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‘’I can’t hear you, you are on mute’’: navigating RDS virtual meetings

‘’I can’t hear you, you are on mute’’: navigating RDS virtual meetings

01 January 2021

Annalisa Casarin, Research adviser and Andrew Sharpe, RDS manager for the Cambridgeshire office, RDS East of England

‘You are muted! will be the phrase of 2020. How many times have we engaged with clients virtually this year and we or they were not aware we or they were muted at entry?

Since the first COVID19 lockdown, as in so many areas of our lives, RDS engagement with researchers has had to adapt. In the past, an initial meeting between advisers and investigators would be face to face but now consultations happen in a virtual space. Complex research ideas are discussed and matched to relevant funding opportunities virtually, an efficient process, but one which is dependent on robust 2-way communication. Virtual meetings may increase the chance of communication breakdown (Virtual Meetings vs Face to Face: Which one to choose?), but until we have the luxury to choose between virtual and online again let us give you some tips on how to make the most of your online meetings.

Plan your agenda

  • Prepare some points of discussion: appropriate research question, funding, design, collaborators, public involvement…
  • Do you have specific questions? E.g. how do I engage the public virtually? what is the panel looking for?
  • Possibly prepare some slides on your idea and where you stand in the research application timeline - take a look at our funding application process document which will help you assertain the stage you are at in the application process.
  • Agree ground rules at the start of the call e.g. mute all, raise hand to interject or ask a question, send a message in chat etc.
  • Allow everyone time to introduce themselves at the start
  • Share links and contacts in a email afterwards to avoid losing time searching for misspelled names
  • If you want to record your meeting, be clear on the purpose for recording the meeting and ask for consent: remember to not share with other parties unless authorised. Make sure you know where the recording will be stored afterwards - some platforms record to the meeting host’s account.


  • Familiarise yourself with the video conference platform being used: zoom/hangouts/teams
  • Offer a test run with individuals before the meeting
  • Ask people to rename themselves if they are appearing as a code
  • Consider if you need to share your entire screen. There are often multiple options to share only some windows
  • Bring a team member so that someone can 'host', while the other can take care of logistical and technical issues
  • Are your camera and microphone functioning properly?
  • Will you use a computer or smartphone? If meeting more than 1 person, a computer is often preferable.
  • Be aware of your environment and avoid possible distractions: even checking your email inbox can make you lose important information

Make good use of online material

As we start 2021 we look forward to continuing to support researchers developing applications for health & social care research in which ever way we can, look out for our national programme of events coming up and remember to contact your local RDS for support.

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