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Mastering online-meetings well


Even though video conferences & webinars have become a daily routine in the last few months, they still pose a challenge for many people. I have summarized for you here what you can do to make your virtual meeting - participating or moderating – a success.

  • Technical requirements & preparation
  • Your optical appearance
  • Voice & Language
  • Communication & Moderation
  • Security concerns (Zoom)

»Even with stones placed in your path, you can build something beautiful.«
Erich Kästner


May 2020
Online translation of the original text with DeepL.

guide for successful videoconferences & webinars

Here is a summary of a wealth of articles on online conferences and webinars (web seminars) from the last weeks and months. At the bottom you will find the references.

GENERAL: When I invite people to a videoconference, I always send the most important information with the invitation link, such as the positioning of the laptop, this Zoom-Tutorial (if applicable), where the chat function and gallery view settings are located and the exact agenda. It helps the participants to eliminate uncertainties in advance. And it helps me to get into the virtual meeting quickly and without much need for explanation. Win Win for everyone!

On this page you will find in-depth information on technical requirements & preparation | personal appearance | voice & speech | communication & moderation | security concerns (Zoom).


  • TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS & PREPARATION
  1. THE RIGHT PLATFORM
    In addition to the world's most popular zoom, which has fallen into disrepute due to lack of security - see below - there are a number of other tools. Skype, for example, works great for video meetings, GoTo Webinar is popular for webinars and asana for virtual collaboration. StepStone has rated.
  2. THE RIGHT PLACE
    - Light: The light should preferably come from the front, so that parts of the face are not in shadow. Daylight coming from the side is therefore better kept out by blinds or similar. If necessary, a ring light positioned behind the laptop can help and provide even and professional illumination of the face. Wearers of glasses should avoid reflections in the lenses (anti-reflective lenses, vary the light angle minimally, correct the fit of the glasses, ...).
    - Background: This should be kept as neutral as possible, bookcases for example are distracting. Some tools offer virtual backgrounds, but these often only work if the light comes from the front evenly. Skype allows a blurred background, which works very well. In addition, roll-ups with office backgrounds are already available, see rollupyouroffice.at for example - also a paravant for more privacy when things are tight at home.
    By the way, the Harvard Business Review points out that the great designer apartment should not be shown in the background. A source of frustration for all those in limited city apartments. The same applies to home-office photos from the beautiful garden or the pool. In times when many have no access to the green, parks are closed and the forest is inaccessible by public transport, mindful leadership is needed.
    The Guardian examines the video call background from the perspective of Obsession.
  3. THE RIGHT SOUND
    - Picture & Sound: If the picture is not good, this is not a major problem (unless you are in the moderator role), if necessary you can also disable the video function. This is sometimes advisable if the network is overloaded and the sound is disturbed. The sound should be of good quality, because false noises are very annoying. If necessary, switch on the smartphone and let the acoustics run over it. Or connect the headset to the laptop.
  4. THE RIGHT POSTURE & POSITION
    - Laptop positioning: The laptop should be positioned about one meter away from you, the lens at eye level. Therefore place it on a stack of books or better on an (adjustable) laptop stand. If you look into the lens from your usual working position, this is from "above down" - and that's exactly how the person opposite will perceive it. Behavioral biologist Gregor Fauma goes a step further and speaks with a wink of the eyen Porn Hub Web Conference.
    - Picture section: You are well positioned when head and upper body are visible up to the chest, above the head there should still be a good distance to the upper edge of the screen.
    - Posture: Just like in real life, good posture is also important on the glider. Sit upright, pull your shoulders slightly down and head up. Fauma, among others, recommends a ball cushion for upright dynamic sitting - the way I sit, the way I come across the screen. Upright and present.
    - Gaze direction: To maintain eye contact, I have to look into the lens in an unusual way. However, this causes you to lose contact with the other participants, and your - self-critical - gaze is automatically directed back to you on the screen. You can trick yourself by placing a second screen (e.g. smartphone) directly above the lens. This works with a ring light and integrated mobile phone holder, among other things. This way you look into the lens and have the others in view.

