Everyone is using video conferencing tools, but are they using them effectively? Video conferencing use will be key to keeping communications active and engaging those that are working from home. To get you started, here are our top 20 tips to using video conferencing effectively.
Practice using technology with a friend, colleague or housemate in another room or place before your first online meeting.
Test equipment: Do not wait until a couple of minutes before a meeting to sign on.
On mobile phones: Make sure you have:
- A strong signal
- No interference
On a computer
- Use a wired connection rather than Wi-Fi
- Make sure the computer camera works (or is uncovered)
- Make sure the speakers work
- Make sure the microphone works
Ensure you use a headset or microphone for quality audio.
Check your Lighting:
Ensure the lighting is flattering and not behind you (it will make it hard to see your face) and that the background is clean and tidy.
The best way to achieve this is by having a desk lamp behind your screen. Frame the camera correctly. We have all been on video calls where we end up looking up people’s nostrils or seeing the side of their face. When you are on video, make sure you frame your camera in a way that feels natural and allows you to look at the camera. Sit at eye level to the lens and try to position yourself so that it shows midsection up. Placing it too high leaves other participants staring down at you like a bad tv show. Putting a camera too low can lead to unflattering and awkward angles
For Regular Meetings use the same link
If your online meeting is a regular one, consider using the same meeting link so that it is in calendars (not a unique one for each session). This will save time, and help for your attendees to long-on, ‘on time.’
Send the online meeting agenda with attendees list via your calendar with a link to online meeting and instructions for joining by phone. It is an excellent idea to do this for every meeting.
Have a Holding Image
Create a ‘holding’ slide or image. This could be the agenda, instructions to use the chat function or reminder of video etiquette. This helps to make downtime useful, as people log onto the call.
- If using Zoom, use the Wait room function. As the host, you can see who is joining, and you can let the group know and introduce them accordingly. This will also prevent random people from joining if they have received the link from someone else. (This is also referred to as Zoom bombing.)
Make the Timezone Clear
Ensure the time zone of the meeting is clear and correct. Times zones change, recently daylight AEST change, resulting in a more significant time gap for some part of the country. Ensure your meeting requests adapt for these time shifts. This is also important for regional or global calls, too.
- Be mindful of public, State, or religious holidays when scheduling meetings. You would be surprised how many holidays occur in different places across the region.
Processes and help
- Allow more than one person to Co-Host the meeting so that if the host’s internet drops out, everyone can continue.
- Discuss protocols and get permissions to record or not record the meeting and as people join, remind them if it is being recorded. It is still necessary to send a summary of discussion points and action items even if you record the meeting. Do not expect someone who did not attend to watch a recording for an hour (or however long) to understand what occurred
- As the host, use the Mute everyone function when the meeting starts or ask people to mute themselves and Unmute to speak. This reduces background noise of kids, dogs, doorbells, typing etc.
- Ask for a volunteer to do a short “meeting evaluation” at the end of the meeting on what went well, what did not and what can be improved next time. Alternatively use the vote or whiteboard option and request participants to leave their comments regarding the effectiveness of the meeting.
- Remember that the online meetings need the same etiquette as face to face. Welcome people as they join, introduce them, and include them in conversations. Do a summary of where things are at and keep moving forward.
- Use screen sharing to track the progress of the agenda or documents, use the pointer (highlighted colour) to show people where you are at on the agenda.
- Use chairing and facilitation skills to invite people to speak rather than having awkward situations of people talking over each other or the same people speaking all the time. “I would love to hear from X”. “Now, let’s hear from some people who haven’t yet spoken” … are great ways to invite people to contribute.
- Ensure that someone is appointed to take minutes and/or action items and if possible, document these during the meeting and screen share at the end. Remember it is the chair/facilitators role to ensure that these action items are clear – who, when, etc. not just free-flowing conversations.
Remember to thank people for their contribution through the meeting, keep an eye on the time and keep focused on why the meeting is being held. Ideally, video conference calls and or virtual training should be a maximum of 1 hour, to assist in keeping the attendees engaged. Where possible, schedule 30-minute meetings.
Stop checking emails or working on documents for your next meeting. Research suggests that only 3% of people can multitask effectively, and simply it’s rude to others participating in the call. Model the behaviour that you expect of others on the call.
Choose a quiet location.
It’s easy to forget that there is a mic picking up not only your voice but if you decide to eat/chew something, that sound will come through. If you make a cuppa tea, the sound of your cabinet opening and the dinging of the microwave will be amplified. Wait until the meeting is over. Ambient noises can come through on your computer microphone if it’s not silenced. One of the biggest distractions on conference calls come from unmuted attendees. In an ideal world, you would have a choice of location with reduced noise. For many right now, this is not going to be possible. So, consider placing a note on your computer screen, or note on the closed door, to let others know you are attending or hosting a meeting.
A well-executed video conference is a powerful tool in today’s workplace. By following our best practice tips, you’ll be well on your way to making the most of remote working, and continuing to engage with your stakeholders.