#1: Don’t Wear Your Jammies – and 8 Other Tips for Productive Virtual Meetings

We’re a few weeks into regular virtual meetings, how are they going? Have you learned more about your colleagues than imagined? I have! Some learned more about me too when they heard me tell my dog she is the best good girl ever five times! Oops! Forgot to mute.

When someone wore jammies in a meeting yesterday, I felt compelled to jot a list of recommendations for hosting and attending virtual meetings. Let’s enjoy getting to know our colleagues in a new way without freaking them out!

Here are my top nine tips for hosting and attending virtual meetings. Add yours in the comments, and let’s all help keep our virtual meetings useful and engaging.

  1. Don’t wear your jammies. And, if you do, don’t stand up or move around enabling the pants to fall down on camera. You probably don’t have to be in a suit when meeting from home, but at least wear something you would wear to work.

  2. As a meeting host, mute all participants and invite them to un-mute themselves to speak. Some people miss the announcement to mute themselves, so the host should simply make it their responsibility to do it. It’s just a push of a button to eliminate the distraction of someone taking another call, a phone ringing, or other household noises (e.g. dogs barking or playing–guilty!).

  3. As a participant, stay muted until you want to speak. It’s creepy hearing someone breathing when their mic is too close. Mute yourself. It’s just good practice.

  4. Lighting is key. Experiment with different lights to see improves visibility of you on-screen. A general tip is that the light should come from the top. Be careful of having a light pointing at the camera, though, because that blinds other viewers. Just as in real life, people will trust you more when they can see your face and look you in the eyes.

  5. Angle your camera at your face, not your head or chest–and not up your nose. Put your laptop on a stand or pile of books to improve the angle.

  6. Know that your colleagues will notice your background, especially if you meet frequently. A big pile of laundry or a sloppy pile of files that stands five feet tall might give too much information.

  7. Encourage the use of video to boost engagement and connection. It’s a little harder to connect with people online, and seeing faces makes it much more likely.

  8. Use the functions of the virtual meeting tool. Some companies and teams have been using these tools for years to work across miles. For example, take advantage of breakout rooms and polls to engage and learn.

  9. Check your profile. Update your photo and be sure your name shows up on-screen. If your phone number is all that shows up, people don’t know who is there. Also, if your name is on-screen, you do not need to announce your name when you chime in to contribute. People can ensure their settings show the names of participants.

What else would you add to ensure productive and valuable, but not dull, virtual meetings?


Kelly Byrnes
Kelly Byrnes
Kelly Byrnes is Founder and CEO of Voyage Consulting Group where she equips organizations to thrive through purposeful leadership and culture. A sought-after leadership expert, Kelly also serves as an adjunct MBA professor, executive MBA coach, contributor to, best-selling author, and award-winning national speaker. Her thirty-year career includes leading on three executive teams and working across operations, marketing, strategic planning, and Human Resources. Kelly has had the privilege to coach and consult with leading companies including Honeywell, Bayer Animal Health, Chrysler, Schlage, Smith Barney, and Bank of America among many others. Kelly holds an MBA, BA, Harvard Business School’s Certification for Strategic Disruption, and HR-related SHRM-SCP and SPHR designations. On a personal note, Kelly is married to Bob, an Air Force veteran, and retired fire captain. They live in Kansas City, MO with their dog, Bebe. They enjoy spending time with their daughter in Montana, gathering with family in Kansas City and Pittsburgh, and cheering for Notre Dame football, Pittsburgh Penguins hockey, and Kansas City’s Royals and Chiefs. Kelly’s volunteer activities center around her parish, education, children, women, and dogs.

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    • Right on about lighting and audio. A professional videographer told me lighting is more important than the camera. Best wishes for your virtual programs. Thank you for the warm welcome, Darlene!

  1. Thanks, Kelly.

    The medium is still very new for all of us. I’m fortunate in that I was asked to do my first virtual sessions almost ten years ago – me sitting behind a desk, a green screen behind me with a U.S. Capitol photo on-screen. I could see nothing other than my own face and my materials on a giant monitor, no participants’ pictures, no chats or breakouts. I had to really push to get any response, which is where I learned not to ask “Are there any questions?” That’s pretty well pro forma anyway. I would say “I want two really good questions, one pushback, an insight and an application at work for what we just covered. GO!”
    At first, I wasn’t sure they’d even heard me, but then they began piling on and we were off to the races. I still do that in my ftf work.
    We love to be challenged and hate to be taken for granted. Too often, virtual connection is not engaging enough to keep us connected. I do a three-day virtual leadership session in a couple of weeks with 24 folks. I’m excited! I’ll share your tips . . . .
    The other thing about virtual work is that it’s exhausting. Four hours of virtual work is like eight of ftf – not enough physical/emotional energy.
    Finally, I keep a journal of tips for myself. We’re all still learning, and none of us is expert, so sharing ideas and insights in this brave new world is great.
    Be good. And well.

    • I love those two questions, Mac! Thank you for sharing! You’re so right about the energy it takes for virtual v. ftf. It’s hard when you can’t grasp the whole room at once. Thank you for the warm welcome and for adding your advice! Good luck with your upcoming program!