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Video conferencing - top tips to make things run smoothly

Video conferencing - top tips to make things run smoothly

Video calls shouldn’t be any more stressful than the average business meeting. Yet many people find them hard work. So why is this?

The primary reason stems from the two-dimensional screen that you and your normally 3D fellow participants have now been reduced to dealing with. This makes it harder to pick up the normal cues that signal conversational handoffs. So there’s a lot of interruptions going on, and that’s awkward and tiring too.

Tips for engaging video calls

Raise your hand
A simple technique is to first discuss and then implement the device of hand raising. Taking turns is a largely unconscious part of conversing and can help with the awkward interactions on video, ensuring that everyone  can participate.

Provide an agenda
You should always provide an agenda, especially if the meeting is going to last more than 10 minutes - and stick to it. With a meeting agenda, individuals can plan their contributions which also helps to balance out participation levels.

Use the right camera
In order to get the best experience out of your video conference, try to find a meeting camera with a wider angle lens, high-quality video and audio.

Check your audio and video
You should begin with an audiovisual equipment check-in around the participants to establish local issues that might affect the call, questions of timing, and so on.

Implement 'Health Checks' to evaluate emotional wellbeing
These are particularly helpful for remote managers to evaluate how their team is doing when facial expressions and body language may not give away the full picture. 

Elect a facilitator 
Provide a referee and coach for video conferencing, to ensure that all participants feel heard. The facilitator can also help you summarize points, compare people's points of view, note actions to be taken, ensuring that the agenda is followed. 

Rotate duties
Give your team members the opportunity to be in a leadership position. Provide them guidelines for how to run the meeting, like preparing an agenda ahead of time, and asking the team for meeting items. This is a great way to shake things up on the call and keep your team engaged. It can also be a huge confidence builder and allow your team to feel that they are truly valued.

Use icebreakers
It's important for your team to get to know one another before diving into complex work. One of the easiest ways to build relationships is by finding interests to bond over.

Hold brainstorming sessions
A great way to get your team engaged is to get the wheels mvoing early with a great brainstorming session. Each person contributes a solution to a complicated problem.

Use contests
Even though your team may be apart, you can still get the competitive fire burning with some compelling competitions. By offering a prize you are incentivizing your team members to participate and getting them excited about it.

Leave time for personal chat
Leave the last few minutes of your team meeting for non-work related talk to help with remote team building. This is a nice way to wind down after an intense meeting.

Optimize the backdrop
Make sure there are no distractions in the background that could draw the person's attention away from what you are saying. Try to find a space with a blank backdrop, solid coloured wall, or part of your home without too much going on behind you.

Good lighting
Everyone wants to look good on camera. Proper ambient lighting is key when presenting yourself in front of others. Lighting should highlight your face, especially that million-dollar deal closing smile. If you have an important video conference call coming up, choose a simple, solid coloured top that will be visible on camera.

The way we work is changing. With offices around the globe, remote employees and work-from-home policies, it can be increasingly difficult to maintain solid collaboration. Misinterpretation or missed thoughts can cause confusion among teams. Thankfully the advances in conferencing are helping to resolve these issues.

Best practices for video conferencing

Prior to a meeting:

  • When using equipment or locations not regularly used, test your meeting connections in advance.
  • When possible, establish online video conferencing connections several minutes before the meeting start time.
  • Create a backup communication plan in case you have trouble connecting with remote participants. This can include asking onsite participants to connect to the meeting through their laptops, using a mobile or speakerphone, and/or collaborating through an online collaboration tool (e.g. Google Docs).

During a meeting:

  • Have all participants share their video and audio. 
    • Ensure all participants can see and hear all others as appropriate.
    • Ensure conference room microphones are distributed appropriately to pick up all speakers.
    • Ensure location lighting does not limit a participant’s visibility (e.g. avoid backlighting from windows or lamps).
  • Have participants mute their microphones if their location has excessive background noise or they will not be speaking.
  • Have a meeting facilitator - this is often, but not always, the person who called the meeting. The facilitator is responsible for:
    • Providing an agenda to participants. Ahead of the meeting is nice, but at least prior to the start of the meeting. This would  include an overview of topics to be covered and planned outcome
    • Establishing the visual or verbal cues, such as raising a hand, to indicate when someone wants to actively contribute verbally to the meeting
    • Engaging participants at all locations to ensure discussion understanding, and alignment
    • Limiting 'side conversations' and multitasking or ensuring all participants are made aware of the topics for discussion
  • Make sure all participants have access to materials (PowerPoint slides etc.) by sharing all content, using interactive online tools (e.g. Google Docs) whenever possible.

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