HOW TO HAVE SUCCESSFUL VIRTUAL MEETINGS
Last year we were forced to pivot from in-person meetings to more virtual gatherings, whether in our personal or our professional lives. People who weren’t familiar with video conferencing platforms had to adapt quickly and to learn the insides of this communication medium – which for many, it wasn’t an easy thing to do
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world. Today, we have a special guest, a fun guest – I’m looking forward to hearing from Kim – and if you want to know how to deal with technical challenges, if you’re having virtual meetings that frequently arise from your home or elsewhere, this is the right place to be today. So, we’re looking forward to this. Today’s guest will teach you how to get the best audio quality, maximize your internet connection, and how to frame and light yourself for an attractive presentation in a less than ideal circumstance – and that includes verbally and non-verbally. She has written a tremendous book, it’s called Virtual Meetings with Power and Presence. So, first of all, let me just say, Kim Foley, welcome. We’re so excited to have you.
Kim Foley: I am so excited to be with you because I’ve read your book. So, it’s really exciting to meet you. I must say I learned a lot. I read a lot of business books, your book just is all about communication, it is so solid and it gave me new ideas and how to deal with things. So, I just want to say thank you for that.
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, great going, Kim! And I’m going to tell our listeners why I’m so excited for this interview today, in just a second. Before we get started, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about Kim. She shares the expertise she has gained in more than 25 years as an award-winning producer, media trainer, television stylist, as well as practices and practical guidelines for putting forth your personal best. That’s what we’re all about, becoming our best. That’s the whole spirit of this today, but she’s going to teach us how to do it. The book that I told you about, Virtual Meetings, is the ultimate guide to having productive online meetings and presentations. So, having said that, Kim, let’s get into it and have a little fun here. I want our listeners to know that this is an unusual podcast. It’s a first because this is the episode for Becoming Your Best, 263. And we’ve locked in we’re getting close to 600,000 listeners, and that’s a budge. Well with Kim, we actually held this interview about three weeks ago – two or three weeks ago, whatever it was – and for the first time in all of those interviews, the equipment just didn’t work. And we double recorded it, we had the Zoom. As a result, because it wasn’t the quality that we wanted, I called Kim and shared with her what happened and she said, “Well, let’s just do it again.” Well, that’s what I was hoping she would say.
Kim Foley: Well, you’re a great interviewer, and it’s fun to talk to you and you think of things that other people don’t think about. So, I’m excited about seeing what you’re going to ask me today.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay. Well, now I’m a little smarter because I’ve already gone through this once. And I can tell you, our listeners, that I am a changed person in this area of life because of our first interview. Today, I have on a gray sports coat – that was one of Kim’s recommendations. I’ve tried to position the camera so I’m looking at you and you can see me at a good range. I’m wearing a blue shirt, that’s another one of her recommendations and sizing everything up and having the lighting just right, so I have blocked off the sun that’s coming in from my right, shut off the lights in the back of the room. All of that came from Kim, so way to go Kim.
Kim Foley: Yeah, well, little changes really make big results. So, the idea is to keep the attention on you. And that’s what we’re trying to do here because so many people are working in very challenging situations – a corner in a basement or in a bedroom. And what my goal is to help every single person bring their personal best to this so they don’t look like they’re chained to a desk in Taiwan somewhere.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, indeed. And as Kim said, these little changes make a difference. And to all of our listeners, I’m pretty sure you’re going to be involved in webcam meetings, whether it’s WebEx or Zoom or GoToMeeting. Whatever the format might be – whether it’s with your family or professionally with your teams – we’re going to spend more and more time on that in the future. So, we don’t want to have what’s going on in the webcam distracting from our meetings.
Kim Foley: Exactly.
Steve Shallenberger: Right?
Kim Foley: Yeah. Let’s get to it.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah. Okay. Well, great. Well, first of all, Kim, can you tell us your story? How did we get here today, and where were you raised and what things led you to where you are today? Especially any key crossroads or people that’s been influential in your life.
