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There is a scene in the show Downton Abbey where the Butler, Mr. Carson is given his very first phone. He sits there practicing over and over how he should answer it if that modern contraption ever rang. He uses various phrases and tonality. It is a really cute scene because we take our modern conveniences as a given. But it did get me thinking about how technology has influenced our meetings.

If you are like me, you probably are finding many meetings are being conducted through teleconferencing or online video. Face to face seems to be getting less common, mostly to save money and to save time.

And like our Mr. Carson practiced with the new fangled phone, we need to be aware of some basic actions that can make an online meeting more productive. Here’s a short list of actions you can take to make your meetings more productive:

Introductions are more important online
Everyone should state their name (location) at the start of the meeting. This helps folks identify the speaker’s voice. One trick I use is to draw a rectangle and then write down the names as each person goes around the call. It helps me visualize who’s “in the room”

Be physically aware of your presence
Your physical presence affects your online persona. Did you know that some sales people place a mirror in front of their phone so when they are speaking they remember to smile. It really affects the tone/tenor of your voice. As goes your posture, so goes your voice. Be cognizant of your posture during the call.

Beware of insider language
If you are meeting with external customers or suppliers – remember, some of the terms you use inside your company may not mean anything outside of your company. Your words matter even more if you aren’t able to see the other person’s body language which leads me to the non verbal cues of your conversation.

Body language still speaks in volumes
Only about a billion articles have been written on this subject. If you are on a  teleconference call you do not see the other person’s body language. Be careful about using humor because it may fall flat. In an online meeting – you can see the other person in a video conference so it would be to your advantage to take a moment and position the camera so it is not looking up your nose or that you are centered and not sitting half out of frame. Also remember to see what’s behind you – if you have a clear glass pane and people are walking back/forth during your call it could become a distraction.

Clothing matters
If you are using a video call, you have to know what the camera sees. What is in your background? What clothes are you wearing? You have to think like a television producer. Be cognizant of that your clothes don’t make you appear like a floating spectral because they blend into the background. Conversely, red, stripes and other patterns may interfere with your messaging. Remember, “frame rate” affects the transmission between your camera and theirs. In between you have firewalls, proxy servers, and a whole host of other things that can slow down your video feed.

Muting your speakerphone is a courtesy to others
If you are not talking, go on mute. No matter how quiet you think you are moving papers, different speakers amplify noise at different levels. And for heaven’s sake – if that’s the only time you can eat during your day, please mute. We don’t want to hear you chewing your chips.

The delay
If you are calling around the globe – you may have a slight delay in transmission. You’ll know early in the meeting if you have a transmission delay so be on the look out for those awkward pauses.

Be here now
It’s tempting to text, read emails or have side conversations while on a teleconference but it could cause you to miss a key point. Stay in the game. Stay engaged in the call.

Alert others if you need to step out
Let the people on the call know when you are going on or off mute. Or if you have to step out of the room. In a video conference your absence is much easier to notice.

Like Mr. Carson, we all have much to learn as we embrace these new “meeting tools” into our business processes. I think they will make us better in the long run if we choose to follow some simple actions to make them so.

Be intentional,