video conferencing software in use

As businesses in the UK react to the effects of coronavirus, many employees are being advised to work from home to practise social distancing whilst maintaining normal business operations. In order to conduct effective remote meetings, more staff are turning to video conferencing, but this solution can present communication challenges for users who are unfamiliar with teleconference technology.

In previous insights we identified what is a conference call?, now we share our top video conferencing tips and best practices for how team leaders and their employees can effectively transition meetings from the office to a remote working environment.

 

Planning the video conference call

Choose a convenient date and time

If possible, avoid planning your call first thing in the morning when staff are catching up on emails and setting themselves up for the day, around lunch time or late in the afternoon when the attention span of participants may be on the decline. To find the most appropriate date and time for conducting the meeting, it is useful to check participants schedules, if you have access to their outlook calendar for example. You can also find conferencing solutions which feature calendar integration, allowing attendees to automatically add the event to their work calendar.

Prepare an agenda

To ensure all the attendees are well prepared, it is a good idea to distribute a detailed agenda prior to the teleconference. An agenda will also help to ensure the meeting remains structured.

Invite attendees

When emailing invitees, it is important to include the exact date and time of the meeting, as well as the link to the teleconference itself. This will vary depending on the conference call provider you are using; you may also need to provide invitees with an entry pin code to access the meeting. Don’t forget to attach the pre-prepared agenda as mentioned above.

 

Preparation before video conferencing

Think about your location

To ensure the conference call is kept professional when working remotely, take some time to think about your location when hosting or participating in a conference call. A quiet location is essential, as background noise can distract other attendees on the call.

Test your equipment

For those unfamiliar with teleconference technology or using a new solution for the first time, it is important to take the time to test your equipment before the start of the call to ensure you avoid running into technical problems. Most conferencing software will have a built-in call diagnostic test to make it easy to test your call before your conference begins. This  test checks your microphone, audio playback, audio input, connection speed, and video to make sure your systems and equipment are properly connected and ready for use during your conference call.

Arrive on time

If you are hosting the teleconference, it is important that you log in to the conference call early to manage any issues as they arise. You can utilise this time to open any files or presentations you may need and share your screen with participants if required. If necessary, you can also prompt participants to mute their microphones as they join the meeting so as not to distract focus from the host. In applications like Zoom you can use the Mute all and/or the Mute on Entry option to help prevent disruption when someone joins the meeting. In other applications, like Google+ Hangouts, if users are experiencing feedback they can mute audio from another participant themselves, rather than relying on the host moderating the call.

Have someone taking minutes

A dedicated person should participate during the conference call to take detailed notes of the meeting. Depending on the software being used, you may be able to record the call as an alternative. There are a number of online tools you can use if you specifically plan on recording your video conference, however it is worth exploring the built-in functionality of the popular software you may already be using such as Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams.

 

During the conference call

Introduce yourself

If you are hosting the meeting, it is important to set out from the beginning of the call that you will be leading on the meeting. Unless the call is simply a daily call between team members, it is good practice to introduce yourself and encourage the other attendees to do the same, as this gives all participants a clear idea of who they are talking to.

Set expectations

When transitioning meetings from the office to a remote working environment, it is likely there may be unintended interruptions with participants working from home. Ensure to set expectations with attendees, that whilst some interruptions may be unavoidable when working from home, it is helpful to recommend attendees to avoid multitasking as this can be distracting to others on the call. It is also important to encourage people to voice their opinion and participate in discussions, allowing quieter participants to have their say.

Follow the agenda

The call can easily get taken over with team members catching up or engaging in discussions around weekend plans, but try and stick to the agenda where possible to ensure you accomplish the goal of the call. Following the agenda will also help to ensure that everyone on the call remains focused and engaged.

Keep an eye on the time

One of the most important components for an efficient conference call is time management, so it’s important to keep an eye on the time to ensure you don’t overrun. The longer the call, the less efficient it becomes and the less engaged participants are likely to be.

 

At the end of the call

Summarise the call and set new goals

End the meeting with a brief summary of the main topics covered and decisions made, whilst clearly stating the next steps and any further actions which need to be completed.

Thank everyone for attending

When transitioning from the office to a remote working environment, it’s more important than ever to maintain team morale. Reinforce positive communication by thanking everyone for attending the meeting and for their contribution.

Ask for Feedback

To evaluate the efficiency of the meeting, it’s a good idea to ask the attendees for feedback about the conference call. Take onboard any constructive feedback and if the meeting was a success, consider regular conference calls to ensure successful business communication.

 

Following the above tips and best practice guidance throughout the planning, delivery and evaluation of a video conference call should help to ensure the effective use of this valuable collaboration tool. For further top tips when working remotely, read the latest insight from our CEO, Mark Scott on how to optimise your working hours at home.