Helping Clients Overcome Obstacles to Virtual Meetings
By Ken Meeker
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed workforce landscapes, including a significant increase in virtual meetings. While virtual meetings offer many advantages for conducting meetings, they also present challenges for clients living with anxiety and/or physical, developmental, and learning disabilities.
Whether clients use Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet, career practitioners can use the suggestions in this article to address issues that clients face around attending or hosting virtual meetings and participating in virtual interviews.
Attending Virtual Meetings
As mentioned in the Career Convergence article, Making Video Conferences Equitable and Inclusive, ensuring accessibility and sensitivity that meets the needs of diverse populations is a priority (Pillsbury et al., 2020). Virtual meetings can create unique challenges for clients living with an anxiety disorder, who are introverted, or who have a disability.
Career practitioners should start by engaging in a conversation with the client about the specific barriers they face in virtual meetings due to their condition. They can suggest ways clients can gain better access in using technology and increase their comfort level, enabling them to be more present and engaged.
Techniques used to manage General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can be utilized by career practitioners when working with clients living with anxiety (Talushllari, 2020), as well as those with physical, developmental, and learning disabilities. Among these techniques are establishing a routine, such as allowing extra time before meetings to prepare, and using a check list.
Check lists can include:
- Test the camera and adjust the camera placement.
- Adjust the lighting.
- Center the camera on oneself.
- Ensure the background is tidy and professional.
- Use headphones or ear buds to listen and reduce other sounds that may be distracting.
- Engage in mindfulness exercises to clear the mind before the meeting.
- Make sure that the space being used is private and free of distractions.
Individuals living with blindness or visual impairments face additional barriers with virtual meetings. Helpful resources and tools can include:
- If the client uses a screen reader, confirm that the virtual meeting platform is compatible with it.
- Help clients connect with national, state, and local agencies that can provide additional support to the client, including vocational rehabilitation counselors.
Establishing Best Practices as a Meeting Host
Preparing clients to host and facilitate virtual meetings further develops their technology skills and familiarity levels while growing their leadership skills. Career practitioners can work with clients to develop skills that increase their confidence and keep the audience engaged.
Here are some best practices that clients can use when hosting virtual meetings:
- Ensure that their meetings have a purpose and structure.
- Keep attendees limited to those necessary and essential to the meetings’ purpose.
- Ask participants to keep their microphones muted, unless they are speaking, to avoid distractions.
- Send out meeting agendas and relevant information prior to the meeting.
- Get online earlier than the scheduled start time to resolve technical or other issues prior to the meeting.
- Ask attendees to contribute their insights, comments, and questions as appropriate, which increases engagement.
- Encourage use of “chat” and “raise hand” features and designate an individual to monitor the chat for questions. This enables the facilitator to stick to the agenda and stay on schedule.
- In addition, designate an individual to take notes or enable the “transcription” feature. If recording the meeting, be sure to announce the start of the recording to the participants.
- Send a meeting summary after the meeting to everyone who attended and was invited. Include the agenda, notes, key takeaways, and assignments given.
Maintaining Presence and Engagement During Virtual Interviews
In 2011, 63% of companies used video technology to conduct interviews (Bjerke, n.d.). By October 2020, it increased significantly to 89% (Friedman, 2021). As the use of video platforms in the interview process continues to increase, career practitioners can play an essential role in helping their clients prepare for this process.
During any virtual meeting, it is important for clients to pay special attention to their body language and facial expressions. This is especially critical during video interviews, to show hiring managers that they are engaged, interested, and focused. Occasional nodding and head movement, casual gesturing, smiling, and laughing are effective ways clients can show engagement and maintain presence (Cleare, 2020).
Clients can further establish engagement by ensuring that they are looking at the camera. This creates a sense of eye contact, making it feel more natural for other virtual meeting participants (Cleare, 2020). If making eye contact is uncomfortable or stressful for the client, they can focus on the interviewer’s forehead or shoulder.
During virtual interviews, clients should dress and style themselves as if they were meeting in person. However, even during regular video meetings, clients can benefit from dressing professionally. Research shows that those who dress casually can be perceived by others as less knowledgeable and lessens their ability to influence or persuade others (Hutson & Rodriguez, 2016).
Positive Impact on Careers
Virtual meetings and video job interviews are here to stay. Using the strategies listed above, career practitioners can help clients overcome the challenges of virtual meetings and begin recognizing the benefits. When used effectively, virtual meetings can help clients develop their career and reach their professional goals.
Bjerke, J. (n.d.). 63 percent of companies use video interviews. Recruiter.com. https://www.recruiter.com/recruiting/63-percent-of-companies-use-video-interviews/
Cleare, L. (2020, December 18). 5 ways to keep engaged during boring virtual meetings. Entrepreneur.com. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/361045
Friedman, E. (2021, January 26). How to improve hiring outcomes with video interviewing. Forbes.com. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2021/01/26/how-to-improve-hiring-outcomes-with-video-interviewing/?sh=965149e4436b
Hutson, M., & Rodriguez, T. (2016, January 1). Dress for success: How clothes influence our performance. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/dress-for-success-how-clothes-influence-our-performance/
Pillsbury, B., Hill, J., Patterson-Mills, S., & Siwiec, A. K. (2020, October). Making video conferences equitable and inclusive. Career Convergence. https://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/news_article/327283/_self/CC_layout_details/false
Talushllari, E. (2020, April). Exploring and addressing generalized anxiety disorder in the workplace. Career Convergence. https://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/news_article/290899/_self/CC_layout_details/false
Ken Meeker is an NCDA member, certified professional coach, and owner of Vitality Career Coaching LLC. He specializes in executive and career coaching with a special emphasis on differently abled individuals who want to return to work. He is a DEI consultant and public speaker who advocates for inclusivity for marginalized groups. Ken is an AFB Blind Leadership Development Program graduate and a mentor in the 2022-2023 program year. He can be reached at [email protected] or www.vitalitycareercoaching.com.