Top Tips for Using Video Conferencing
Ray Knox, Orca Management Training
With the lockdown now completing 6 weeks there has been an explosion in the use of Video Conferencing whether that is Zoom, Skype, Go To Meetings, Microsoft Teams and the like.
Like many people I have gone from being a novice in using these to having to attempt to master them (I still have a way to go).
Having now undertaken about 20 of these in the past few weeks ranging from 1:1’s to 20 to a webinar of around 400 people I have noticed a growing etiquette in its use and thought some tips might help those who lack experience in this area.
Before the Video Conference
1 – Purpose and Preparation
Whether you are leading the session or participating consider what is the purpose of the conference. It is everyone’s responsibility to try and make a meeting a success and this is no different with video conferencing.
If it’s a training session consider the design and how to involve your participants as fully as possible. If it’s an information session think how involved your audience will be and how do you ensure they stay focused. If it’s a meeting / problem solving type session think of your protocols for running it effectively and ensure everyone is aware of them. As the organiser think of how long your meeting will be. People I have talked to are finding video conferencing quite tiring so an hour to an hour and a half are probably the optimum duration for a meeting. When you start getting towards two hours people are looking for a break so if it needs to be a long session to achieve the purpose structure appropriate breaks.
As with all meetings whether virtual or in person preparation is the key to the success of any meeting. As a participant you also need to consider your purpose and what you want to get out of any video conference and this will allow you to prepare accordingly. Think of the questions you want answered and any contributions you want to make and prepare accordingly. This should help you to achieve a successful outcome and if everyone does this the meeting overall should be successful.
2 – Test the equipment.
The time to test your equipment (especially if its an application you have not used before) is in good time before the meeting, not two minutes before the start.
- Check you have the correct application
- any links needed are to hand
- your camera is in an appropriate position – nothing worse than seeing just the top of someone’s head
3 – Think of your Environment
As most people have been working from their environment is different to their normal one. I am lucky in having my own office at home as that is my normal working environment but I now have a notice on the door to inform the rest of the household that a video conference is in progress. This prevents unwanted intrusions while you are concentrating on your call.
If you don’t have a dedicated space you may want to get familiar with some of the applications which can be your background when you are on the video conference. You may not want the audience to see your kitchen table, living room or whatever is hanging around.
Make sure you also tell any household members you are on the call and not to be interrupted as this will distract you plus other participants.
Some people are preferring to use headphones either with or without microphones and if your environment is noisy then this can be a good investment.
4 – Appearances Matter
Remember this is a business call so dress appropriately. My clients don’t expect me to be in a suit but they do expect a certain of appropriate dress. I tend to wear polo shirts so I still wear these on my calls. Whatever is the norm for your organisation dress to suit that.
5 – Be prepared
Have all your preparation completed including equipment testing, dressed appropriately and be reading to join the meeting at the appropriate time. Remember this is no different to a physical meeting so ensure you will be ready and available to start on time.
The Video Conference Itself
The chair / organiser of the conference should be on live at least ten minutes before the due time. This will allow for the early arrivals or those just testing out the equipment.
The chair or organiser should be the one to outline the protocols of the meeting and this will differ from meeting to meeting but here are some of the common ones which should become standard practice.
1 – Start on time.
As with physical meetings you should start on time. For all those who have made themselves available to start at the notified time it is disrespectful not to start due to a few late arrivals.
2 – Mute yourself when not speaking
When you are not speaking have yourself muted. While you think your environment is quiet it is amazing how much background noise can be picked up. Most of the applications have a short cut to unmuting yourself, for instance with Zoom when you press the space bar you unmute and then when you release it you are muted again. This should allow the meeting to proceed without too many background distractions.
3 – Pay attention
It is very easy to get distracted when you are joining a video conference remotely so work hard to maintain your focus. Do not have your phone handy as this is something that can easily distract yourself. In a similar vein don’t be tempted to multitask and answer some e-mails while on the video conference as you cannot focus on both. It is acceptable to have a coffee, tea or water to drink do not be tempted to eat on the call unless this has been agreed perhaps as a lunch meeting. You would not sit in a physical meeting being the only one eating and you should not do this on a virtual meeting.
4 – Agree how you will interact
There should be a common agreement on how you get noticed if you wish to share something or add to the discussion. This may be using the tools on the application such as the chat or raise your hand function or it may be a physical sign such as raising your hand. It does not really matter how it is done as long as it is agreed at the start of the meeting. It is much harder to read body language in a virtual meeting so there is a responsibility on everyone to ensure they participate and are allowed to participate.
There was a meeting I was at where to show agreement with what someone was saying you could raise your hands and wiggle your fingers. On researching this it originates from the Green Party for applause who adapted it from American Sign Language. I found the idea slighty daft to be honest but during the meeting it worked well and gave a boost to the speaker. If you want to try it have a go.
5 – Everyone has a role
As with physical meetings everyone has a role whether you are the chair, minute taker, participating or someone supporting the meeting in a technical rule so play your part appropriately to ensure the success of the meeting.
1 – Ensure you shut down your application including your video camera at the end of the meeting. There is nothing worse than thinking you have left the meeting but others can still hear or see what is going on.
2 – Complete your actions
Whether you have agreed to do during the meeting complete these actions as soon as is practical after the meeting concludes.
I hope you find these tips useful and help you to have a successful meeting,