Through an arrangement with TechSoup, PND is pleased to offer a series of articles about the effective use of technology by nonprofits.
In light of the growing threat posed by the novel coronavirus, many nonprofits have temporarily transitioned to work-from-home mode. In this short article, we share some best practices for holding virtual meetings during these challenging times.
If your organization is still in the process of organizing its resources so that remote work is possible (deciding which video conferencing or online storage tool to use, etc.), please refer to our recent post outlining nonprofit resources for remote work. We also held a virtual workshop on March 12 aimed at helping nonprofits manage the impact of the virus on their organizations. You can watch a recording of the webinar here.
Let's dive in.
1. Headsets are a must! The best ones filter background noise and have a microphone that lets you be heard clearly. A webcam with a built-in microphone can also be effective.
2. Give time for breaks. Back-to-back meetings do not help our bodies. Schedule meetings with a gap, or make them ten minutes shorter on purpose to give people time to stretch and take a bathroom break. For example, instead of an hour-long meeting, make it fifty minutes.
3. Create a sign for others in your household to know you are in a meeting. It's often difficult to tell when people are in a virtual meeting. Make a simple sign and post it near your work area to let kids and significant others know that you are on a call and would appreciate a little quiet and limited interruptions.
4. Use the mute button. When you aren't talking, put yourself on mute so that others can hear whomever is speaking clearly. (We all love our dogs, but they can be loud.)
5. Pause before beginning to speak. It's difficult to pick up on visual cues in virtual meetings, especially ones that signal when someone is about to speak. To avoid speaking over or interrupting others, pause for a moment before jumping into the conversation. And if you haven't already, try to establish a visual cue with your colleagues that everyone can use to signal when they have something to say.
6. Be punctual. It's easy to get lost in a project only to look up and see that your next scheduled virtual meeting started five minutes ago. For some reason, being a few minutes late to an online meeting just feels longer for those who are waiting than it does in real-world meetings.
7. Be secure. Make sure your devices have all the necessary security protocols enabled. You may even want to consider using a virtual private network (VPN), particularly if you're using an open WiFi network. And if you're planning to discuss sensitive information in a meeting, be sure to join the meeting from a private location where you can't be overheard.
8. Be honest. Now is not the time to be stoic. If you are having difficulty logging on to or managing virtual meetings, explain the situation to your supervisor. S/he may be able to help you with additional training and other resources.
We hope you find the above tips useful, both during the COVID-19 outbreak and beyond. For more on the video conferencing solutions available through TechSoup, check out this blog post.
Stephen Jackson is senior content producer and Shannon Cherry is senior communications lead at TechSoup.