  • YOUR PERSONAL APPEARANCE - FREE STAGE!
Similar to good photos, there are a few things to consider for video meetings and films.
  1. CLOTHING
    From NZZ and Video Präsenz Coach summarized the most important points here. If you would like to learn more about the perfect online presence, you will find it at lookatyou.at. Style consultant Isabella Jaburek-Nourry also deals with the topics beard and tie, jewellery and glasses, hairstyle and especially colour.
    - Clothing colour should have as little contrast as possible to the background, but should not resemble it or your own skin tone too much. Muted colours such as beige, khaki or pastel shades are well suited. Black and white are rather unfavourable, as the camera enhances contrasts; bright red and garish colours are generally problematic.Stilberaterin Isabella Jaburek-Nourry widmet sich dort auch dem Thema Bart und Krawatte, Schmuck und Brille, Frisur und speziell der Farbe.
    - Striking patterns should also be avoided. They are distracting and can also lead to screen flicker. It is better to use a single colour and avoid distracting details such as imprints or ribbons.
    - Casual is allowed, but must always be appropriate to the frame. A certain etiquette is also essential in video conferencing. Important: freshly ironed is a must, the camera takes every crease in its sights.
  2. ACCESSORIES & JEWELLERY
    Please take off or avoid everything that glitters and jingles. This applies to jewellery as well as buttons and everything that shimmers metallically.
  3. HAIR & MAKE UP
    - Hair must always look freshly groomed, and here too the camera overdraws any strands. Flying hair should be tamed with hairspray.
    - Make-up is also recommended for men, as the camera will emphasize skin blemishes and redness. A covering day cream and powder are the solution, shiny areas on the face should also be corrected.
    For women: mascara, lipstick, discreet eye shadow and rouge make the face look fresher.

  • VOICE & LANGUAGE
The attention span in the net is low, one easily drifts off. Therefore it is important to keep it short, to keep the tension with your voice and to set accents through conscious speech. Dekom, Fritsch, Bettina Kerschbaumer-Schramek, Sebastian Körberr and StepStone suggest these measures
  1. VOICE
    - Warm up your voice before the call (buzz, groan, make faces to activate muscles)
    - speak louder, clearer and slower than in everyday life and take longer breaks
    - jerk before speaking. Voice is audible Body language (therefore sit upright consciously from time to time)
    - Use ball cushion, see also above. The wobbly base activates the diaphragm, you speak more clearly, strongly and lively
    - moan & yawn loudly even in between (switch off the microphone 😅)
    - get up in between and walk around the room (announce and switch off video transmission) - this refreshes voice, mind and body
    - take deliberate breaks with, among other things, shoulder circles, encourage participation Further exercises for the neck to vary are available in this Youtube-Video.
  2. LANGUAGE
    - as already mentioned, you speak in short sentences
    - you prefer to speak in the present tense, this tense allows the longest attention
    - Trilogies - first, second, third / beginning, argumentation, appeal - create suspense and are well remembered. Underline with finger pointing (1. thumb, 2. index finger, 3. middle finger)
    - Address people by name, especially if you get the feeling that they are mentally absent
    - think and speak from the perspective of your interlocutors, e.g. "If you are wondering what your benefit is from our solution, ...".
    - Conducting dialogues instead of monologues (listening, letting people finish, asking questions, consciously looking into the camera with interest and paying attention to posture, summarising core statements, ensuring that the conversation is evenly distributed, ...)
    - put strong words at the beginning of sentences: "Yesterday...", "Tomorrow...", "Today...", "Proven is...", "Guaranteed...", "In advance...", "Now...", "At present...", "First...", "Comfortable...", "Effortless..."
    - Make latents visible. Address what is hidden from everyone: e.g. "The many online meetings are tiring." This allows things in the brain to be checked off and all of them released for the actual content. Pronouncing it is enough, it is not about offering a solution.

