In light of the increasing threat of the COVID-19 virus, a large number of nonprofits have temporarily transitioned to a remote workforce if possible. In this short post, we'd like to take a moment to share some best practices for holding virtual meetings during these times.
If you are still in the process of organizing your 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 to help nonprofits manage the impact of the illness on their organizations. You can watch a recording of that 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 10 minutes shorter on purpose to give people time to stretch and to take a bathroom break. For example, instead of an hourlong meeting, make it 50 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 posted near your work area to let them know that you are on a call and would appreciate quiet with limited distractions.
4. Use that mute button. When you aren't talking, please put yourself on mute so others can hear the speaker clearly. We all love our dogs, but they can be loud.
5. Pause before beginning to speak. It's difficult to see social cues in virtual meetings, whether video or audio-only, especially the ones where someone is about to speak. To avoid speaking over or interrupting others, take a pause before you begin talking, and when on video, establish a visual way to signal that you would like to speak.
6. Be punctual. It can be easy to get lost in a project, only to look up and see that your meeting started five minutes ago. And for some reason, being a few minutes late to an online meeting just feels longer than when it happens in person.
7. Be secure. Ensure that your devices have all the necessary security protocols in place. You may even want to consider using a virtual private network (VPN), particularly if you're using open Wi-Fi networks. If you are talking about sensitive information, be sure to conduct the meeting in a private place where you can't be heard.
8. Be honest. Now is not the time to be stoic. If you are having difficulty keeping up for whatever reason, please explain it to your manager. They may be able to help you with additional training and other resources to make it work.
We hope these tips provide some useful best practices for your organization, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. If you would like a closer look at the video conferencing solutions available through TechSoup, you can check out our blog post on the subject.
- See TechSoup's directory of Resources for Nonprofits Impacted by COVID-19.
- Take TechSoup Courses' free COVID-19 Response Course Track.
- Read this article from Idealware: The Remote Option: Smart Technology for Creating Virtual Teams.
- Get some Key Tips for Working Remotely for Your Nonprofit.