13 Tips for Staying Focused During a Virtual Event or Meeting

RSC is proud of the fact that we are a virtual company. We’ve been working from home for 20 years and have seasoned expertise to share with the world during this time of social isolation and distancing. For more tips on working from home, check out our previous article, 12 Tips for Working from Home.

Join our #work-from-home open Slack group to get more tips and have a social outlet!

At this point, everyone knows that large masses of people across the world are working from home in a preventive measure against COVID-19, or the coronavirus.

Alongside the hot topic of working from home is the topic of virtual meetings. How do you get the most out of a virtual meeting? What are the best virtual meeting techniques for engaging participants and attendees? How are virtual meetings conducted? What do people do to stay focused after a long day of working from home, a lot of meetings, and/or a particularly long web event?

Our staff has 20 years of experience to share with our readers and clients on these subjects, and, generally how to improve virtual meetings. Below are our practiced techniques that we use on a daily basis to help us get the most out of our virtual workplace.

1) Invest in multiple computer monitors.

Moving back and forth between multiple windows can take time and focus away from a meeting. Use one monitor to keep needed information—such as a web browser, detailed notes, an excel spreadsheet, or more—at your fingertips while displaying the meeting on the other.

Using multiple monitors or screens can help you find information quickly during virtual meetings.

Another solution for keeping a lot of information visible during a meeting is to connect your laptop with an HDMI cord to a computer monitor. Some of our staff have found that, when screens need to be displayed, displaying your screen from your laptop and putting others’ displayed screens on your monitor helps keep everything readable.

2) Invest in some essential, RSC-recommended equipment.

There are a couple pieces of equipment that RSC staff swear by for our meetings. This equipment helps keep us comfortable and focuses our attention towards the topic(s) at hand.

A desk or computer tray that lets you stand.

Virtual meetings are a great time to stand up and stretch your legs, which will help you stay attentive if you’ve been sitting all day. Standing up periodically can also help energize you for the rest of the work day, as well as being good for your joints and muscles.

Noise-cancelling headphones.

Noise-cancelling headphones are essential for virtual meetings.

High-quality, noise-cancelling headphones keep out the sound of that experimental band next door, plus any other unexpected distractions, like kids, pets, construction, etc. Exceptionally powerful headphones drown out all sound entirely, creating a tunnel-focus effect and allowing you to concentrate.

3) Take notes and create a task list.

A general meetings best practice, take notes and create a task list for yourself from your notes. RSC uses many tools for taking notes, like post-its, excel spreadsheets, Word documents, text editors, and more. Find the tool(s) that work best for you and stick to that system so your notes aren’t scattered.

The Effectiveness of Post-it note-taking vs. using Word Docs

While both post-it notes and word docs can be great virtual meeting tools, they both have their pros and cons. Using Post-it notes, or sticky notes, can be very effective for creating your task list. Their mobility allows you to quickly and effectively prioritize and re-prioritize, like so many of us have to do if a project takes a turn of direction. Using sticky notes in a notebook keeps them organized; using them around your computer makes them more visible.

Find the most effective method for taking notes that allows you to share them with coworkers.

That being said, while Post-its are great for your own personal task list, they may not be the most effective solution for when you need to share your notes, or have a log of what you’ve been doing. For this, RSC prefers to use a Word doc and its many professional features. Word has a plethora of organizational features like tables of contents, graphs, and heading styles to keep your notes organized. They can be good for sharing between smaller groups of people, but if updates to the doc are being made by many people, a document sharing and editing service might be more effective.

4) Speak up during meetings.

Don’t let the fact that you’re hidden behind a screen, and your coworkers can’t see the non-verbal cues that you have something to contribute, limit you from making comments on where you can help. Virtual meetings can be daunting because of this, so practice speaking up in meetings if that is a challenge you face.

5) Create and contribute to an environment that fosters watercooler banter.

Be yourself during meetings and use appropriate moments to get to know your colleagues better.

Having a healthy balance between focused, goal-oriented discussion and goofy, light-hearted banter is extremely important for the health of an organization, no matter the type of work environment. While on virtual meetings, it can be tempting to start out the meeting with everyone muted, waiting for the organizer, project lead, or overseer to start the meeting. Use this time, or any other time that may be appropriate, to banter with your coworkers, and don’t be afraid to be yourself during the meeting and make friendly chat or harmless jokes. Even playing some virtual team meeting games could be a helpful tip on how to make conference calls more interactive.

6) Don’t multi-task. Actively listen. Ask questions.

An essential tip for any meeting type and for virtual meeting etiquette, resist the urge to work on other projects or tasks during your virtual meeting. Choose to be present. This will ensure that you are getting the most out of your time and can contribute to the effectiveness of the meeting.

Come prepared to your virtual meetings by opening any tabs and checking that your software is working.

