So many things have changed in recent months for people and industries throughout the world because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. One change that may have longer lasting impact than others is how members within organizations stay connected while being apart. Businesses, schools, agencies, churches, etc. have all started implementing video conferencing on a larger scale as a result of stay-at-home orders by governmental authorities. For many companies and institutions, this has been a fundamental shift in procedures that may result in permanent changes to the way meetings and conferences are held moving forward. Twitter, for example, just recently announced that they will allow their employees to work at home “forever” if they so choose after seeing how well the company has performed during the lockdowns.
With the growth in popularity of video conferencing, it becomes more important than ever to understand how to conduct these types of meetings to maximum effect. There are several things to consider both before arranging and while holding meetings to ensure a productive and meaningful use of everybody’s time. The following tips will help you facilitate effective video conferences:
Choose the right video conferencing platform for your needs.
The system you choose should largely depend on the type of organization you run and the sensitivity of the material to be exchanged. For instance, if you are running a large corporation where industry secrets or sensitive stock information will be discussed and transmitted, you may want to invest in heightened security by obtaining the hardware, software, and personnel needed to run closed circuit video conferences.
Small business owners may find such precautions unnecessary and cost prohibitive, so it might be more prudent for them to choose any number of free video conferencing applications that have the features they need (easy accessibility, intuitive functionality, etc.) to successfully conduct online meetings. Do your research beforehand and pick a service that will work for everyone involved. You want to avoid repeatedly switching platforms because that could lead to frustration and confusion among your associates. In fact, it would be wise to include them in the selection process to get their feedback and insights.
Prepare prior to the meeting.
The following is a list of things you should do before hosting a meeting:
- Create an agenda that can be sent to all participants in advance so they can be better prepared with questions or materials when the meeting starts.
- Check your settings and equipment before the meeting begins; ask participants to do the same. (You may want to request that participants join the conference at least a few minutes before the meeting starts to give them time to do this and to make sure all connections are established.)
- Have a backup plan in place in case participants are having a difficult time connecting.
- Make sure that your camera angle is optimally placed to avoid distractions and potentially unflattering views.
- Be sure that the lighting is good (not too dark or blinding) and the backdrop is pleasing.
- Dress appropriately because you never know if you’ll have to stand up during a meeting—don’t attend in underwear.
- Prepare visual aids such as charts, graphs, pictures, or slideshows ahead of time and determine the best way to share them with your audience.
- Invite the correct number of people to be included in the meeting. Too many individuals can be distracting and unwieldy while having fewer people involved can lead to greater participation and collaboration. However, you also want to make sure that everyone who should be privy to what is happening is included.
Conduct the meeting in an orderly manner.
Employing these techniques will help participants get the most out of video conferences:
- Appoint a recognized meeting facilitator—most often the person who called the meeting—to engage all participants, limit extraneous interaction or multitasking among participants, and establish verbal or nonverbal cues for questions or comments if such practices are necessary to maintain order.
- Look directly in the camera while speaking to better engage those watching you.
- When you are not presenting or speaking, mute yourself (and others) to eliminate needless and distracting background noise.
- Stay on schedule, stick to the agenda, and be succinct out of courtesy for others.
- Mind your manners as if you were all in the same room.
- Record the session for those who were unable to attend the video conference.
By thoughtfully selecting the right collaboration tool(s) for your enterprise, carefully preparing in advance for video conferences, and demonstrating proper etiquette during online meetings, you can overcome challenges to communication posed by time, distance, and circumstance to achieve fantastic results for your organization by connecting individuals from afar. The quarantining of populations around the globe has made this form of telecommunication more vital than ever for companies and institutions seeking to carry out their missions, and video conferencing may very well be a lasting legacy of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Consider how your business can take full advantage of this technology both now and in the future.