5 Issues You Should Do To Unlock Staff Videoconferencing Potential
The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked an unprecedented change in the use of video conferencing and remote collaboration technology.
Millions of employees suddenly work from home all day, using Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom, and others to keep in touch and stay productive. For many, this is their first encounter with these platforms and some of them may be poorly equipped. Your productivity suffers.
With that in mind, consider the following best practices to maximize your – and that of your colleagues – ability to get the most out of video conferencing tools during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond:
1. Prepare your room
Do not put your laptop in a random location. Your home is visible to everyone and you don’t want colleagues, customers or prospects to be distracted by piles of laundry or dirty dishes. Choose a location with a plain background. Other things to consider are:
- Lighting. Look for natural light, possibly from windows or skylights, but avoid using a window as a background as this will turn you into silhouette. Add a small desk lamp to fill in any shadows.
- Avoid the shot from the nose. Use a laptop stand or books to position your webcam at eye level. Add an external keyboard and mouse for better ergonomics.
2. Optimize your home network
Under the stress of all-day video calls and home children using high bandwidth services like Netflix and online gaming, services can become nervous, unreliable. Avoid flameouts during the meeting by customizing your home network as follows:
- Check your modem and router. Try a power-on reset, then go into Settings and make sure you follow your ISP’s recommendations. If the performance is still not up to standard, it may be time to replace it. Some ISPs include these devices in their monthly service contract: upgrade if you are eligible.
- Move your wireless router. Small changes in location can have a huge impact on wireless device performance. Avoid large metallic devices like refrigerators. Switch from the 2.4 GHz band to 5 GHz to minimize interference from microwave ovens. Do not place equipment near aquariums, hot tubs, and pools. Also, consider moving them to a central location on the ground floor. Install extenders as needed or replace them entirely with network-based systems.
- Update your plan. Old Internet service plans can stumble under the load of newer, high-bandwidth services. If you’ve had the same unchanged internet plan for your home for years, it’s time to upgrade – but you won’t get it unless you ask for it. Check your speed using services like speedtest.net to make sure you are getting what you pay for.
3. Give yourself plenty of time
Don’t just show up at the scheduled meeting time. Take enough time beforehand for:
- Install and configure any required apps, tools, and / or plug-ins. Make sure you are familiar with how it works.
- Test your webcam by practicing taking photos of yourself in the specific app used for the meeting. Adjust the frame, camera angle, and lighting.
- Test your microphone to make sure you can be heard. Use a special headset with a built-in microphone as built-in laptop speakers and microphones are terrible. Wired is always better than wireless – nothing to set up and no batteries running out during a meeting.
- Make a test call with a friend or colleague to make sure everything works as expected.
4. Take care of your manners
Once the meeting has started, keep a close eye on how you connect with the technology and with others to ensure a smooth experience for everyone.
- Never leave your microphone open for the duration of the meeting. Learn how to mute and unmute your microphone in advance. Then leave it muted by default so your coworkers don’t have to listen as you chew on the last of Doritos.
- Similarly, you will learn how to turn the camera on and off before your toddler decides to dive into your keyboard in front of your co-workers.
- Find the other tools too. Many collaboration platforms include screen sharing, markup, and other sophisticated collaboration tools. Take the time to familiarize yourself with them.
- Check the app settings. Downgrading from 4K to 1080 or 720 can reduce the ultimate video quality, but it also decreases the amount of data that is transmitted over the network – which can greatly improve the experience.
- If you are the conference leader, use video sparingly. Not every meeting needs a video at all. Audio-only meetings can make better use of the available bandwidth, giving everyone a break so they have to look bright and happy first thing in the morning!
- Pay attention. Make eye contact with the camera while you speak. Use facial expressions, body language, and hand gestures to bring your point home.
- Watch out for audio restrictions. Most video conferencing platforms do not support full duplex audio, so only one person can speak reliably at a time. So imagine using a walkie-talkie and actively calling by name while hosting who’s going to speak next.
5. Continue to follow standard meeting best practices
Technology or no technology, the basic rules of professionalism still apply.
- Define and adhere to start and end times. Don’t show up at the appointed time. Connect a few minutes early and start working when the watch reaches the original start time.
- Address people by name Because a pandemic often means we meet people we have never met before.
- Share an agenda in advance, Ideally, by including it on the meeting invitation or by asking the host to do so.
- Follow up with notes / summaries and action items Keeping people busy and moving forward.
- Don’t lose your sense of humor. A little kindness can go a long way in keeping people focused during these challenging times. Don’t miss the opportunity to practice it within the limits of your sanity.
Long after the current pandemic went down in history, the technological insights gained will continue to benefit increasingly video conferencing-savvy remote workers. Take the time now to learn the ins and outs of VC and improve the productivity of your and your teams during this chaotic time in history.