For many people, working from home seems like a dream situation. It does, however, come with unique challenges. These challenges are even more noticeable thanks to the current situation regarding COVID-19.

Many of us are plunging headfirst into a new mode of working with no preparation. Thankfully, there are some easy ways to improve your productivity during video meetings at this time.

1. Learn the basics

If you haven’t been in many video meetings before, it’s worth learning the basics. Most platforms will have tutorials or a help section. For more detailed questions, you can usually find the answers with a quick search online. You could even make a test call to a friend or colleague just to try out some of the features. We recommend brushing up on the following:

How your mic and speakers work: Run a test call to make sure you’re getting the audio through your headphones, and that it’s using the headset mic, not an internal one. This will help you avoid that pesky feedback and echo effect once an important call begins.

Image: Owl Labs

How to access meetings: One challenge of hosting meetings online can be how long it takes everyone to connect to the call.

Make sure you’re not part of this problem by being aware of how to connect. Do you need to dial in? Follow an invite link? Use a certain hosted phone system? Whatever the method, make sure you understand it fully and can make the best use of the scheduled time.

Mute button/push to talk: Most platforms will have the option to mute your own mic when you’re not speaking. Some even have the option to only pick up your audio when you hold down a certain key. Familiarize yourself and your colleagues with this, and you’ll have a much easier time paying attention.

2. Adapt to new etiquette

Video meetings require different etiquette to in-person meetings. The quicker you adapt to the new normal, the sooner you’ll be making the most of your calls and conferences! Some things are the same as ever — like keeping watch for negative behavior — but other things will be new.

Straightforward — yet vital — things to implement are not speaking over each other and trying to imitate face-to-face contact as much as possible. Raising hands or having mics muted when not talking can assist with the former. Angling your webcam to best frame your face will help with the latter. It can be disconcerting, after all, to talk to someone who isn’t “looking” at you. All of these things will help meetings run more smoothly, so you can get more done.

Image: Business Talent Solutions

3. Have an agenda — and stick to it

Let’s face it, even meetings you hold in person can go off track very easily! There are a lot of common complaints about meetings. You need to limit the likelihood that those gripes will get leveled at yours. This can be done by having an agenda.

Be aware that self-isolation is likely to leave people wanting to talk more. You can always allow time in your agenda for some more personal chit-chat. Sticking to that agenda, though, will help you be organized, prepared, and efficient.

Sometimes unexpected problems may arise, but try to be as prepared as you can. Tech issues should be expected, so make sure you have solutions ready to go. Minimizing interruption in advance is a surefire way to have productive meetings.

4. Screenshare

Many meetings refer to or are about certain documents or systems. One way to get all team members of the same page is with file sharing. There are plenty of solutions around to let multiple people view and even work on one document.

You can go one step beyond this with screen sharing. This stops you relying on people all being able to open the same file; something which any professional knows doesn’t always work, especially if it’s an unusual file type! Instead, you can share precisely what’s on your screen. Adding such a visual element to any meeting helps save lots of time that would otherwise be wasted on explanations.

Image: Owl Labs

5. Could it be an email?

An out-of-the-box way to improve productivity in video meetings is by holding fewer of them. Too many meetings will wear out your team and make them less likely to pay attention to the important ones.

When you have information to share, ask yourself a few vital questions. Does it need to get shared in a video meeting, or could you use email or VOIP at home instead? Do all team members have to be kept up to date on this particular issue? Video meetings are a great way to feel connected, but using them appropriately is important.

A lot of what’s happening at the moment could well end up being our “new normal.” The world after COVID-19 will likely look quite different to what it did before. Instead of thinking of these as tips for a temporary situation, try to implement them into your long-term plans. That way, you’ll be ready for whatever comes next.