You are in the middle of a statement and interrupted by someone off-camera asking a question, which makes you pause and try to figure out what they are asking, only to discover it has nothing to do with the virtual meeting you are on. Has this happened to you recently? I am experiencing this occurring more and more as we all are on more virtual conferences or training. Virtual meetings are commonplace now in our daily schedules. This does not mean that we should be inattentive to our surroundings for possible interruptions and distractions to the meetings.
Last week I was on a virtual meeting where the trainer was explaining an important detail when we hear a phone ring, and someone says “hello” and begins to carry on a conversation, disrupting the meeting. The trainer then had to pause, search to see who was talking and mute them. When he got back to what he was explaining to us, he had to pause and start over, explaining again. It was frustrating at the moment; however, the training continued, and we were all back on track, until – the same thing happened again a little later in the call. Once again, the trainer had to pause, search to discover who it was, and mute them once again. These interruptions not only fluster the leader, but it also frustrates the participants who have taken the proper precautions before the meeting, so they are not a distraction.
Distractions and interruptions in any meeting will break the energy flow – for the leader and the participants. The more they occur, the less productive any meeting or training will be. Why? When we are distracted or frustrated, we are not thinking clearly, and it will take us a few moments to get back on track. During this time, we can easily miss important information being said. Continually restating the information again becomes tedious and time-consuming. Interruptions that can easily be prevented don’t serve anyone.
What to do to make sure you are not the next interruption in a meeting.
Mute – this is a beautiful feature and so easy to use! Get in the habit of muting yourself. This way, if you had forgotten to turn off your phone, if it rings, the others on the call won’t be interrupted by it – just you will.
- If you need to ask a question or make a statement, you easily unmute yourself, say what you need to – then, mute yourself once again.
Background – Be aware of what is behind you when you are on camera. Depending upon where you are located, there may be others who are doing things behind you, which can be distracting to others on the call. The best view is a wall behind you where there is no room for one to walk behind you. If this is not possible, most computers can take advantage of the “virtual backgrounds” so that the commotion that is happening behind you won’t distract those on the call.
Movement – you don’t want to be moving around on the call. I am still surprised how many times a person will take us on a tour of their home or outside, all the time moving quickly and causing a major distraction for everyone on the call. Depending on the number of participants, there are options to change the view of the call to not be distracted, although leaving this responsibility to others is disrespectful. If you need to move about, turn your camera off so you won’t be a distraction.
Family/Coworkers – Whether you are at home or in your office, take preventive steps before the call to let others know you will be in a virtual meeting. You can place a sign on your door stating you are on a call and not to interrupt. Have a system in place that if the interruption is necessary, you can address the family member or coworker without creating a distraction to the virtual meeting.
- You can situate yourself in the room so that if someone does walk in, it is not visible on camera. This way, the participants on the call won’t be distracted.
- You can have the text you if they need to ask you a question or interrupt for some reason. This way, you can handle the issue accordingly.
Necessary interruptions will happen from time to time; how we handle them is essential. Just because our meeting is virtual right now doesn’t mean we should treat them with less respect or consideration as we would in person. If you were in a training room with others, you wouldn’t continually get up and walk around the room and in front of the presenter. Use the same respect for virtual meetings, and you will experience them to be productive and end on time.