Five Virtual Meeting Personas – Which One Are You?

multitasking_Alex_Flickr-750x400(An earlier version of this post appeared in SMART’s Next Level Collaboration blog.)

As a remote worker, a virtual meeting is part of my daily life. Over the years, I’ve come to notice a few emerging persona that seem to be specific to a virtual meeting.

Engaging when you’re working remotely isn’t always easy, and I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to assuming one of the roles below. I’m guessing we all have… here are the top five personas I’ve encountered:

The Multitasker

  • Calling in is the easy part… paying attention, not so much. The Multitasker is naturally disadvantaged, having a computer right there in front of him/her. How can you not answer that email, IM with a coworker who has a question, or sort through your inbox? Multi-tasking is certainly doable in face-to-face meetings, but it’s oh so much easier to get away with when you participate from afar.
  • Famous Multitasker quote: “I’m sorry, I missed that last part. Do you mind repeating it?”

The Commuter

  • Some people are always on the go. Whether it’s in a coffee shop or at the airport, the Commuter always has lots of background buzz when they call in. They frequently drop from and rejoin calls because they have a spotty network connection, or need to get through security, or any other host of reasons. Commuters are busy folks, so I appreciate when they make the time to call in at all.
  • Famous Commuter quote: “I’m sorry for all the background noise. I’m [insert on a train, at the airport, in a Starbucks, etc.], so I’ll stay on mute.”

The Homemaker

  • These are the lucky folks who get to do laundry and work at the same time. Homemakers are known for dogs barking, kids talking (sometimes screaming) in the background, and of course, the doorbell. When on video, cameo appearances by kids, cats and significant others are often the norm. The oddest Homemaker encounters I’ve had were with a coworker who did all his meetings from the treadmill and another who turned on the vacuum cleaner before muting.
  • Famous Homemaker quote: “I’ll be on mute for just a moment to [insert answer the door, pull the apple pie out of the oven, yell at the kids, etc.]. I’ll be right back.”

The Technically Challenged

  • These are the folks who never seem to know how their mute button works… tapping away like crazy on their keyboards when not muted and chiming in with important comments when they are. The Technically Challenged can rarely sort through the complexities of using a video camera – and screen-sharing… well that’s more than they can handle.
  • Famous Technically Challenged quote: “Can you hear me now?” (Which we actually only hear them say the 30 percent of the time they have the mute button in its proper position.)

The Lurker

  • The Lurker calls in but doesn’t announce himself. In the days of Skype for Business and other online meeting tools, the lurker is a dying role, but for those who stick to audio only, beware. The Lurker listens in, forms an opinion, but rarely weighs in. He may be doing so out of curiosity or to use the information to his advantage – only he can truly know why he joined the call.
  • Famous Lurker quote: […silence…]

By far, my biggest offense is the Multitasker (in fact, much of this post was written while multitasking during a virtual meeting…). But I’ve also been the homemaker, the commuter, and once, I was a total lurker. Wait. Did you hear that? I think it was my doorbell. I’ll be right back.

What other personas can you think of, and which one are you?