Many organizations using virtual meeting software often wonder how to engage remote meeting participants. Leaving open the list of attendees on your software so you can see everyone’s name can help you think of ways to engage everyone. Look to ask questions to all the participants, if the group size allows. Asking questions and encouraging conversation have been proven time and time again as some of the best practices for virtual communication. Read more tips about this, and virtual meetings in general, at an article we found from “CIO from IDG”.

7) Come prepared.

Take five minutes before the meeting and make sure that your virtual meeting software is working properly. Audio and screen sharing can be some of the first features to stop working if your internet connection is bad, so test these out before logging onto the meeting. If your internet connection refuses to cooperate, take a few minutes to find a spot where it is working.

Open any documents, tabs, visual aids, etc. that you may need for the meeting before it starts. This will reduce lag time, which will minimize distraction.

8) Have something to fidget or doodle with.

If you’ve had a lot of meetings, or are getting to the end of the day when it’s hard to focus, having something to fidget with during a meeting can help direct that energy into something else so you can focus. Some people prefer the infamous fidget spinner, while others opt for something more sophisticated, like a fidget cube. These are both inexpensive on Amazon. If you don’t want to spend any money, a pen or pencil also works just fine.

Speaking of pencils, while a lot of taboo surrounds doodling during meetings, sometimes light, minimally-involved drawing can help you focus while you’re not directing the conversation. Cartoon characters, geometric shapes, or abstract line art can be effective shapes to draw.

9) Change locations periodically.

One of the most difficult aspects of working from home is that it can feel mundane very quickly. Changing locations for meetings, or even periodically throughout the day can help stave off this mundane-ness. Working by a window can give you some sun and add interest as you watch what’s going on outside. Working in a more secluded spot can help you focus all your energy into one task. Evaluate how you’re feeling and what you need to focus in that particular moment.

10) Be honest with yourself and choose spots in which you know you can focus.

Be honest with yourself in choosing work locations. Not all of us can focus while in bed.

For some people, this could be a desk, while for others it might be the giant bean-bag on the ground. This could even change depending on the type of meeting. Work sessions might be great to take sitting cross-legged on your bed, while meetings with clients might be better to take at a desk. Whatever the spot may be, be honest with yourself and make sure that you can focus in it.

11) Make sure your at-home workspace is the perfect temperature.

Before signing on, check the thermostat of your meeting space. There may not be an opportune time during the meeting to change it if you get too cold or too hot, and temperature and climate can be some of the quickest ways to get distracted during meetings.

12) RSC loves caffeine.

If your health allows for it, caffeine can be a great way to stay focused. This can be in the form of energy drinks, soda, or coffee, which are recognizably not the healthiest solutions, or you can buy caffeine to add to water or any other preferred drink.

If you prefer to not drink caffeine, cold or favorite drinks can help you stay awake. Also, making sure that you eat regularly throughout the day will help you stay awake and focused, instead of thinking about how hungry you are.

13) RSC also loves naps.

In our last article, 12 Tips for Working from Home, we mentioned that taking frequent breaks can help you stay alert and ready for a full work day. One of RSC’s favorite activities during these breaks is taking naps. If you didn’t sleep well the night before, or you’ve had a particularly full or challenging work day, this can be a great way to recharge and keep on going. Even if your workday has been the same as any other, naps can be a nice mental break to keep you going. Taking one a little before your meeting can help you not think about anything you might be over-thinking or not looking forward to.


Like what you read? Subscribe to the blog and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin to keep up to date with the latest news from RSC, LLC.
Thoughts? Questions? Comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear your insights.

Join RSC’s Slack group!

Many companies around the world are requiring their employees to work from home as a preventive measure against the coronavirus. Because this transition can be difficult, and RSC has been working from home for 20 years, we’ve looked into ways we can collaborate digitally and share our tips for working from home.

We’ve created an open group on Slack called #work-from-home. Anyone in the world can join, and our hopes for this channel is that members will gain helpful knowledge and that it will be a social outlet for those who are feeling the challenging effects of social distancing.

#work-from-home


Like what you read? Subscribe to the blog and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin to keep up to date with the latest news from RSC, LLC.
Thoughts? Questions? Comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear your insights.

12 Tips for Working from Home

slack logo

Join our #work-from-home open Slack group to get more tips and have a social outlet!

Considering the potential increase of the coronavirus, many companies are encouraging–or even requiring–their employees work from home. Working from home can be a difficult transition if you are not used to it: housemates can be distracting. The couch can look oh-so-comfortable, and a 20 minute nap can easily turn into an hour and 20 minute nap. Working from home can seem like the perfect opportunity to get the honey-do list completed and chores that have been piling up can look enticing. The list of readily-available distractions could continue for miles.

We understand the challenges that can come with working from home: RSC is a virtual company. This means that we have no physical office space, so every employee works from home, and we have 20 years of experience and tips we’ve collected on creating an ideal work environment in your home. Below are our staff’s first-hand recommendations. We hope you find them useful!

1) Create a “Work Only” space.

An image of a home office by a scenic window.
Create a comfortable, yet distraction-free, work space.

