3 Tasks to Do When You Sit In on a Virtual Meeting

The Perks of Observing Unobserved

In the world of virtual meetings, sometimes we’re asked to be present in a virtual video call online, even if we’re not strictly needed. You know the type. Like when you work in asset acquisition and you’re asked to virtually attend a video conference dominated by the marketing team. Or when you work in sales and you’re sitting in on a video call dominated by the legal department’s discussion of the recent suits they filed against a competitor.

These video meetings have a purpose, which is to keep the members of your organisation connected with all the directions each department in your organisation is taking. You’re meant to get a general idea of what they’re talking about so you know what’s what. Get a feel for where things are heading in each department and the general lay of the land. And being connected to what all the parts of your organisation are doing is very important. If the wider team members disconnect enough, over a period of time, this disconnect starts to affect the coordination between departments within your organisation.

That being said, you do not need to be an active participant in many of these video conferencing meetings. Sure, attendee participation is often encouraged, and you might have something useful to chip in once or twice, but generally, a lot of the things discussed in that meeting are outside your mandate and often enough you don’t even know enough about some of them to have viable solutions. So what do you do in a meeting like that? Well, kill your video feed, mute your mic, but keep an ear out. Keep listening to the meeting. You can unmute yourself and say something if something relevant to your role comes up. But while you’re waiting, here’s a few things to do whilst sitting in on a video call.

1. Catch Up on Emails

This is a fairly typical task many office workers must deal with on a regular basis. Instead of doing nothing during a virtual conference where you might never even speak, it would be good to make use of that time sorting through your emails, keeping the necessary ones, discarding the unnecessary ones, reading and replying to the urgent ones, etc. A video call during which your microphone is muted is perfect for that because no one can hear you hammering away at your keyboard. Not that it would be an unusual sound to make whilst attending a virtual meeting via video conferencing software. After all, you can bet a bunch of your coworkers are doing the exact same thing without taking the trouble of muting themselves or killing their video feeds. And of course, there are those who are typing information relevant to the video conference itself, taking notes and such. When you do that, make sure not to attempt replying to emails that require lengthy, thoughtful responses. You still want to be able to focus enough on the video conference to know if your input is required, unlikely though it may be.

If you feel like synchronising your tasks you can begin by reviewing the emails most relevant to the virtual meetings you listen in to via video conferencing solutions. The things you hear during the video call may tie-in to the email you’re reading and give you some insight, whether it’s insight you’ll need replying to the email or insight that will be useful to remember at a later date.

2. Move Around a Little

I think I can guess what’s going through your mind. You’re wondering if this qualifies as a task. Perhaps not a direct work task. But it is a task, nonetheless, and an important one. To work effectively at a desk, almost everyone needs to get up from their chairs from time to time. Shake their legs a little and maybe do the most minor of stretching. Not the athletic kind. The kind you do when you get out of bed in the morning. The time to do that during the day could vary, but if you’re scheduled to virtually attend a meeting you don’t need to speak in through video conferencing, what better time is there?

Make the initial greetings, kill your video feed, mute yourself, and listen to your computer while you pace your office. That way you get a lot of the day’s necessary stretching done, get a good idea of what’s happening outside your department, whilst at the same time listening for the rare possibility that you may be asked to contribute to the video call. It’s the perfect task. Necessary and important for your day but not so absorbent of your focus that you’ll miss your cue during the virtual video conference. Of course if you’re in your office, confining yourself to a little pacing or a bit of light stretching is ideal. You don’t wanna get too noisy with a full-on exercise routine that would disturb the other people in the building. And if you’re working from home, remember that the focus required for a proper work-out session might draw your focus away from the noise coming at you through your video conferencing software.

When all’s said and done, you still want to have a good idea about what was said in the meeting and you still want to be able to contribute at a second’s notice. To do that, it’s best to keep your movement light enough to serve your working day. You’re time-managing for an optimised work day, not to cram your exercise time and working time together.

3. Clean Up Your Desk and Workspace

I tend to wipe down my desk daily. Partly a habit from the COVID-19 crisis but also partly because I’ve grown a bit of a beard in recent years and I don’t want my dark coloured hairs marring the cleanliness of my white desk too much. Now, your desk may or may not need daily wiping down like mine does, but if you’ve been meaning to organise the items on your desk and get your papers in order, a video call during which you’re probably not expected to say anything is the perfect time to do it. And since you’re doing it anyways, why not give your desk a wipe down as well?

Of course, reading this idea for a task may be a waste of time for some people. I’m sure a few of you keep your desk so meticulously ordered that “re-ordering it” hardly takes you a minute or two, if even. But if you’re anything like me, as I’m sure many of you are, you tend to spread your things out around you as you work. Like I suggested in the other two task ideas above, start by saying your greetings in the meeting then kill your microphone and camera. Then get re-arranging.

If you’ve been at your job a while you likely have some papers around that you need to sort into categories and more papers that you need to throw out. You alsolikely have a lot of those papers in your desk drawer or a cabinet in the room. Maybe you have some of them in a briefcase, or a folder, or a file you carry on your person as well. You can get started on that too if you finish cleaning up your desk quickly. Now, if your desk is separate from your cabinet, give that a good wipe down for luck as well and you’re golden.

In truth, you probably know better than I do what little but important tasks you can pay attention to with a muted microphone and a switched off video feed during virtual video call meetings where your contributions will probably not be needed. The three ideas above are a good place to start but you’re bound to be able to think of more if you want to. If you’re looking for more ideas, perhaps get started on a To Do list. In the meantime, for the video calls during which you do need to make serious contributions, consider one of your options from Banty. The Banty platforms are also great for presentations.

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Abdallah Al Alfy

Alfy is a content writer of 17 years, writing in multiple literary and content disciplines, and translating professionally since his early teens. Full name of Abdallah Al Alfy, he is also a licensed pharmacist in multiple countries. Alfy’s pharmaceutical background has often been an asset in scientific and medical writing.