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.

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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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ARCHIBUS Applications: Waste Management

Track and manage waste streams from generation through disposition to minimize health and regulatory risk

Benefits

  • Simplifies the process for tracking and managing hazardous waste streams to sustain a safe working environment
  • Decreases the risk of fines or litigation surrounding hazardous waste storage and disposal procedures
  • Increases the visibility and improves accountability for waste reduction or recycling initiatives to help reduce carbon footprint and improve LEED or other sustainability scores
  • Reduces the cost and effort of satisfying waste audit and reporting requirements
ARCHIBUS Waste Management provides defensible information to assess the effectiveness of waste reduction and recycling programs in addition to tracking and managing hazardous waste.
Managing waste streams, particularly hazardous waste, is often fraught with risk and possible negative outcomes, if handled poorly. Organizations need not only to cope with the often burdensome regulatory paperwork, but also to avoid the risk of errors, omissions, and accidents that can lead to injuries, penalties and/or potential litigation. Web-based ARCHIBUS Waste Management provides a streamlined and integrated approach to tracking, managing, and reducing both hazardous and non-hazardous waste. It helps smoothly process the information flow, starting from the point of generation, through accumulation, storage, shipment or emission, and final disposition. And it provides defensible information to assess the effectiveness of waste reduction and recycling programs that, in turn, help reduce carbon footprint and increase LEED™ or other sustainability scores.

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Conversations with Bob: What to Consider When Selecting an IWMS

Transcript:

Bob: One of my first speak to’s is I have a pie chart that talks about the implementation of technology. When we’re asked to go in and demonstrate an IWMS system, the client says, “Let us see the technology. We want it to go live. We want to touch it. We want to feel it.” Over the 20 years that I have been consulting in this area, I’ve come to realize that the company is focusing on the technology, and they’re almost ignoring the two larger components of technology installation, which are the business process and the relationship arena. What I mean by that is I can look at a technology: an iphone app, or an IWMS system on a laptop or a tablet and I can see that yes, it is a work order, or yes it does a lease management, yes I can track space. What the company is not asking is, “Does the workflow process in an IWMS system match our business process?” So, for example, if you have a work order system that requires a dispatcher to review it before they actually assign it, then from the assignment to have an estimate, then an approvement, then to send it to the shop lead who assigns it to the crafts person to go complete the work, then the dispatcher reviews it again, and then it goes back to finance – if that’s your work flow, but the IWMS system you’re looking at is very simplified and it only does work order to craftsperson to completion, then that’s a disconnect, and you may be spending a lot of money on an application that doesn’t meet your business process. On the converse side of that, if you have an IWMS system which is showing you all these things and you’re not doing one of those steps, you go, “Well, that’s a good idea, we never thought about that.” The IWMS system could bring a business process to light that may help you make strategic decisions. Going back to your original question, why did we choose ARCHIBUS? ARCHIBUS has the ability to make it as simple as “request, crafts person, complete” or as complicated as “request, review, dispatch, estimate, approve, shoplead, workteam, craftsperson, complete, close, financial”, and anything in between, because of its flexibility. The business process is huge, and how to accomplish things. Can the system mold to your business process, or do you have to mold to the software? Hopefully you don’t have to mold to the software. The one that’s almost more important than that is the relationship arena. The relationship arena is very real. Some people may consider it a negative thing, I don’t. It’s actually a very positive thing. If I’m trying to get an HR system load, in other words, if I’m trying to get the employees from HR, and HR goes, “Why would I want to give you that data? I don’t want to give you how much people make and what their W- 2 exemptions are and their social security number.” We would say, “Well we’re not asking for that. All we need is employee information, employee’s first name, last name, employee ID number, perhaps their phone number and where they work.” They’re going to go, “Why would I create extra work for myself?” So we have to then have a relationship where there are two departments going, “Well, look, if you give us employee data we can give you back on a real time, where these people actually work.” So if you help us, we can help you. That takes a champion, as we talked about in one of our articles. It takes a champion to work through those two departments to get that connection. That’s called relationship arena. Or, let’s say that the finance department doesn’t get along very well with the corporate real estate for some reason. There needs to be a champion there to help see the benefit on both sides.

 

I consider the business process 40% of the implementation,
and the relationship arena 40%. Technology is really only 20%. We can probably install an IWMS system, if everything went well, in only four hours. The real reason it takes several weeks, or a month, is we have IT involved, they have to make sure it fits their structure, we have to make sure that all the security measures are in place, it just takes a lot of “make sure everybody’s got everything in a line”.

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How much does it cost to install an IWMS system?

Knowing how much a company is going to invest in an IWMS system before they invest in it is naturally what any client is concerned about.

To give just one blanket number is impossible because there are many features that can be bought in an IWMS. It is very customizable. It is similar to looking at the different types of features in a satellite dish TV package, though, unfortunately, satellite TV is not one of the features available in an IWMS.

What features are available?

Features range anywhere from tracking physical space to tracking cost and even building certifications. AutoCAD drawings, highlights by department, occupancy/vacancy, realization and utilization, and asset tracking are some examples of physical space that can be tracked. By means of cost tracking, lease management, capital budgeting, and project management are just a few examples of this. MSDS specifications, LEED building and compliance can be tracked. Even work requests and mainenance can be tracked with features such as building operations, on demand work, preventive maintenance, and housekeeping.

Depending on the combination of options a client wants, IWMS systems can be relatively inexpensive or a large amount of money.

How much does all this cost?

Historically, in the last four years, RSC’s proposals were:

  • $700 (lowest)
  • $370,000 (highest)
  • $75,000 (average)

IWMS is very maleable to what companies need and want to track, not only in terms of features, but also cost. RSC is willing and committed to finding this perfect fit for companies.


