In a business world that’s dominated by instant messaging and quick-fire emails, it can be easy to forget the importance of face-to-face conversations. But let’s be honest: trying to organize meetings when your teams are usually here, there, and everywhere isn’t always easy. That’s where professional videoconferencing can help. Not only can it bring everyone together, but it’s a technology that actually allows for some genuine, olde-worlde human interaction.
We think everyday is a great day for video, and to celebrate face-to-face meeting in the virtual world, we’ve pulled together some of our top videoconferencing tips.
Fall in love with video
Dialing into a traditional conference call may seem like the easy option since it’s what you’ve always done whenever you need to work with people in various locations. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best. Sure, it might mean you can attend a meeting in your pyjamas (every freelancer’s dream), but the fact remains: audio calls usually feel clunky, hard to manage and just, well, outdated. Instead, virtual meetings offer something timeless – real human interaction. People can talk to one another, not to a device.
It might seem obvious, but facial expressions, body language, and eye contact really do contribute to better engagement. Not least because, in a videoconference, there’s nowhere to hide. That means no multitasking, no distractions, and no zoning out. Just honest conversation.
First, check your setup
Get your meeting planning right from the start. Before anything else, get your meeting invites right; remember timezones! When sending out invites for your meeting remember to select a time that works for your guests on the other side of the world. We have teams and customers all over the world, so it's second nature for us to schedule video meetings for timeslots that work for all, but if you haven't done this regularly, or you're traveling for example, it can be easy to forget to check. And remember to add the dial-in information for your video meeting to the calendar invite.
For the meeting itself, few things send a virtual meeting south faster than lagging video, terrible sound, or intrusive background noises. So before you get started, always remember to:
- Double check your audio levels are good for both input and output. This means having the microphone and speakers selected for your device
- If your speakers are too loud this can give a bad experience for other participants who will probably hear themselves in a horrible feedback and echo
- If you're able to hear the other particpants but they can't hear you it's likely that the wrong microphone is selected for your device
- Take a look at your self-view (your camera feed that the other guests will see). That way you can make sure the other participants can only see the top of your head or only you shoulders
- Watch out for lighting too, especially if you’re calling from somewhere you don’t normally use for video meetings - say your kitchen at home. It’s easy to forget that a light source directly behind you will cause you to be silhouetted for example. Side-lighting will often be the most effective
- Don’t shout! Don’t cover your microphone and make sure you know how to mute your microphone. If you suddenly find yourself surrounded by a lot of background ambient noise (say on the train, or if your kids decide to crash your meeting) no one else has to suffer it as well
Second, get everybody involved
Virtual or not, some meetings are more necessary than boring. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on engaging your team. Even if you’re covering some pretty uninspirational material, try to keep every participant involved.
Video meetings are great for enabling interaction, but sometimes it’s easy to sit and observe rather than actively take part, especially if some guests are not very experienced with videoconferencing. Try and get everyone to speak as early as possible - it’s amazing how many people run meetings on video and forget to allow for proper introductions. You could also try assigning team members rotating tasks, like time-keeping, note-taking or refereeing. By engaging everybody in the meeting, you can build a sense of teamwork – even when your team are scattered halfway across the globe. This should also have the added benefit of keeping your meetings nice and efficient.
Keep the “water cooler” moments
The water cooler is the (metaphorical) hub of any office. It’s a place to exchange niceties, share gossip, and carry out the all important post-meeting debrief. But how do you maintain this social glue holding your office together when your teams is distributed cross country or even continents?
Where appropriate, try fitting in some water cooler moments into your video meetings.Videoconferencing is as much about getting to know people as it is about getting down to business. Some quick social conversation can really help to develop relationships and team spirit. In our office we have a weekly video meeting on Monday mornings for our EMEA sales team, and we always devote 5 quick minutes to sharing our tales from the weekend just gone. It always gets people laughing and helps the meeting, and the week, to kick off with some positive energy.