Aside from helping you focus on work instead of binge-watching “Frasier”, setting up an area at home that is “work-only” can signify to others that you are working and shouldn’t be bothered. Additionally, it helps you de-stress once work is over, because you can mentally “put work away” and fully enjoy the rest of the house and activities that are going on.

2) Set office hours and stick to them.

An image of a home office with a computer, notebook, and other accessories on a desk.
Stick to your office hours.

Treat work hours like sacred time. Set a schedule–it helps to keep your at-home hours the same as a usual nine-to-five workday, or whatever is typical of your organization–and don’t vary from these. Don’t justify that a 45-minute run to the store won’t effect your schedule too much. Don’t let distractions like kids, peanut butter cookies on the counter, or playing with your pets pull you away from your focus.

3) Schedule meetings for mornings.

Leaving the beginning of the work day for meetings is a great way to stay focused throughout the day, because you now have a task that helps you know what you need to accomplish. It also helps motivate you to get out of bed and work instead of pushing your schedule back and procrastinating the work day.

4) Match your work hours to the schedule of your housemates.

An image of a woman wearing glasses at a desk working on a computer. She is smiling and is in an art studio with paintbrushes.
For a distraction-free workspace, work at the same time as the people with whom you live.

Maintaining the same working hours as the people you live with is a great way to enjoy your time off once work is done. It minimizes distractions so everyone can have a quiet environment to work in and doesn’t step on each others’ toes. 

5) Take frequent breaks.

Standing up from the computer is important not only for your posture, but also for your mental health. Getting up frequently and taking a stroll around the yard or house will help you keep a fresh attitude towards work and cut down on the mundaneness of working from home. Some of our staff hold to a strict “get up every hour” rule.

6) Schedule “Leave the House” time.

An image of a dog laying under a desk and office chair while someone in blue jeans, sitting at the desk, works.
Schedule a time to get out of the house and stretch your legs.

Schedule a time to get out of the house and detach from work. Usually, this would include activities like going out to lunch, working out at a gym, or taking a yoga class, but with the stay-in-place mandate applicable to most of us, this principle looks a little different right now. Going for a walk or drive can be great substitutes for this. If you have a garden or yard, walk around it. Even using technology like a wii could help you get in the mindset that will help you de-stress from work and clear your head.

7) Schedule your meals.

On the topic of breaks, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the “I’ll just do one more thing” mentality and forget to eat regular meals. Scheduling a specific time for your meals can help you keep a consistent schedule, maintain energy for the work day, and reinforce taking frequent breaks.

An infographic with RSC's twelve tips for working from home listed.

8) Get ready in the morning just as if you’re going to work.

Dressing the same way you would for the office can help you mentally get in the zone to work, separate your “work-only” space from the rest of the house, and keep you focused on tasks: even the rote, mundane ones. Changing clothes once you’re done working into lounge-around-the-house attire helps you relax and separate even more from the office.

9) Don’t go straight to your workspace in the morning.

An image of a home office in a bedroom with calendars on the wall, a surfboard leaned against the wall, and a small shelf.
Refrain from sleeping right up until your work hours in order to get a few more minutes of sleep.

Give yourself time to ease into the day, enjoy the morning, and prep for work just like you would any other day. Let your house be your house for a little bit before you go into work mode. This, just like many of the previous points, will help you separate the spaces between work and home so you can de-stress after work.

10) Use a headset or noise canceling headgear.

Minimize distractions by using a quality, noise-cancelling headset for when you’re in meetings or listening to music to stay focused. You won’t be able to hear anything that may want to distract you. You’ll be able to  focus well so the day relatively flies by.

11) Invest in equipment to help your posture and joints.

An image of a supportive desk chair by a wood desk with a computer on it.
Invest in supportive equipment for your home office.

Giving your body good support will help make your at-home office comfortable. It’s not worth it to ruin your back, neck, hands, wrists, etc. while working. Some essential pieces to consider for your home office may be:

  • Supportive chair with adjustable height
  • Adjustable-height computer stand for sitting and standing
  • Keyboard for carpel tunnel
  • Mouse for carpel tunnel
  • Footrest
  • extra back support

12) Take advantage of some creature comforts, but not too many.

An overhead image of a woman sitting with her legs outstretched on a bed or couch, working on a computer.
If sitting on the couch helps you focus, then take advantage of that. But don’t use so many creature comforts that you can’t focus.

If you work better with some background noise that you wouldn’t usually be able to put on in the office, then put on some music or white noise. If you have a favorite window to sit by, or a favorite spot in your house, then set up your workspace in that area. If you have a favorite coffee, tea, or beverage that you don’t usually get at work, then pour yourself some of that.

Creature comforts can easily infringe on the “Creating a ‘Work Only’ Space” idea discussed above. It’s easy to surround yourself with too many. Determine which ones and how many help you stay focused and which ones don’t.


Like what you read? Subscribe to the blog and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin to keep up to date with the latest news from RSC, LLC.
Thoughts? Questions? Comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear your insights.