Kim Foley: Yes. Well, I was born overseas because my father was in the military – he was a Navy guy – so I’ve lived all over the place. And so, I don’t really have a hometown. The world is my hometown. I think that maybe being an only child and being a military brat was very good for me, and it was a little hard when I was a youngster, but it’s made me friendlier and more outgoing, and maybe more of a risk-taker. So, I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life and I was very interested in how people are perceived, and how much control they have over how they’re perceived. And I would watch this as a child because I was around adults all the time. So, I started out as a television stylist. And television styling is a very interesting profession because when you’re working at the level I’m working at which is feature films and news television, you’re working with leaders of the world, and you’re working with very interesting people with very high profiles. And the reality is you have to make them look like the director wants them to look. So, I’ve worked with some very famous people, helping them look the way they want to look, being perceived the way they want to be perceived. And there’s a nuance to that, there isn’t one thing, it isn’t about your hairstyle, it isn’t about what you wear, it isn’t about your makeup, it isn’t just about your body language, it’s about all of those things. So, if you get all of the things right when it comes to credibility, and believability, and trust, now you’ve inspired someone to really listen to your message, be inspired by you to teach them something, to enhance their information to give them more information if you’re presenting or teaching or selling. And so, everything I’ve done along the way, I transitioned into doing media training, which was helping people be perceived better on video camera, and then teaching people how to produce a video with a smartphone, broadcast quality. So, it’s been a very interesting evolution, but it all has the cornerstone of one thing, Steve, and that’s credibility.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, good. Well, and you have it, Kim, I’m telling you, with that background. Now, one other thing, I ordered your book, the hard copy. I want to read it and study it and mark it up. There it is, look at that! For those that can see our Zoom session, Virtual Meetings with Power and Presence.
Kim Foley: Well, I’ve got to tell you, when COVID hit, I wasn’t doing virtual meetings, I had never done a virtual meeting. And if you had told me in February that I was going to write a book about virtual meetings, I would have said, “That’s insane. I don’t even know how to do a virtual meeting.” But when everything hit, my clients could no longer have come here to my studio, and very oftentimes corporations would pay me to go to their location to teach. Well, all that stopped. And so, I started contacting my clients and saying, “How can I support you? What can I do?” And they were all struggling with internet connection, audio, how to frame this, how do I make this look better, I just look terrible. And so, then I realized that I had to start documenting all the things people were doing wrong, and all the ways they could improve it. And I had to do it really quickly because people were really struggling and their credibility meant everything to them. So, that’s how this came to be, it was a complete surprise that I would end up writing a book about it, but I felt I really had to.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, thanks for the inspirational example, Kim. That’s really in itself encouraging and a great example, really, for all of our listeners because many times you have something that you feel special about within your heart or you have a set of talents and all of a sudden you have this kind of challenge like we all had with COVID. There are different ways to respond to it, so I love Kim how you responded to it in saying “How can I serve better?”, but see, part of becoming your best for each one of us, is how can we take whatever circumstances we are in and make a better contribution. How do we become the very best that we’re capable of doing? So, thank you for your inspiration, for doing that.
Kim Foley: Well, I always think we should all come back to something as – when people tell you they’re struggling with something – how can I support you in that?
Steve Shallenberger: Nice job. Well, that’s a lot of fun because everybody’s thinking, “Well, how do I become the best at what I do?” Well, let’s get into the actual virtual meetings, and let’s talk about etiquette. What are some things we need to be aware of when we think of etiquette, and how do we up the game?
Kim Foley: Yeah. The reality is, when people were struggling to get on this platform, the last thing they were thinking about is best practices, etiquette, or protocol – they were just so worried about technology – so that was the last thing that hit. But it was really important because I saw people doing things like eating in meetings and sitting in a chair and leaning back. They were just doing so many things that were just very poor etiquette that you would never do. If you were in a conference room talking to someone, you would never do these things. And so, I realized that I had to make a list of all the different etiquette and protocol things. For instance, if you have to leave and you’re in a meeting with a group of people, but there’s something like you have to go to the bathroom, or you have to answer the door, or there’s a crisis with a child or a pet or something, you must turn your video screen off. Just turn it off momentarily, you can still hear what’s going on, but you need to turn it off so that people don’t see you get up and leave because that’s very distracting to all the other people thinking “Where did they go? Where are they now?” And so, you don’t want that to happen. So, in order to really save that, just turn your camera off, it’ll be so much better for everyone. I actually have a free download on my website – kimfoley.com – for anyone who’s interested in seeing a protocol list of all the dos and don’ts for moderators, speakers, or participants. And I did that as a giveaway because way too many people are just not tuned into this yet. And managers and leaders need to provide this for their teams because they’re not going to think up the etiquette on their own. I mean, people are just so busy trying to get it all right in terms of framing and lighting and audio. So, help them out, set some guidelines so that people are really comfortable with how everybody’s interacting online.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, so Kim, that’s kimfoley.com, where we can get that list, right?
