Love them or loathe them, the global COVID-19 outbreak has cemented conference calls as a critical part of doing business in 2020.
However, as you may have experienced yourself, the traditional business meeting has too often been completely inefficient – no agenda, too long, too many attendees and effectively a waste of time for all involved.
Read on for our top tips on how to have a successful video conference and lay down good habits to make meetings more efficient, more enjoyable and more valuable for your business.
1. Have an agenda
An agenda is a must for any meeting for many reasons. They help attendees to prepare properly plus they keep the meeting organised and efficient. This helps to ensure that you achieve whatever it is you need to get out of the meeting.
Even the most basic agenda can be highly effective. Use the following steps to create your agenda:
1. What needs to be discussed?
2. How much time will be needed?
3. Create an online of meeting agenda
4. Share with meetings attendees 24 hours in advance
5. Send a summary of the call to attendees post-meeting
2. Be prepared
Closely aligned with having an agenda is to be prepared. Demonstrating that you’ve prepared shows professionalism and respect for other people’s time.
Whether you’re the meeting host or an attendee, conference calls can provide you with the opportunity to be better prepared than ever.
Make notes in advance of what it is you want to get out of the meeting and what you want to get across.
Keep any emails, websites or documents you might want to reference open on your computer.
For nervous speakers, a conference call could even be easier to manage than a face-to-face meeting, allowing a bit more space and privacy to keep highly detailed notes at hand, giving you a bit more confidence.
You wouldn’t stand up a client in a face-to-face meeting and the same should apply for conference calls. If you are invited to a conference call, be sure to respond Yes or No on whether you can attend. If you’ve ever been held up on a conference call, giving someone ”a few more minutes” to show up (or not) then you’ll know just how frustrating it can be for everyone else in attendance.
4. Be punctual
Just as important, if you are attending, be on time! A late arrival doesn’t make “just a few more minutes” any less annoying for the group. If you are going to be late, let the host know and they can excuse you and get the meeting underway. When joining the meeting late, don’t expect the group to recap everything you missed, but rather follow up with a colleague later on.
5. Use video as much as possible
Video on, or video off, that is the question.
The answer is generally, on.
Seeing faces, expressions and body language enhances the experience of a conference call. It makes the art of communication easier for all parties. If you’re listening to someone, you will be able to use physical queues and expressions to signal agreement or other feedback. If you’re the speaker, receiving these physical feedback queues makes presenting a much more comfortable experience. The less your mind is wondering whether you’re speaking to an empty chair, the better you can concentrate on communicating your key message.
6. Dress casual but appropriately
If the camera is on, that means you need to be aware of what you’re wearing. Your best guide is to simply follow your company’s culture. Suitable attire might vary, depending on who you’re talking to. If you’re making an important pitch to a potential new client, you might decide to play it safe and smarten up your attire compared to what you’d feel comfortable wearing on an internal team check-in.
During this period, where the entire world is working in unusual circumstances, it’s fair to assume that most people will be understanding and forgiving about these things – as long as you can make it out of your pyjamas!
7. Take the nitty gritty offline
You’ve probably witnessed meeting hijacking before, where a two people in a 12-person meeting stumble upon a topic that means a great deal to them, but not as much to the majority of other people there. It’s important to recognise when this happens and nip it in the bud. Recognise that the topic is an important one and suggest taking it offline for discussion at a later point.
1. Test equipment
There are a host of different conference call providers out there. You and your company might have already settled on your go-to channel, but when communicating with someone outside of your company, they may request to use an alternative. Be sure to test it out before the call. Many conference tools have a test call service that you can use, or you can set up a dry run with your colleagues. To be extra sure that everything is running smoothly, you can test the chat features, test how to screen share and even record the call to check sound quality.
2. Close out of other apps
A quality video call uses its fair share of CPU power. You can ease the burden and safeguard the quality of your video call by closing out of other apps. If you hear your computer’s fan whirring excessively, take that as a queue to close out of any windows or programs you don’t need. Which leads nicely to our next point…
3. Close tabs so it’s safe to share your screen
Saving your computer power is one thing, but aside from that it’s good practice to close out of other apps and windows for other reasons too. You may be called on to share your screen and with multiple tabs open it’s conceivable that you end up sharing private, sensitive or god forbid, embarrassing information!
4. Master the mute button
If there’s one thing you can do to improve the call experience for everyone involved, it’s probably this. Background noise can ruin a conference call for all participants. Simply muting yourself when you’re not talking makes a massive difference to the sound quality. Plus, it allows you to move and shift around or flick through your notes without worrying about disturbing the speaker.
Just as important. Don’t forget to unmute yourself when it’s your time to talk!
5. Use a headset and mic instead of computer’s built in mic
Sticking with the topic of sound quality, using a headset and mic can greatly improve the clarity of your voice over a conference call compared to just relying on your computer’s built in mic. They’re also less sensitive to picking up background noises like typing, allowing you to talk and type simultaneously without any sound quality issues.
6. Check your download and upload speeds
If you’re suffering with poor quality video calls, consider the following:
- Is one person breaking up on you and everyone else? Then the problem is their connection.
- Is everyone breaking up on you? Then the problem is likely your connection.
If that’s the case and you need a quick fix to improve your connection, try these tips:
- Use a wired ethernet connection if possible, instead of Wi-Fi
- If you have to use Wi-Fi, try to move closer to the router
- Turn your video off
- If possible, try avoid heavy broadband usage at the same time as other users in the house
- Dial in with your phone
When it comes to broadband speeds, for a good quality video call, you’ll need to have 1.5Mbps upload and download speeds at the very minimum. This should be fine for a 1-1 call.
If however, you’re on a call with more than two participants and use features such as gallery view, you’ll need at least 2Mbps. If you’re using HD video and audio, that’ll increase again to 4Mbps.
You can check your upload and download speeds with an online broadband speed test. Try it!
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