The ability to share your screen is an incredibly helpful advancement in collaboration technology. No longer do you have to try to describe things verbally or direct people to the same page of an emailed document. Screen sharing can help add clarity, avoid confusion and make for more productive real-time collaboration. But if you’re not careful, screen sharing can also get you in trouble in a hurry.
Most of us aren’t used to having our screens visible to others. That means most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what should NOT show up on our screens during a screen share. The same snarky message that might elicit a chuckle when you’re working alone at your desk could get you fired if you’re sharing your screen.
So we’ve assembled five tried-and-true tips to help you avoid embarrassing yourself during a screen share. They’re small things that not everyone thinks about, but they’re things that go a long way to avoiding embarrassing moments so you can focus on having a great meeting and not on trying to dig yourself out of a hole with your boss.
1. Close email
For starters, close your email. Notifications can be distracting at best and devastating at worst. Imagine a confidential notice from HR popping up telling you that you have to lay off one of your meeting attendees. Or imagine screen sharing with a prospective client when another client’s pricing quote comes through. Even if your meeting attendees only see the subject line and excerpt like you do with Microsoft Outlook, it can be enough to trigger serious consequences. So go ahead and close your email until you’re done screen sharing. It’ll still be there when your meeting is over, and you don’t need anything distracting you from your task at hand.
2. Set status and close other chats
Ever had a coworker make a snarky comment on chat like “Can you believe what Kim said in that meeting?” or “If I have to hear Joe clear his throat again, I’m going to lose it?” Those innocuous messages can be job killers if they show up during a screen share. Even if Kim or Joe aren’t on your presentation, there’s a good chance someone who knows them is.
If you use chat or collaboration tools where you can set your presence or status, set it to something like “away” so people will know not to message you while you’re screen sharing. To be extra safe, close out of other chat tools altogether. We know many employees use multiple tools—often using different ones for company, team and personal communications.
3. Set an appropriate desktop background
We’ve all seen 18-wheelers with sexy ladies on the mud flaps. Some people have the same philosophy about their computer wallpapers. If you’re doing a professional screen share, that’s the opposite of what you want to do. Choose a safe desktop wallpaper that’s unlikely to offend attendees. Sexy ladies and homicidal robots are out. But nature landscapes, skylines and images of outer space are pretty safe bets.
You can also consider your screen share as an opportunity for branding. See if your company has some branded computer wallpapers, or if they’ll create some new ones. It’s a great way to reinforce your brand and ensure you aren’t bombing presentations because people are too distracted by your background.
4. Clean up your desktop
When company is coming over to your house, you usually try to tidy up a bit and put things away. You should do the same with your desktop when you know people are “coming over” for a screen share. While there’s usually a method to the madness of even the messiest-looking desktop, the simple fact is that having files everywhere can reflect badly on you and make you look disorganized.
A quick clean up doesn’t have to mean a mad organization push, either. You can always dump everything into a single folder marked something smart – like “big ideas” – and bring your files back out onto your desktop after you’re done with your collaboration session.
5. Know your software
Nothing kills people’s attention and engagement in a collaboration session like a presenter fumbling through unfamiliar controls. Make sure you know which software and/or hardware you’re going to use and try it out ahead of time if you’re not intimately familiar with it. You can go through a dry run with a coworker to ensure features work as expected. Even if you are familiar with it, a quick refresher may be good if you haven’t used the collaboration tool in question for a while. Many collaboration tools are updated frequently and features may change and move over time.
Have any tips of your own?