Kim Foley: Yeah.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, I can’t wait. I’m going to do that, too. Now, we talked about some of those at the beginning of this podcast today. I’ve already incorporated some, and another one of the ones I’ve incorporated is not leaning back. I appreciate that because I think you said before that people aren’t sure what message that sends.
Kim Foley: Right. Let’s talk a little bit about body language because as you can see, I’m moving around a bit and I can get on a hip, I can use my hands. I want people to widen out their screen, show more of their body, less headroom, and if they can, think about standing. Standing isn’t for everyone, but for me with a bad back, it’s much better to have the actual standing ability, because now I can move around and really use my energy and show that. Now if people are locked down to a chair, it’s important that they still use their head, their shoulders, and really incorporate that body language because that makes it more interesting and exciting. If you’re sitting in a conference room, you’d be doing that. You’d be looking around the room at different people speaking, connecting with them and you’d be using your hands and your shoulders to have this conversation. So, I want to simulate really being in a room with someone as much as possible. And if you’re standing, you can really do that even better. Or, more importantly, if you’re doing a presentation, try to stand and not sit, if you’re just in a meeting, sitting is fine. There’re so many ways that we can make this more dynamic and more powerful, which is why I called the book “with Power and Presence” because really, that’s what I’m trying to help people do more effectively is really come across with authenticity and energy and excitement about what it is they’re talking about.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, good. It looks to me like you’re standing right now.
Kim Foley: I am. I’m standing right now I can move around, I can get on a hip and I can reach for things, show things. If you’re too close, like this, everything’s going to be in your face, right? It looks terrible. These are wide-angle lenses, and they distort you if you get too close, so you want to back up and let them do what they’re supposed to be doing. Another thing I want to remind people of, Stevens, that most people forget about this, is to clean the lens over your camera because oftentimes you’ve got 50,000 fingerprints on top of that camera lens, and you don’t even see it. So, you need to take a soft cloth and really rub it hard and that will clear up a lot of the blurry images that you see. It’s very important.
Steve Shallenberger: Especially if it’s a laptop because you’re running your fingers over it all the time.
Kim Foley: People are using tablets, they’re using phones or using laptops. It’s critical to clean that lens because you just forget how many fingerprints are on that.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, good job. Now, how about a microphone or a webcam? What kind of equipment people should have to have a really high-quality exchange in a virtual meeting?
Kim Foley: Well, everything depends on what you already have. So, there’s not a pat answer for everyone, but if you actually have a fairly new computer, your camera is going to be fine. And I’m using, you know, a MacBook Pro right now. The camera is fine. I bought webcams to test them – because I test a lot of mics, a lot of cameras and webcams – and I have recommended webcams for people who just have a really poor camera in their computers. But most of the time, you do not need one. What you have to remember though, is that these cameras have tiny little processors and that they don’t really show you up very well unless you give them what they want. And what do they want? They want lighting, lots and lots of lighting. So, if you give them a lot of light, you will look fantastic. And so, I have light coming straight at me this way, and then I have this nice little gizmo right here, putting light on the background. And it’s a $7 little lamp from Target that just lights the background, so I have light coming at me and my background. Now let’s remember something, you don’t want to have brighter light behind you than you do on your face. You want to try to have equal light behind you and on your face. And you don’t want it to come from the side, you want it to come in from behind your computer to your face. And if you can remember to always put the lighting behind the computer where the camera is, you’re going to look fantastic.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, that’s a good thought. So, if people don’t like how they look on camera, how can they fix that?
Kim Foley: You mean, look in terms of dark shadows?