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Conversations with Todd: Implementing Key Management

 

Transcript:

Bob: Let’s switch gears to another client. We have an energy management client in the midwest. We just implemented a key control module there. Talk to me about some of the challenges with that key control installation and some of the successes.

Todd: Key control has a number of unique challenges to it. Security is really important to this client. Getting the key approvals correct was a very big deal for them. That was the challenge. Advantages obviously are that processes that used to be completely manual are now entirely automated. That idea of having to get several levels of approvals for someone to have a key is entirely through the system.

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Conversations with Bob: Why consult on IWMS?

Transcript:

 

Megan: You were an architect, that’s what you were trained to be, so what drew you to this side?

 

Bob: I went to an architecture firm, so I thought I was going to be doing architecture, but I was introduced to the software, so it was kind of a slight of-hand. I actually think that it was the universe in alignment. I’d been looking for something that fulfilled me a little better than what I had chosen, even though I loved doing architecture. This seemed to fit very comfortably for me. I knew how to program, I was a big stickler on details, I knew AutoCad, I knew graphical space design. When we were tracking spaces for these companies, it was everything I had learned over my forty years of life all focused into one spot. It was very appealing for me. One of the other aspects that made it comfortable was that the pressure of architecture is very demanding. We are to protect the public, we are licensed in states. Our desire is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public, even though we are trying to design a very beautiful space. In the IWMS world, those pressures of safety and making deadlines to the city council were gone. It relieved me of the pressure and provided meaningful information for the companies. It was a very fascinating godsend.

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ARCHIBUS Applications: Furniture & Equipment Management

The purpose of ARCHIBUS’ Furniture & Equipment Manager is to monitor and control physical asset cost and utilization to increase organizational accountability.

Benefits

  • Manages asset ownership and usage to increase organizational accountability and reduce costs.
  • Reduces the need for write-offs by tracking the location and depreciation of assets.
  • Facilitates trial layouts for analyzing various move options before executing them.
  • Executes simple moves, adds, and changes to maximize/minimize disruption and sustain productivity.
  • Analyzes the financial impact of furniture and equipment inventories.
Effectively managing physical assets, such as furniture and equipment, is vital to maintaining the financial health of an organization. Yet trying to track the changeover of assets and staff while keeping an eye on costs can often seem overwhelming. The ARCHIBUS Furniture & Equipment Management application is an AutoCAD®-based solution that helps you manage those assets cost-effectively and design more productive work environments. This application also helps minimize costs and maximize productivity in the planning and execution of individual or small group moves, adds, and changes. Organizations encountering large group moves or complex move/add/change processes can also implement the Web-based ARCHIBUS Enterprise Move Management application.

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Conversations with Todd: Key Management and CMMS

Bob: You talk about needing approval in several levels. Does it connect any of the work order system to be able to get those approvals or is it separate? How does it work?

Todd: The approvals happen entirely through the key control system that we have implemented for them. One of the things that does happen is that keys are a physical asset just like anything else and if you’re out of keys you usually have to generate a work order to produce more. That is one of things that the key control system does in talking to the rest of ARCHIBUS. When key volume is low and the system can see that there is a request for those keys coming it will generate a work order to build more of those keys.

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ARCHIBUS Applications: Commissioning

Collect, coordinate and share building information to identify and correct design/build issues prior to occupancy

Benefits

  • Streamlines the verification process that a facility and its systems meet the as-designed specifications and owner requirements.
  • Provides the mechanism to identify and correct problems early in the design/build process.
  • Reduces costs associated with post-occupancy troubleshooting, claims, and corrective work.
  • Optimizes downstream building performance by providing the tools to support continuous improvement in energy and operational cost savings.
ARCHIBUS Commissioning helps ensure smooth deployment of complex building systems and maintenance practices, resulting in fewer start-up issues and maintenance errors/omissions.

 

Building owners are often hindered by the lack of effective and efficient communication during the design, construction and commissioning stages, resulting in unnecessary costs and operational inefficiencies. The ARCHIBUS Commissioning application helps solve this problem by capturing and coordinating graphic and non-graphic data – including Building Information Modeling (BIM), as-builts, shop drawings, maintenance manuals, space, and equipment information – in one central repository. The application makes all data elements searchable and accessible for viewing using a Web browser or a mobile device. And the application correlates all the information to confirm a facility and its systems meet the as-designed specifications. ARCHIBUS Commissioning also helps lower the costs associated with claims and corrective actions, as well as optimize downstream building system performance.


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Conversations with Bob: What is the limit to tracking in an IWMS system?

Transcript:
Matt: IWMS systems seem to come with an infinite potential to track things. How and where do you draw the line for what to track?

 

Bob: That is an excellent question. An IWMS system comes with twenty,  thirty, forty, even fifty things that you could track. We can track everything from pencils to people, desks, furniture, jacks, lights, leases, hazardous materials. I prefer to start very simply with a client with either space management or asset tracking. We start by doing that one thing and doing it well within a two to three month period. Once that success is done, then we can do the next thing and the next and the next. Where do we draw the line? I don’t think we should draw a line. It can be infinite. We have a client that does everything except for lease management in ARCHIBUS. They do it very well.

 

However, a limiting factor may be the number of resources required to keep the data up. If I were to make sure that the IWMS system is appropriately sized, then I would make sure that we deliver the activities that they want to track in a report. For example, the billing operations module can track anything from parts, tools, craftsperson’s hours and their costs, to outside vendor’s costs.  Many of our clients don’t need that. What they want to do is track the request that has been given, how long it took to complete, and how many resources it took. We draw the line at their resources.

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