  • COMMUNIcATION & MODERATION
In the meantime, there are an infinite number of articles on this subject. Presentation coach Bettina Kerschbaumer-Schramek scores with her own LinkedIn-Serie on the topic. I have filtered from this and the contributions of the others mentioned above:
  1. START
    - Agenda: Just like in real life, no meeting without a fixed agenda, objectives, possibly distributed preparation tasks and responsibilities, and an indication of the duration of the meeting. Send the agenda plus relevant documents to all participants at least one day before the meeting.
    Contents of the meeting: Date, starting time & duration, contents & goals, participants & their roles in the meeting & project, structure of the meeting, dial-in data, contact data for cancellations at short notice.
    - Overpunctuality: It is recommended that the host opens the waiting room 15 minutes before the meeting starts. During this time you may be able to clarify technical questions with some participants. The guests should also be in the room 5 minutes before the start, so they can tackle acute technical hurdles and use the time for small talk. This allows for a punctual start.
    - Setting: If possible, prefer small groups of up to six people. This way you can still have everyone in view on the screen in the gallery view. If complex content is involved, one-to-one meetings are the better choice. If the bandwidth allows it and there are not too many people in the room, it's good if everyone is connected via video.
    - Duration: Remember the low attention span on the net, after 20 minutes short breaks should be taken. No meeting should last longer than one hour. Well structured webinars should end after one and a half hours.
  2. MODERATION
    - Allocation of tasks. Divide the moderation and protocol between two people. This applies generally, but is all the more important online.
    - Greeting and getting into the right mood. A nice method when there are more people in the "room" is to simply ask for a single word in the chat. There everybody can read along and get a picture of the general situation. This can also be done in between or after a completed agenda item.
    - Bettina Kerschbaumer-Schramek. recommends a welcome slide for the waiting room. Very nice idea!
    - Late arrivals are requested to introduce themselves briefly. For cancellations at short notice, please do so by SMS or e-mail so as not to disturb.
    - Define clear rules of the game: Mute your mobile phone, close background and mail programs, define speaking times, mute the microphone when not speaking, ...
    - Video recording: yes/no announce, obtain consent; communicate what is planned with it Please use password protection when sending.
    - Announce request to speak by hand. This generally works very well; if you talk at the same time, it is twice as tiring in online talk. Possibly assign this observation task to one person if there are more people in the room. Then the moderator can concentrate better on the actual role. By the way, some tools allow for virtual hand raising.
    - Vote via the chat function: write "yes" or "no", give ratings from 1 to 10
    - slow down. In her Podcast "Slowing down" (see Steingart's "The Eighth Day"), occupational psychologist Alissia Quaintance advises on methods that, among other things, reduce stress in the talk. Very worth listening to!
    → For example, high-pitched tones are not perceived during stress, the heard remains unheard. As an antidote, Quaintance advises everyone to give their voice to "unrestricted speaking". You get five minutes of speaking time, nobody interrupts. If you finish earlier, the rest of the time is silent. Reminds you a little of the Scharmers' fourth dimension of listening.
    → Another method is the live document (everyone writes "their protocol" in the document, so all views and contents remain the same. Task distribution and next steps are perceived more responsibly, these are actually pronounced).
    → For a slow start, Quaintance believes that a handwritten recording of the mood of each individual (writing for 10 to 15 minutes) is very valuable. This serves only for inner structure and reflection (possibly also immediately to the leading question of the meeting, which was sent out).
    - written brainstorming. In a TED Talk [note unfortunately not filed], it is recommended to have half-hour individual brainstorming sessions in which everyone writes down their thoughts for themselves and then shares them in a chat. Reading creates a different focus, there is no hierarchy and nothing is lost.
    - regular interruptions: check if everything is understood (due to lack of body language and facial expressions, the feeling for this is missing online)
    - Breaks at longer meetings after one hour at the latest (= longer breaks; after 20 minutes short interruptions in each case) and a short summary. The aim is to have meetings as short as possible. Keep in mind that after 20 minutes the concentration decreases massively
    - Visualizations are important: Whiteboard and screen sharing (security!) provide a remedy.
  3. REMEDY AGAINST ZOOM FATIGUE
    At the beginning a short film (1:28 min) of the World Economic Forum

    Online meetings are particularly tiring; especially when more than one person a day calls for discipline in front of the screen. Because we stare at the screen almost constantly and motionlessly. Because we have to concentrate especially hard on the conversation, as body language, feeling for people and facial expressions are missing. The Harvard Business Review has reported this. "The head thinks we are together, but the body knows that we are not," is also said by Andreas Windler. He lists what can be done about it:
    - generally avoid multitasking
    - include more breaks without screen
    - reduce the stimulations on the screen
    - Switch to phone calls and e-mails
    - do not use video in meetings with strangers
    - go out in the nature

  • SAFETY CONCERNS (ZOOM)

Zoom has very quickly fallen into disrepute due to lack of data protection and security gaps. Organizations with sensitive data therefore avoid this platform, even Google has forbidden its teams to use it. Nevertheless, since over 200 million users worldwide work with it and you can't escape Zoom, here are a few tips for more security from datensicherheit.de.

At the top of the list is: regular updates!

- Password protection is mandatory (default stting)
- A real name before an alias. Participants* should please state their real names.
- activate virtual waiting room (so you have to let each person into the room personally) and then block them when the round is complete.
- do not send the invitation link, but the meeting ID, preferably encrypted as well, see here.
- Webinars are more secure than meetings, see here.
- planned meetings are safer than spontaneous ones. They generate unique IDs that are harder to guess.
- Avoid screen sharing. If you send documents via chat, everyone will still see the same picture.


Finally, a very special conference call. If you've always wanted to know bei Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood und Charly Watts' home looks like, now's your chance. »You can't always get what you want« in Corona times.


Origins: CCM, datensicherheit.de, Dekom, EU Startups, Gregor Fauma, The Guardian, Financial Times, Fritsch Consulting, Harvard Business Review, Bettina Kerschbaumer-Schramek, Sebastian Körber, lookatyou.at/Isabella Jaburek-Nourry, Alissia Quaintance, New York Times, Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), Pulse, Step Stone, Video Präsenz Coach, Andreas Windler u.a.