Steve Shallenberger: Or do people feel uncomfortable, or are they worried about how they look, how can they protect themselves?
Kim Foley: I’ve got to tell you something, Steve, the biggest reason why people hate virtual meetings is because they don’t like how they look. That is what the research shows. And the second reason is because they’re uncomfortable with the technology. But the first one is, “I don’t like how I look”. I hear that all the time. Now let’s think about what does that mean? Do I not like the way I look when I look in the mirror? Do I not like that, or do I just not like how I look when I look at this format? And it could often be because your lighting is not good enough to show you up for this particular camera. You’re not going to look like you look in the mirror, you’re going to look different, so you have to get that light on you. If you don’t, you’re going to have dark circles under your eyes, dark circles under here, you’re going to look much older. And so, I want people to bring that light in so that they can look vibrant. Now, if you wear makeup – men wear makeup when they’re on camera, they do – every single person you see on camera, whether it’s sports figures, the President, leaders or heads of state, people in Congress, they have makeup on when they’re on camera. And there’s a reason for that because the camera is not kind to us, so we need to even skin tone, get rid of any shine – and that really does help. So, having a little bit of powder around to get rid of the shine if you’re shiny, really helps a lot, just a plain little blotting powder. And lots of companies make a blotting powder, and I even mention a particular one that I’m fond of in my book because it’s not in stores. And so, I really like just getting rid of all the shine on the face because it really looks like you’re lying if you’re sweating a lot, if you’re shining. We don’t want that, so that’s why there are makeup artists on every single television production. And basically, you’re on TV. When you’re doing virtual meetings, you’re on video. So, all the same things apply to you. And there’s a ton of research on what works and what doesn’t.
Kim Foley: Let’s talk about color for a minute. Remember, I told you to stay away from black, go to gray, use a blue shirt instead of a white shirt – these are all things that have been time tested for years. So, you want to avoid super dark colors and super light colors. So, that’s why I wear either an emerald green or a red or a royal blue blazer when I’m on. Men don’t have the option of wearing all these colors, so they usually have navy blue or gray. Stay away from black, stay away from prints, try to go with solids because the camera picks up solids a lot better than they do.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well that’s really good. I’m just thinking in the back of my mind, with our listeners today, isn’t this great stuff? I hope you’re enjoying this. Like, this is so good for me and we do so much more Zoom meetings. And how about looking into the camera? We hold a lot of Zoom meetings and sometimes as you look at who’s on the video, a lot of just clicked off. Is that an etiquette issue?
Kim Foley: It is. Let me say this, if you are in a meeting and everybody’s camera is off, then yours should be off too. If everybody’s camera is on and there are only one or two people with it off, put it on, let people see you so that you can really interact with them. Now, there are extenuating circumstances where people may have a bad day and they’re not feeling well, or there may be other reasons why the camera’s off, but generally speaking, what you’re saying to people is, “I wonder what kind of problem there is. Joe hasn’t turned his camera on all week.” And I warn managers, if you have one person that is not turning their camera on regularly, you need to find out. You need to make a personal phone call and find out what’s going on with the person. It could be they’re embarrassed about their background, it could be their kids running around, it could be that they don’t… I’ve had people with two different problems with background. One is they’re embarrassed by their background, it’s a mess, this is the only place they could set up, and it’s not appropriate for business. Or the second one – a very interesting one – I had someone who had inherited an art collection. And so, the art was all over the back in the living room, and they didn’t want people seeing this expensive art collection. So, kind of odd, two very different scenarios, but sometimes people need to figure out a way to block what’s going on in the background. And that’s where I come in because I can help them do that either physically or through doing virtual backgrounds correctly, not in a way where you’re going to key out and look artificial. So, having professional help with that is really, really important, or it can look very bad.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, that is good stuff, because sometimes I know, as a presenter anyhow, if they click off, I wonder if they’re multitasking.
Kim Foley: Yes. And they are.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah. So, it’s a little disturbing because you say “Well hold it.” Any thoughts about that one?
