Conference calls and video hook-ups are second nature to us these days, having gone from an occasional must-do in the work week to an everyday requirement – often numerous times a day. Fortunately, the days when patchy connections, blurry videos and robotic audio plagued conference calls are over. The virtual meeting has received a significant makeover. Although it’s become increasingly easy to enjoy the professional benefits of face-to-face interaction from home through high-quality cameras and reliable platforms such as Zoom and Google Hangouts, even high-quality calls need a little structure to be successful. Here are some tips and tricks to help you facilitate an efficient, productive conference call.
Always do a Test Run There’s nothing worse than checking in and wasting the first ten minutes getting the sound or video right.
Check the Sound, Camera and the Lighting Position yourself where you’re actually going to take the call when you perform your test run. There’s little point checking if your camera works if your face is shrouded in darkness.
Familiarise Yourself with the Features The mute button is everyone’s best friend, saving your team from having to hear your neighbour’s barking dog or your boiling kettle. Also remember: you can always turn your camera off too.
Show Up Get out of your pyjamas and off the couch – this is still a professional meeting, after all.
Eliminate Distraction Would you use your smartphone in a meeting? The same rule applies to your conference call. Additionally, just because you’re using a device during the call, doesn’t mean you should be interacting with it – shut all browsers, including email, and pay attention to your colleagues
Screen-sharing is an important function of conference calls where a presentation element is necessary to get your message across. If you have a series of tables or number crunching that you want your staff to observe in real time, agenda points to be ticked off or a new feature of your website that is best explained by watching someone click through it, screen-sharing allows you to mirror your computer so all participants can see what you’re doing.
Both Zoom and Google Hangouts offer screen sharing and it's easy to access. Simply click on the screen share icon located in the navigation bar at the bottom of the screen for Zoom and, for Google Hangouts, hit the screen share icon hanging out in the navigation bar at the top of the screen.
If you’re leading a conference call amongst a group that is now primarily working from home, remember that water-cooler (or coffee machine) chat has been somewhat derailed, so a casual, off-topic (speedy) check-in with all staff is a good way to ease everyone in. Allow for a few minutes of chatter about unrelated topics to firm up rapport before diving into online meetings. Secondly, agenda points are far more crucial than they might be for an in-office situation, allowing people to follow along if there are any blips in sound or discussion crossover with multiple participants.
Firstly, instruct all members to turn their video capabilities on. Visual involvement increases engagement, in the same way a face-to-face meeting would, giving participants the opportunities to observe body language as well as verbal cues.
But, even with video, people often don’t chime in when they might normally do for fear of interrupting others, which is difficult to discern in a video conference call. Where possible, call on staff directly for their feedback and, if you’ve sent an agenda ahead, note where they might want to add their ideas before calling them into the spotlight while online.
Keep the group small (where possible) to encourage participation; this means you can ask direct questions of your staff without holding up a host of others.
Digitally-based workforces often have staff across multiple time zones. Double check times on time converter sites such as Time and Date before you schedule meetings to ensure you are capturing colleagues at hours within their normal remit. Morning group check-ins are also a productive way to ensure everyone is on the same page and kick-off the workday.
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