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How to stage a good video meeting? Put on a show

Creative Industries
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Storyblocks CEO TJ Leonard makes each all-hands meeting a production. (Photo/Storyblocks)By Jefferson Graham
USA Today

T.J. Leonard likes to kick off every Monday morning with an all-hands meeting, to keep his 100-plus employees of the Storyblocks video production assistance company up to date on the latest.

And even when everyone’s working at home, the show must go on.

Keeping people focused on in-person meetings is hard enough. How does the CEO do it when distractions at home can include easy texting, email checking, Amazon shopping and the like?

By putting on a production. 

He has an MC. He shows video clips. He has team members do skits.

“If I stood in front of the company and delivered a 15- to 30-minute monologue about our vision, we’d have a lot of people tuning out,” he says. “The type of content you can take on is more ambitious than what would you do in person.”

The new meetings require more preparation than in the past. “To hold their attention virtually requires a crisper agenda,” he says. And forget those endless, boring slides. Instead, video is where it’s at. “Communicating through motion is a good way to break the monotony,” he says.

His message to others: Keep it brief, keep it brisk, rely more on multiple presenters. “That’s a trick people use in video editing,” he says. “Faster cuts, more camera angles keeps the energy up.”

And he encourages team members to make use of the video chat feature on meeting programs. “It’s actually improved overall communication,” he says, by keeping the teams in conversation.

Here are more tips on telecommuting and working in the new environment:

Audio: If the boss can’t hear you over the noisy gardener and screaming kids, we have a great suggestion: do what pros do. Invest in yourself with a microphone, and adjust your video meeting software preferences accordingly.

Focus: How to get things done with distractions like a refrigerator, kids who should be spending time on schoolwork and a pet that wants to be petted are out there? Jan Schrieber, a graphic designer for Pacific Life insurance, stays on task with written to-do lists and following her computer calendar.

Online hustle: You can’t attend seminars, conferences and the like, which have been canceled due to the pandemic, so how to build your brand? By doing it all, from Facebook and Twitter, to LinkedIn, newsletters, e-books. 

Networking: The beauty of attending a conference is running into new and old contacts in the hallway. Peter Pham, the co-founder of tech incubator Science Inc., is doing just that the old-fashioned way, by picking up the phone and calling people to check in.

Home office solution: You have no room in the home for a private office, the library is closed and Starbucks is open for takeout orders only. So what are you going to do? If you’re tech analyst Jeremiah Owyang, you invest in a $50,000, 22-foot Airstream trailer, pay for it with a $370 monthly 20-year-loan and park it in your backyard.

The eyes have it: Don’t forget to look the webcam in the eye. It’s the camera you’re making eye contact with, not the person on the laptop screen. Larry Becker, the author of Great on Camera offers that tip.

Follow USA Today’s Jefferson Graham on Twitter @jeffersongraham and LinkedIn.

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