker concerns could cause a further deterioration in trust in the business while also prolonging the crisis by neglecting the health of families and the economy,” writes Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the Arbuckle Professor at Harvard Business School, for CNN Business’ Perspectives. Here are the four things she says workers need from their companies right now

    Feeling the pinch: Where to turn for help

    If you’ve lost your job or a significant part of your income and are worried about making ends meet, there is help available. Check out this practical guide from CNN’s Anna Bahney that details where and how to access help in your financial life. It includes help for mortgage, rent, credit cards and student loans. Also, stimulus checks started going out this week. If you’re wondering when you can expect your stimulus check from the government, you can check the status of your payment here.

    Coffee Break

    Even if you do follow our guide to hosting the perfect video call, there are still going to be hiccups.

      This boss accidentally turned herself into a potato during a team meeting and couldn’t figure out how to change it back.

      my boss turned herself into a potato on our Microsoft teams meeting and can’t figure out how to turn the setting off, so she was just stuck like this the entire meeting

      — Rachele with an e but pronounced Rachel (@PettyClegg) March 30, 2020 It happens.


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