A video conference call, while not the same as a face-to-face meeting, has the same purpose: to bring people together with an agenda in common and with a view to sharing information, be that a formal client meeting or a casual chat with your friends.
“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” Paul J. Meyer
Or, as Bob Hoskins said in the BT adverts of the 1990’s “It’s good to talk”
A video call will let you see the other people, making it a more immersive experience. We get so much from watching the body language of others that you just don’t get on a phone call alone. And, these days, a video call can be done on a PC, a tablet or a smartphone, meaning you can join a call from pretty much anywhere and with very little kit.
Video conference systems are often sound-activated, so when you are the person speaking you are shown as the main screen. All other participants will be in a gallery which you can scroll through. Note: As it’s sound activated it will think you are speaking if there is noise from your line so don’t tap your pen on the desk and try to stop the dog barking. It’s wise to put yourself on mute when not talking, just don’t forget to unmute you line again when you want to speak.
Also, remember, even when you are only listening you can be seen so don’t pull a funny face when the boss is talking or pick your nose!
Make use of additional features:
Messaging or chat can be useful, for a greeting to open the call, a general message to everyone, to pose a question for the audience or to ask them to make comments or give feedback. If there are a lot of people on the call, it can be a great place for participants to comment while the speaker is presenting, which can then be read back into the call when there is a suitable gap. You should also be able to save the comments which might be a useful form of research, for instance.
Recording the call can be a great option if some team members aren’t able to join. They can listen later and won’t miss out. Also, record can be used to demonstrate a system or process, which can be replayed later. In fact, you could simply use a video conferencing tool to record a message, with no attendees, which can be shared for them to view at their leisure.
Sharing screens means that others can see what you can see. You can present using a slide-pack or as a team, you can work on a document together. Usually, there is the ability to let others make changes to the document on your screen, effectively, taking control of your pen.
Whiteboards are often a tool used in physical meeting rooms. Many conferencing systems also let you use a virtual whiteboard to draw your ideas on the screen so everyone on the call can see, then you can save this masterpiece to your computer.
Polling is a great way to engage your participants, so they aren’t just listening to you. It is also a good way to ask questions or to take a vote. You often have the function to pose a question with answers to choose from, which means that you can find out what experience your audience has or what interest they might have in your products/services.
Breakout rooms can be used in a similar way to a normal training room. You will be able to split your participants into separate virtual rooms so that they can work together in smaller groups before being brought back into the main room again.
It is possible to have hundreds of people on video conference calls but the more there are the better it is to have some structure. For example, if you are delivering a seminar-style call you probably only want a few speakers and all other lines on mute. With an informal chat among friends or colleagues, there is probably no need for a speaker, everyone can take their turn.
You can use integration features which will make it easier for you to schedule video conferencing calls from your calendar and to share and save documents in storage systems such as OneDrive, Dropbox and Box.
Things to consider
As with face to face meetings, there is some etiquette to follow, depending on the call type:
- Have an agenda to make sure you cover what you need to, share it before the call to help others to prepare
- Make sure the key people can attend and start the meeting with introductions so that you know all the microphones are working
- Chair meetings, calling on participants in turn. They can of course also raise a virtual hand or post a chat message to show they want to speak
- Capture actions so you can follow-up on tasks
- Let everyone contribute people may be reluctant to speak up just as in a physical meeting room
- Announce if phones and email etc. should be switched off
- Use slides or the whiteboard as you would in a physical meeting
- Be prompt to start and end the call and if it’s going to be a long call, allow time for breaks
You may want to check out my blog on how to Make your meeting a success https://3dva.co.uk/blogs/meetings/
Tips for virtual meetings
Unlike face to face meetings, Video conference calls can often be set-up more quickly and with people in many different locations. There are a few things to consider, to help get the most from your video call.
You should plan to be somewhere quiet – shut the door, mute your phone, lock the kids up. Try to make sure you have a good internet connection to avoid screen freeze. Shut down non-necessary tabs and consider plugging in rather than using wifi to improve your signal. The system should prioritise the audio but if you are struggling you may benefit from turning off your camera. Test your video and audio functions – a headset might improve the audio and won’t disturb the rest of the house
Think about your image on camera – try to position yourself in the centre, with your camera slightly higher, not pointing up the nose or giving you triple chins from looking down. Think about what you are wearing and the impression you want to make, if you decide not to wear trousers don’t stand up and show the world your underwear!
Think about your background on camera – front-lit is best, with no window behind. Some systems will let you use an image as a virtual background or make the background blurry
Be ready – get a drink, pen and paper, open anything you may want to share, be prompt – join the call on time, or perhaps a little early, especially if you haven’t used the system before and relax – once you have joined the call, taking part is not much different to a face-to-face meeting.
It’s important to make sure that your call is secure. To prevent just anyone from joining your call:
- Don’t just post the meeting link publicly, on social media or similar.
- Set pre-registration, which means that participants have to give their name and email address before they are sent the link to join the call
- Set a Password to stop random people joining with the link
- Use settings to prevent people from joining before the host and Waiting room so the host has to allow entry
- Keep an eye on the participants joining so that you know who is there, some tools let you play a sound when joining or leaving
- Beware of sharing your Personal link, anytime access means people will be able to join anytime
- Comply with GDPR Personal data best practices, let them know if you will be recording the call, for what purpose, and make sure it is only used for that reason
- Likewise, screenshots of people and personal data must comply with GDPR guidance
Some options to try
To host a video conferencing call, you will need an account – many are free, though some functionality will only be available on paid-for licences.
Skype – https://www.skype.com/en/
Adobe Connect – https://www.adobe.com
Go To Meeting – https://www.gotomeeting.com/en-gb
Click Meeting – https://clickmeeting.com
Microsoft Teams – https://teams.microsoft.com
So next time you are hosting or attending a video conferencing meeting set it up for success at the start. The other attendees will thank you for it.
If you need help creating a meeting agenda or minutes template, get in touch.