After working from home for a month, it may feel like everyone has teleconferencing down pat. But there are some folks who are still getting used to calling in for meetings and aren’t quite sure they’re getting the most out of the digital version.
We’ve put together a few best practices to help you ensure that your digital meetings and teleconferences are worth your while.
Start with the Right Teleconferencing Platform
The first question you probably have is: which teleconferencing service should I use? It depends on your needs. Zoom has become an incredibly popular choice for video conferencing during the COVID-19 quarantine, mostly because it offers a higher quality than other services and has a free version available to anyone (although free accounts are limited to 40-minute meetings). However, the platform has been plagued with privacy issues and hacking problems, and some users may be scared away, especially if they are using the platform for children’s activities or sensitive meetings.
Other video options include:
Each of these has its own pluses and minuses, including differing price points, so it’s important to find a platform that you and your team are the most comfortable using. You’ll also want to make sure it has all the features that you need, such as the ability to record or have a chat section for questions. If your team is new to distance meetings, you should make sure that you take some time to train members — never just assume that a program is user-friendly enough for everyone to figure it out. You may want to go over controls at the start of each meeting, just to make sure everyone is on the same page.
You may find that you don’t really want video options (see more on that below). In that case, your regular telephone options may work just fine. Or you can use call-in platforms that are voice only, such as Free Conference Call, RingCentral, or UberConference, or the voice-only options of the platforms above.
To Video or Not to Video?
Many users are turning to video conferencing because it’s as close to an in-person meeting as possible, allowing for important eye contact and face reading. But is video always necessary?
Some team members may feel more comfortable using a voice-only option, especially if they are facing issues while working from home. Not everyone has a private office where they can do video calls, and children, pets, or spouses may not want to be visible in the background while they call in. Some workers are also facing difficulties with regular hygiene or self-presentation issues, as no one has been able to get a haircut or go to a salon in some time. It can be extremely uncomfortable to have to appear in a visible manner when you don’t feel presentable. Team leaders should take this into consideration and allow team members to choose between voice or video call-in options.
Furthermore, video sucks up a lot of data, and home networks are feeling the crunch. With neighbors or other household members making demands on local networks, many work-from-homers don’t have the WiFi to support a video call. If you find that your video calls are choppy or experiencing lag, turn off the video component.
Talk Less, Listen More
Unlike in-person meetings or even regular phone calls, digital meetings can easily turn into a jumbled mess, thanks to technical problems like lag or audio hookups. The problems only get worse the more people join the call.
In order to have a successful meeting, every member of the call needs to do their best to listen first and then respond. Luckily, there are tools and tips to help you accomplish this:
- Wear a headset with a microphone to reduce background noise and improve your voice quality while improving your ability to hear what’s being said
- Mute your microphone when you are not speaking
- Try to allow longer pauses between turn-taking and wait a full breath before jumping in with your input
- Arrive on time
- Make sure your technology is working beforehand
- Pay attention — it can be easy to get distracted on a video or voice-only teleconference, but pretending you can multitask is just plain rude
- Keep meetings to 30 minutes or less to maximize attention spans and schedule efficiency
The biggest thing you can do to help your team members (and yourself) get the most out of teleconferencing is to be patient and provide tools to teach your team these best practices.
Important Differences for Teleconferencing for School
Many students of all ages are facing distance learning right now, and both students and teachers are having to find new ways to cope. Teleconferencing allows for convenience not only for the teachers but for students as well.
One of the major differences schools face with distance learning is limited face to face interactions. Now more than ever it’s important for students to speak up when they have a question or don’t understand a topic. Most instructors can tell by the look on a student’s face if the material they are teaching is registering or not, but that can be difficult online, especially if the video isn’t enabled. Communication is a skill teachers and students have to utilize while participating in distance learning to ensure their needs are met and they are still getting important information.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind to make sure your distance learning experience is a successful one:
- Dress comfortably to prepare for sitting for long periods of time, but make sure your outfit is something you would also wear to an in-person class.
- Speaking of comfort, choose a chair that won’t give you muscle aches an hour into class.
- Put pets outside if possible, or task someone else in your home with making sure your furry friends won’t interrupt you.
- Confirm with your teacher what the question asking protocol is to help avoid confusion. When in doubt, write down your questions and email them to the teacher after class.
- Keep a snack and water nearby to avoid needing to run to the kitchen.
- Try to have a little extra patience for teachers and other students who are adjusting to the virtual classroom.
Overall, teleconferencing can be a positive experience for everyone, as long as you prepare adequately and are generally polite — just like with face-to-face interactions.
If you need help navigating this online world of digital technology with a group or team, schedule a free consultation with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Our team has been working in a remote environment since 2013 and is eager to help you find the best solution that fits your situation.