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.


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10 Keys to a Successful IWMS Integration: pt. 5: Understanding Your Business Process

This week we are excited to bring to you part 5 of our series, 10 Keys to a Successful IWMS Integration: Understanding your Business Process. If you haven’t read the previous article, read Part 4: Standards here.

Business processes are a set of structured activities or tasks that will accomplish the goals a company has.  All successful companies have a business process implemented that they consistently follow.

What does a business process have to do with IWMS?

An IWMS contains workflows for carrying out various, organization-specific processes.

Each IWMS has levels of capability and customization,
which can be tailored to meet a specific organization’s business process.
Therefore, in order to most successfully implement an IWMS into your
organization, it is crucial to examine and refine your current business
process, then select a system that is powerful and flexible enough to not only fit into your current business process, but to optimize it!

Though many IWMS systems are flexible enough to accommodate
a business’ current processes, others require businesses to change their
process in order to fit the capabilities of the system.

Example 1: Work Orders

Computerized Maintenance Management System) maintains a computer database of information about an organization’s maintenance operations and work orders.  Some work orders are preventative maintenance, which means they are generally a scheduled event fired off on a set increment (3 months, 1 month, 1 week, etc).  When the scheduled work order is initiated, a specific business process, or workflow, will trigger.
One such workflow might be that the work order is sent to a dispatcher, who would then pass it off to the proper supervisor, who would then assign it to a craftsperson to accomplish the job.  Once the craftsperson has completed the job, s/he will update it in the system, which will indicate that the job is complete. Then finally, the supervisor will review the job and send it to Accounts Payable to be closed out.

On the other hand, a less complicated workflow might have the work order sent directly to the craftsperson, notifying the supervisor but bypassing the dispatcher. So the work can begin immediately.

Within a flexible IWMS, the workflow should be able to be modified so that it suits however simple or complicated your business process is.

Example 2: Required Estimate & Approval

Consider an activity for which an estimate and approval is
required. In many cases, this means that:

  1. A work request is generated
  2. A threshold is met that triggers the need for an estimate
  3. The estimate request is routed to the estimator
  4. The estimate is completed and routed to the approver
  5. The approver accepts the estimate and routes the request to the supervisor
  6. The supervisor routes this to the craftsperson

When this happens, the estimate often generates a second
approval, which is dropped into a similar dispatching process as described in example one
before, requiring various hand-offs and approvals.

In both of the above examples, a more flexible IWMS could
help work on an
activity to commence (and likely finish) even sooner.

Having a firm understanding of your business process allows you to select an IWMS that is flexible enough to meet your company’s needs.  A successful IWMS implementation will accept your business process in such a way that the system can be modified so there is very little disturbance to the work force.

If you have bought a system that is not robust enough to meet the needs of your company’s business process, you may have to alter the what is currently in place or look to another IWMS system.

The benefits of selecting a flexible IWMS are clear – it can
easily make any organization more efficient and alleviate unnecessary
responsibilities.  However, the vital aspect of every successful IWMS
implementation is to first familiarize yourself with  your current
business process.  Doing so will allow you to adopt a system that can meet or (ideally) optimize workflows and streamline your entire enterprise!


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Thoughts? Questions? Comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear your insights.