With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets and easy, global access to cloud-based web conferencing tools like iMeet and GlobalMeet, our meetings have officially shed the shackles of the conference room. Just this week, I’ve been on meetings with team members at their home offices, in airport terminals and at their local coffee shops, and these meetings are just as high quality and productive as face-to-face meetings thanks to the sophistication of our collaboration tools.
However, these new “meetings from anywhere” bring with them some unique challenges and pitfalls to navigate to ensure you’re not causing the quality of your meetings to suffer, both technically and professionally. Whether you’re a seasoned digital nomad or you’ve just recently been given the opportunity to work remotely, here are some tips to maintain meeting etiquette wherever you are:
1) Master the Mute Button
The biggest meeting etiquette faux pas for mobile meeters is the addition of unwanted background noise. We’ve all experienced it — in the middle of making a perfectly valid point, your coworker is suddenly interrupted by a barking dog, crying baby or hissing espresso machine. While all mobile conferencing apps allow you to mute yourself (or others, if you happen to be the host), the user flow tends to differ slightly from app to app. Before your next mobile meeting, make sure you know exactly where the muting controls are to quickly silence the next rogue dog bark.
Tip: If you’re on-the-go and not presenting at the moment, it’s a good practice to keep yourself muted until you need to chime in; this will ensure you’re not contributing any excess background noise.
2) Leverage the Cloud for Presentations
If you were sharing a presentation or a document for collaborative review in person, it wouldn’t be particularly professional to show up without your files and spend the beginning of your meeting digging through papers looking for them. While tablet and smartphone collaboration apps will let you drive presentations even while mobile, you still have to prepare; no one wants to sit quietly while you try and remember which email has your presentation attached to it. Luckily, web conferencing tools like iMeet and GlobalMeet both feature cloud-based file storage, accessible from any device. Simply load up your presentation to your iMeet or GlobalMeet file library before you’re on-the-go and the file will be waiting for you to share from your smartphone or tablet.
3) Know Your (Signal) Strength
A common complaint leveraged against the mobile meeter is that the audio quality isn’t as good as the stalwart desk phone. However, this is often a misnomer; depending on the collaboration tool you’re using, your audio is dependent on either your data or Wi-Fi connection strength or your cell signal. If you’re connecting your mobile meeting audio by having your meeting dial your cellphone, your experience is dependent upon having a strong cell signal, just like having a normal cell phone conversation. If your mobile meeting site of choice doesn’t offer consistent cell service for your carrier, your audio connection may suffer, leading to choppy quality and a chorus of “Sorry, you broke up — can you repeat that?”
Many smartphone and tablet conferencing apps also offer the ability to connect your audio directly over your Wi-Fi or data connection using Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, technology. VoIP technology has grown tremendously in quality and reliability in recent years; in fact, many phones that appear to be “landline” phones are actually connecting over VoIP without you even realizing it. VoIP is a fantastic connection option provided that your Wi-Fi or data connection is strong enough to support it. This can be particularly challenging at coffee shops and cafes; while they provide “free high-speed internet,” the consistency and speeds can vary wildly, especially as more like-minded telecommuters join simultaneously. If you have the opportunity, always “test drive” a location’s Wi-Fi before a big meeting to ensure that its quality is up to your standards.
Learn more about the pros and cons of telecommuting with PGi’s latest free eBook, “The Yin + Yang of Telecommuting.”