Phoenix PR Firm Offers Best Practices For Virtual Meetings
The pandemic accelerated many aspects of the digital age, including videoconferencing. Unfortunately, many companies have lost clients due to simple mistakes. Jobs have been lost in the process.
In a survey of U.S. executives at large companies, 83 percent of respondents have seen employees disciplined for mistakes made during a teleconference call. Bad etiquette includes joining a call late, having a bad Internet connection, accidentally sharing sensitive information and not muting their microphone. According to the survey, 25 percent of companies have fired someone for a videoconferencing error.
Furthermore, executives only trust 66 percent of their staff to properly navigate the technology necessary to make remote work successful. And 32 percent of those executives have lost a client or business opportunity because of technology or connection issues, while another 41 percent have missed a project deadline.
With these complications in mind, let’s review several details to consider before making a professional, productive conference call. First, determine if a simple phone call will suffice. If you don’t need video, keep it simple. Just make a simple phone call. Teleconferencing takes time to set up, join and manage. Participants usually must give up personal data and download apps to have accounts. So, if you don’t need bells and whistles, just say no. When that isn’t an option, keep the following suggestions in mind.
Zoom, Skype, Slack, Hangouts, Microsoft Teams: Group size is one of the key factors. As you evaluate your needs, think about factors such as screen share, meeting recording, cloud storing, a whiteboard, file sharing, joining via phone call, and more. Zoom Meetings’ free plan allows you to start video calls with up to 100 participants. Zoom’s free plan is great, but the 100 participants and 40-minute limitations might limit your capacity. Those who need more can opt for a paid monthly subscription. Paying for an upgrade can allow up to 1,000 participants. With Zoom, the host fee covers your users.
The free consumer version of Skype limits you to 100 participants, but paying for a Microsoft Teams plan can expand your capacity to host up to 300 of your associates. Skype introduced Meet Now, which doesn’t require users to sign up to the service or download the app for video calls. The business version of Skype comes with Microsoft Teams.
Most platforms generate a unique link that you can share with your guests. With Zoom and Skype, for example, you can invite anyone—even if they don’t have Zoom or Skype accounts. Once in the call, users can enjoy the full set of features both services have to offer. Both Zoom and Skype are compatible with Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and your browser.
Zoom and Skype are both popular, but Zoom is the more complete solution for business users and work-related purposes. If Zoom’s few extra features over Skype don’t matter to you, then the real difference is pricing. Zoom’s basic subscription is $14.99, but the free version is very capable. If your team has access to Microsoft Office and Microsoft Teams, give it a try. It’s gaining in popularity. Other videoconferencing providers include:
Bandwidth: Skype recommends a 1.5Mbps (up and down) connection for high definition calls, while Zoom recommends 3.8Mbps up and 3Mbps down at its highest settings. For a one-on-one high-definition videoconference, Zoom recommends an upload and download bandwidth of 1.2 megabits per second, while Full HD (1080p) conferencing requires 1.8Mbps. A gallery view meeting requires slightly more. Microsoft Teams requirements are similar. Most home setups will suffice. Visit speedtest.net to check your bandwidth.
The main difference is that Zoom doesn’t activate 1080p resolutions by default. Instead, you need to upgrade the settings manually, and the team must activate HD or higher resolutions on their computers. Otherwise, you will use 720p video, which is fine for most needs.
Webcam & Microphone: Set up in a quiet room. While your computer probably has a webcam built-in, you can take your production to a new level with an external webcam and an external microphone. Most upgrades are available under $200. Before the call, close all nonessential open programs and stop downloads and backups to conserve processing power and bandwidth. Mute the microphone after you speak, and try not to talk over people. Consider using a headset for maximum quality. Unless you’re speaking, mute your microphone.
Distracting Background and Poor Light: A messy background is distracting. Always check to make sure that your background is clean and tidy, and there’s nothing in view you wouldn’t want your grandparents to see. Don’t get caught with a messy house, or worse, a not suitable for work object in the background. Give your space a once-over before joining a call, especially if it’s not a spot you typically Zoom from. To show less of your background, sit closer to a wall.
Don’t sit in front of a bright window or a bright background. It will distort the camera and you will be in silhouette. Unless you want the anonymous look, make sure that you are properly lit so that you look professional.
Consider using a professional backdrop or a virtual background. With Zoom, for example, you can select a virtual image or video and set it as your background. The feature works best if you have a green screen behind you to help the camera define and distinguish your head and upper body. To set up your virtual background:
- Click the gear icon under your profile image;
- Click on Backgrounds & Filters;
- Select the Virtual Background option; and
- Select an image/video or upload your own.
Distracting Motions and Clothes: This is where your media training pays dividends. Sit still. Don’t do anything or wear anything that will distract from what you are saying.
Look Into The Camera: There’s no reason to see yourself on the screen, other than for checking to make sure that your background is presentable. After that quick check, it’s time to turn on “hide self-view.” With this option enabled, everyone else can see you, but you don’t have to stare at yourself during the call.
Don’t look at the screen when you’re talking. Look at the camera so that it appears that you are looking the viewers directly in the eye.
Looking at the people on the screen when you’re speaking makes it appear to them as if you’re looking at something else. You can look at the screen periodically to gauge reactions and check for comments and questions, but for the majority of the time you should look directly into the camera. A helpful trick is to put a picture of someone you care about on the wall behind your camera. Look at that picture as you’re speaking.
Test: Schedule a test call with a colleague or friend (Zoom and Microsoft Teams offer this function). A test will identify audio and video issues.
Security: Moderators should require meeting passwords, review attendees, enable waiting rooms so no one can join before the host and use the lock function so latecomers can’t join. Don’t share meeting links on social media.
Gallery View: Zoom’s default video layout is called “Active Speaker.” It shows the person speaking in the primary window, while the rest of the participants are listed above. We recommend changing the layout to “Gallery View” so that you can see all participants on the page at the same time (49 participants per page). To set up gallery view:
- Enter a meeting;
- Select the View button in the top-right corner for the screen;
- Select Gallery View; and
- Click the arrow on the left/right side to move between pages if there are more than 49 participants in a meeting.
Agenda: Be sure to run an efficient meeting. Distribute your agenda in advance and stick to it.
Keep Slides To A Minimum: If you can send out slides in advance, it might save you time and headaches during your meeting. If not, show as few as possible. It’s easy enough to tune out of a videoconference to check on a dog, cat or child. Don’t make it easier for your audience to tune you out.
Follow Up: Be sure to follow up on key agenda items by phone, email or collaboration platforms. More than 80 percent of respondents say that associates are not following up as effectively as they do to personal meetings. Working remotely means working harder on communication and coordination.