Skip to main content
Jun 09, 2020

Last word: The new meeting paradigm

As the world adjusts to life shared with a pandemic, working habits have had to change quickly

For the modern IRO who has already weathered the industry-wide storm of ‘innovative online working practices’, taking meetings, site visits and even investor lunches online-only should not pose much of a problem. But as we spend more time away from our colleagues – and more time in isolation with loved ones – some professional standards may slip. With that in mind, here are some handy tips for ensuring your virtual meetings in the time of Covid-19 remain up to standard.

Set the scene

No matter how much they reassure you otherwise, colleagues, investors and analysts will certainly be taking notes on the state of your home office, so ensure that everything in your camera’s field of vision is clean and uncluttered. If you live with small children or in a similarly ‘relaxed’ state of affairs, consider using one of Zoom’s virtual backgrounds – or a green screen – to transport you somewhere more serene.

Just make sure your setting doesn't distract viewers from the substance of your meeting: don’t end up regretting the settings you selected like the line manager in North America who changed herself to a potato for a work meeting. After her team had enjoyed a good laugh, she realized she couldn’t change the settings, so she was forced to chair the entire meeting as a spud.

Dress for the occasion

Yes, the running joke is that you only have to be clothed as far as the camera can see, but it may be best to avoid any close calls by at least wearing something head-to-toe: you never know when a camera may fall down or you suddenly have to get up. Though daily sweatpants are a reality for most of us, nobody needs to be reminded of the squalor, so dress how you would for an in-person meeting. Of course, if you’d usually wear your chili-stained college sweatshirt to meet investors, then keep up the good work.

Don’t look at yourself

Related to the previous two pointers is the need to resist the urge to look at oneself on videoconferencing software as a virtual meeting takes place. On the one hand, you may become too preoccupied with how you appear on camera, and be distracted from the healthy glow you no doubt have after spending several weeks indoors; on the other, you might suddenly realize just how long your hair has become without professional intervention. Use a post-it note or now-obsolete screen-blocker – your gym membership card or office pass, for example – to remain blissfully unaware of how you appear on camera.

Get management buy-in

With your own digital footprint thoroughly examined, perhaps consider checking in with members of the C-suite to make sure they are au fait with both the technology and how to use it properly. Some folks may need a little bringing up to speed to avoid unflattering camera angles or yelling despite the presence of a microphone, but be sure not to patronize them. And watch out for pets! Even if Tigger the cat is a delight in the flesh, his rear end is still not a fitting accompaniment to your CFO’s update on quarterly performance.

Remember that you’re at work

We have all made adjustments to our lives in recent weeks. Some of these are happy relaxations of the rules, others are quarantine-induced bad habits. Be aware which are which, and be careful to moderate any recently learned behavior. A bowl of cereal at 3.00 pm? Probably OK, but best off-camera. Speaking to your significant other in the new, post-Covid-19 language the two of you have invented together? Definitely one for when the camera stops rolling.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of IR Magazine. Click here to open the digital edition of IR Magazine >>

Laurie Havelock

Laurie has been part of the IR Magazine team for more than a decade, starting out as a reporter and research editor before becoming editor in 2023. He was previously acting business editor at the i newspaper and deputy business editor at The Daily...