Even Parliament is now utilising video conferencing tools in order to continue debate and hold the Government to account during the coronavirus pandemic. This heavy dependence on online conferencing requires a considered approach to ensure efficient and effective communication, and to continue to achieve the required output in our work. That’s why we’ve put together some tips to make your online conference calls as painless and productive as possible.
Pick the tool that works
You’re probably further down the line than this, but it is the first step. Choosing the online conferencing tool that meets your needs is very important. There are many options – Microsoft Teams, WebEx, Google Meet, Zoom, GoToMeeting, to name but a few.
The key to selecting the right one for you is to assess and establish your requirements and look at what each of the options delivers. For example, if you want a tool that will allow your team to collaborate as well as communicate, you will want to choose one of the more sophisticated applications.
Pro-tip: Security is very important here, especially if you are collaborating in real-time over the internet or discussing sensitive issues. Zoom, for example, has been in the news during the lockdown, not just for its dramatic increase in users, but also for its security issues. So, whilst Zoom has many great uses, depending on the sensitivity of your meetings, you may want to consider another option.
Microsoft Office 365 users: We strongly recommend using Microsoft Teams, which is included in the suite at no additional cost and comes with all the standard security features offered by Microsoft. You can read more of our advice on Teams, including the various ways to arrange a meeting here.
To maximise the security of your meetings, whatever tool you are using, consider the login credentials you have created. Passwords are the most crucial line of defence for online conferencing accounts. Ensuring your passwords adhere to the latest best practice advice will make your account significantly more secure – and that goes for every account you have. You can find a range of advice from us on creating appropriate passwords and on using password vaults here.
Plan your meeting
This may sound a bit obvious, and it applies to most meetings you have in-person, never mind over conference calls. However, the reason agendas and generally planning out meetings is more important now, is because we are having to have far more of them than we ever have before.
Where we would usually simply turn around and speak to them in the office, many of us are having to schedule meetings to communicate with a colleague – this adds a new form of disruption to the working day. You may also be needing more meetings with your clients than normal too, as you navigate the pandemic and maintain communication through lockdown.
So, to ensure your team can be productive in their working day, making your meetings efficient will have a significant impact.
Tips for running your online meetings
- Provide step-by-step instructions: Get everyone on the same ‘technical page’ by ensuring that everyone has the software set up properly and knows how to use it.
- Have a moderator: When you go virtual, people become much quieter, and pauses – that feel natural in a room full of people – feel excruciating in the digital world. Make sure there is a moderator to keep the conversation moving and on topic.
- Don’t be afraid to have a little fun: A little music at the beginning, something funny in the background, a table tent “On break – back in five minutes” in front of the camera when you’re taking a break.
- Rethink your presentation: The same presentation performs differently when delivered virtually. People tend to have a shorter attention span and there are more distractions. Think about the presentation in shorter segments, try to bring in interviews, video rolls and interactive elements to maintain engagement.
- Watch the video “How to Run a Virtual Meeting”:
Testing… testing… 1, 2, 3…
It really pays to test your setup before you conduct meetings, especially if you’re going to be meeting with clients. The way in which your conferencing provision works for your clients reflects heavily on your perceived professionalism and facilities.
When testing your conferencing tools, you want to establish the quality of audio, the quality of video, your ability to contact internal and external email addresses, and the connection.
Most conferencing software will allow you to record a snapshot of what your conferencing feed will look and sound like in a call, allowing you to assess the audio and your video framing.
When reviewing your short recording, you need to ensure the audio is clearly audible – both loud enough to be heard and not too loud that it is distorting. On the video front, you want to make sure that the lighting makes you clearly visible, that nothing in the frame is something you don’t want to be seen – yes, it does happen – and that you are placed well within the frame.
And lastly – clear up communication… with the mute button
That’s right, the mute button isn’t just there to throw you off at the start of the meeting when no one can hear you! In fact, having the mute button on at the beginning of the call is good etiquette and helps you to be aware of when you do and don’t want to be heard.
The mute button is most handy on larger conference calls when the combined background noise of many people’s living rooms can really make it hard to hear.
In some conferencing tools, the host of the meeting can mute and unmute other users – this kind of moderation is very useful for controlling background noise.
Pro-tip: If you’re using a laptop and you’re typing, hit mute on your microphone, chances are you won’t be aware just how loud it is.
For an even more light-hearted take on video conferencing etiquette, see below: