News / 17.06.20
The business benefits from video conferencing have been around for quite some time:
The perceived investment required in equipment and a dedicated space, may have put many off. Getting used to a new technology and method of meeting, will have put people off too.
- Reducing the need to travel, saving time and expenses
- Increasing the number of potential meetings in a day
"There's nothing like a face to face meeting in person". That's true, but what if an in-person meeting is just not possible?
With the advent of COVID 19, the need to utilise remote working tools like video conferencing has become paramount to business continuity. It is face to face, so becomes the next best thing. Putting a face to a name (yours) will instill a sense of trustworthiness and legitimacy. Face to face meetings are also way more successful, as a sales tool, than emails
No matter what technology you adopt, here are our top tips from getting the most out of video conferencing while you're working from home.
Using a smartphone, iPad/equivalent or a laptop, the chances are that they will have a camera, microphone and speaker/s already built in. A PC might not.
Whatever you choose to use, a good quality webcam, microphone/speaker will make a big difference to you and those you are meeting with. Using a laptop microphone may limit your volume and will mean that everyone can hear you typing on your keyboard.
Headphones can also be used if you don’t want anyone to overhear your meeting, or you need to minimise background noise.
- Make sure everything is powered or fully charged
- If you are using a phone, don’t try to hold it, mount it on a steady surface
There a number of ways to go, such as; Zoom, Google Hangouts, UberConference, TrueConf Online, Skype, FreeConference, Slack Video Calls etc.
We have been using Zoom which is a desktop and mobile App. It is very easy to use, free for 1 to 1 and up to 100 attendees, with a limit of 40 minutes per session if there are more than two of you on the call. Screens can also be shared (presentations, spreadsheets, pictures etc.) and recordings made.
Being familiar with Zoom in particular, is rather useful when that’s probably what your children are using to stay in touch with their teachers and classmates.
Most homes now have an internet connection with adequate speed. Ideally you will want a high-speed connection. The main thing to consider whilst at home, is bandwidth. Minimise the number of devices that are connected to the internet and avoid any streaming whilst you are trying to have a video meeting. A hard-wired ethernet connection to your router is a more reliable/stable solution than using WiFi. A poor/unreliable connection will result in distracting notifications on your screen, missing audio, frozen video and possible loss of connection.
Booking the meeting
- Invite people via a calendar, give a good description , remind them what type of meeting it is, and include a link to the meeting itself
- Don't forget to include a benefit/value in the meeting description. That way you will minimise the risk of last minute cancellations. Giving a meeting description 'a catch up', or 'an update', may have no perceived value
- Considder having a short video introduction to yourself linked from your email signature
- It is worth allowing 5 minutes of settling in time at the beginning of your agenda. Then everyone has time to join, test their video and audio, introduce themselves and get settled before the meeting itself starts
- Ask attendees to report absence or possible late arrival in advance rather than keep everyone waiting
- Having a facilitator/chairperson is good for any meeting
- Agree beforehand a way to signal that you would like to speak
- Have a back-up plan to communicate should the video call fail
- What can be seen by your camera should be appropriate and tidy
- Your background should not have any distractions, such as moving objects
- Avoid sitting in front of a window, which will make it hard to see you
- If you cannot change your background easily, consider using a virtual background (if available) generated by the conferencing software you are using
- A virtual background will not only allow you to change your background, it will allow you to show images or videos behind/beside you. It will also help focus your image. To achieve this, you will need a chroma key (green) screen or cloth behind you. The green background must be larger than the cameras field of view, and ideally erected in front of a wall. A wide-angle camera might be great for a group, but will require a wider green background
- Your face should be well lit (best using 3 natural, soft, light sources; 2 either side behind your camera and one behind you). Small webcam lights are also available. Ceiling lights are not the best because it will make shadows under your eyes. Your background should be well lit
- If this is a business meeting with a client, consider having your company logo as a backdrop
Avoiding possible interruptions/distractions
- Shut your door
- Family & children, ask them not to interrupt you
- Pets, shut them away from you
- The door-bell, ask someone else to answer it during your call
- Your phone ringing, silence it
- Notifications from your phone, iPad or laptop, turn them off
- What is behind your camera? Anything to distract you?
- Ensure the camera is level with your face, ideally just above eye level. Looking up your nose is both unflattering and distracting
- Don’t get too close to the camera. Zooming in on your face might be unflattering and distracting for others
- Sitting too far away will make it hard for people to see, and hear you
- Look prepared and wear appropriate clothing. Not just the top half, because you may need to stand up
- Try to avoid patterned or striped clothing that will ‘shimmer’ and distract others, due to the slight delay in image processing
- Try to avoid wearing bright colours that will cause the camera to auto-adjust the brightness and then make it hard to see your face
- If you are going to attend frequent video meetings, and you wear glasses, consider getting non-reflective lenses
- Clear your desk of unnecessary paperwork, files etc.
- If you need to refer to notes, to avoid looking down, have them propped up next to your screen
- If you would like to take notes, rather than looking down to write and risk not giving your full attention, have your pad propped up next to the screen, or consider recording the meeting. Your software may also provide a transcript. Do advise people if you plan to record the meeting
- If you need to share your screen information, to avoid distractions and possibly sharing personal or sensitive information; make sure all other applications and tabs are closed, and all notifications are off. Use F11 to go to fullscreen, removing other tabs etc.
- Take a comfort break before the meeting starts
- Have a drink handy
- Ensure you will be on time
- If you are nervous, don’t worry, they won’t know. Unless, of course, you start chewing your lip
Showing a presentation?
- Avoid transitions and video. They won't look great if the internet connection isn't 100%
- Keep text to a minimum
- Consider recording yourself and play it back to see how you look and come across
- Close down any unnecessary applications on your device
- Test your system works and check for the above
- Have your login details ready
- Turn your video on, even if they don't. The odds are, after a few minutes, they will turn theirs on too
- Everyone introducing themselves is a good way to check that you can all see and hear each other
- Look at the camera. It will help others feel that you are engaged and present. It will help if you position the image of the other person/people at the top of your screen, just below the camera
- Act natural. Use your phone to record yourself to practice your style and to help you be more natural
- Sit normally & still. Avoid fidgeting
- Pay attention. Do not check your emails, look at your phone etc.
- Wait for the other person/people to finish speaking before you start. Keep in mind there will be a slight delay, so they might not be finished talking yet
- If you are in a group meeting, state your name before speaking
- When you want to speak, use an agreed signal, make sure your microphone is not muted, then speak in a normal tone and clearly
- Mute your microphone when you are not speaking. This will help avoid any distractions and you becoming the central image, interrupting someone else who was talking
- Don’t shuffle papers near your microphone
- If you are sharing your screen, use the F11 key to go to full screen, removing distracting tabs. Give people time to read what is being displayed and don’t distract them by jumping around with your mouse
- Using the whitebaord facility will be far better with a touchscreen
- If you do need to get up and move about during the meeting, it’s a good idea to switch off your video to avoid causing distractions
- Avoid distracting habits; clicking your pen, tapping your desk etc.
- Don’t eat during the meeting
- Remember to smile
- Don’t forget people can see and hear you all the time!
Keep in mind that video may not always be the best solution. Audio, or even an email, might well suffice.
Whilst audio is the next best thing, you cannot see their reactions/body language, nor can you easily hold their full attention. It can also be a hit and miss affair trying to catch people. It is far more personable than email, and it is also a good way to get a quick understanding/decision.
There are lots of perceived benefits to emails:
- Quick and easy
- Can be sent anytime
- Sent from anywhere
- Paperless, unless printed
- There is a record
- Documents and links can be sent too
- Easy to share
- Easy to prioritise
- Access from anywhere
There are also lots of potential disadvantages and risks:
- They lack any form of personal touch
- Cannot establish any real rapport/connection
- Can get missed
- Easy to ignore
- Can go to spam
- Easy to say no via email
- Can be misunderstood
- Risk going back and forth to get a decision
- Expectation of an instant response
- Too easy to copy the wrong people
- Hit send and regret it
- Get skimmed (not read properly)
- Good writing skills are required, or...
As a selling tool, they are, quite simply, a cop-out.