Kim Foley: Yeah. I mean, it’s bad protocol. I mean, if you’re attending someone’s class, give them the respect that you would want if you were doing a class and pay attention, and listen, and don’t look like you’re looking down at your phone. People can tell when you’re looking down and doing something else, and it’s really rude. So, maybe they don’t want people to see that, so they just turn the camera off. Sometimes it’s impossible not to multitask because of the type of job you have and you must answer something, I understand that. But generally speaking, do not multitask, pay attention. Now, I’m going to give a really important tip right here because it brought to mind how many people don’t understand how to interact with the camera. You’re really good at it, Steve, but you’re a presenter. Now, most people don’t understand that when you’re talking to someone on a stage and you’re presenting, you’re looking into the eyes of your audience. And now what do we do, because we see all the audience down here on the screen, but we cannot look at them that way. We must – if you’re doing the talking – you must look into the eye of the camera, which is not looking at your screen. It’s looking up at the eye of the camera. And the eye of the camera is somewhere on your computer screen or your camera – I don’t know if it’s on the side or the top, it’s different for everyone, but find it – find where the camera is and keep your eyes locked there. You can glance down from time to time if you need to, for the chat, or to just check-in and see how people are doing with their body language if they’re tuning you out or if they’re listening. But generally speaking, when you’re talking, stay looking into the camera.
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, I love that advice. How did you know that was my question on my mind? Honestly, right before you brought that issue up, I’m thinking I’d much rather look at Kim, but if I do I have to take my eyes off the camera. But you gave some really wonderful guidelines there, that if you’re talking, look into the camera and pay attention. That’s kind of hard. Maybe they’ll invent a camera right in the middle of the screen or in the middle of the picture someday.
Kim Foley: Well, what I do is, I tape a little post-it note that’s colorful, right behind where the camera is. So, it’s sticking up and it says “Look here.”
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah.
Kim Foley: Because honestly, we are hardwired to look at faces. So, it’s not easy to look into the camera while you’re talking, it’s hard. And so, that’s why sticking a little post-it note back there with “Look here” just reminds you because you’ll forget and you’ll automatically go to the faces when you’re talking. Honestly, I was watching the news the other day and I saw the anchor doing the same thing. She was interacting with her guest by looking at the screen, instead of looking into the eye of the camera, which is me, the viewer, I want her to be talking to me. So, it’s a very important thing to do well, and it’s not hard to do if you put that post-it note there.
Steve Shallenberger: Perfect. Well, I am always amazed at how fast these podcasts go. And before we let you go today, Kim Foley, do you have any final tips for our listeners?
Kim Foley: I want them to get a good internet connection. If you don’t have a great internet connection, you are not going to be happy with what’s happening because you’re going to be freezing up and your audio is going to change. So, it’s really important that you maximize that internet connection. And you can do that by rebooting your router – by unplugging it from the back and plugging it back in after 10 seconds – that’s going to really jack up your bandwidth. So, there are many ways to do this, I go through all the different ways in my book, and I want people to have a fantastic internet connection so that they can have top-notch virtual meetings.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, good. Well, Kim, how can people find out about what you’re doing?
Kim Foley: They can follow me on LinkedIn. I have a very big presence on LinkedIn. I’m on all social media at Kim Foley – on some platforms I’m Kim Foley video – and they can always go to kimfoley.com, and they can always reach me personally at email@example.com. So I’m easy to reach, very easy to reach.
Steve Shallenberger: Yes, you are and I appreciate it. And they can go on Amazon and get your book, and it’s available in different formats. So, all right. Well, great. Well, it’s been a fun interview, so nice to do it the second time! It was better, the second time everybody. We wish you the best, Kim, as you’re touching many lives for good and helping people move the bar up.
Kim Foley: Yes, thank you. Thank you so much for the opportunity, I’m really looking forward to seeing this.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay. And to all of our friends, you wonderful people, we’re wishing you a great year. We’re in a fresh new year, we’re looking forward to a becoming your best year of controlling what we can control and just looking at the various areas of our lives and saying “How can we move it up in our personal lives with our relationships and professionally?” What we’ve talked about today is going to help on the professional end. So, it’s worthy of a good goal to move the bar up there. So, thanks, Kim, and we wish each of you a great day.
Kim Foley: Thanks, Steve.
Founder, Becoming Your Best
CEO, executive, corporate trainer, and community leader.
Award-winning producer, media trainer, and television stylist.