Telecommuting has become commonplace for workers across almost all industries especially due to Covid-19. Most people have adapted to the situation, but as with anything, it comes with challenges.
Working from home requires you to manage your time wisely, which is not always easy when you need to hop on multiple video meetings throughout the day as well. Dealing with frequent remote meetings is one of the biggest complaints from teleworkers. Which is understandable!
In the following article, we give some helpful tips on how to better manage your video meetings going forward.. So you can be confident AND productive.
1. Test Your Video Conferencing Technology
Thanks to modern technology, you typically don’t need any special hardware for video conferencing. Laptops, smartphones, and tablets include cameras and microphones. You can also get headsets with mics for better audio or for adding audio to a desktop computer.
No matter what type of technology, you need to test your setup to ensure that everything works. Most teleconferencing tools include a test option for checking the video and audio. The test option is often found in the settings menu.
If you are using our feature, Talkroute Meetings: you can test your video by clicking the drop-down next to Start Video and select ‘Video Options’. Here you can make sure the correct camera is selected and test that the video is working.
Echoes and poor audio quality are some of the most common problems during video meetings. You can typically solve these issues by wearing a pair of earbuds or a headset. Isolating the audio from the microphone helps prevent echoes and makes it easier to hear others.
2. Check the Speed of Your Internet Connection
Zoom, Skype, and Talkroute Meetings all recommend that you have at least 8 Mbps of download speed per person in a household using video streaming. You can test your internet speed using an online tool.
Even the slowest cable internet plans offer speeds of about 25 Mbps. However, if you have multiple people in your household streaming video at the same time, you may notice connectivity issues.
DSL Internet users are more likely to experience connectivity problems and lag during virtual meetings. The average speed of a DSL connection is 6 Mbps. If you currently have a cheap DSL plan, consider upgrading to a higher speed or switching to cable or fiber internet.
3. Prepare Your Workstation for Having Video Meetings
Before letting others see your home workspace, clean it up! Maintaining a clean workstation obviously creates a more professional image. Remove all clutter and choose a spot or camera angle that does not include distracting backgrounds.
Along with cleaning up your work area, check the lighting. Your co-workers may struggle to see you if the light is too dim. If possible, choose a room that receives plenty of natural light.
Natural light helps improve the clarity of the video. Standard incandescent lights can add an orange/red hue. If the room lacks sunlight, use lights that produce a soft cool light. Lights with a color temperature of 5000K or higher make images crisper and easier to see.
4. Check the Position of Your Video Camera
Participants typically direct cameras at their faces during virtual meetings. Check the position of the camera and the quality of the video stream before connecting to a virtual meeting.
The camera should be at or just above eye level. Positioning the camera too low is often unflattering, as it highlights your chin and nostrils. If the camera is too high, you may constantly find yourself looking up. Definitely don’t make the rookie mistake of pointing your camera too low..and in turn show off the striking pajama pants you are still wearing at 2pm.
If you have a laptop, the camera is already likely in the right spot. For those with desktop computers, you may need to place the camera directly on top of your monitor. If you use a tablet or smartphone, consider buying a small desktop tripod or holder to keep the camera at the right height.
5. Close Programs and Unused Websites
Keeping too many programs open on your computer, laptop, or mobile device may hurt the performance of your video calls. You may experience lag or suffer a software crash, and that’s not a good look.
Close all programs that are not essential or related to the topics of the teleconference, especially music or video software. Leaving audio streaming software running may interfere with the video stream.
Along with closing unused computer programs, close all unused websites in your browser. Many teleworkers have dealt with the embarrassment of co-workers noticing an inappropriate website tab open in their browsers. If a webpage is not needed for the virtual meeting, close it.
6. Understand Video Conferencing Etiquette
Avoiding embarrassing situations also requires you to understand some of the basics of teleconferencing etiquette. Here are a few rules of etiquette to follow during your next virtual meeting:
Actively listen when others are speaking instead of staring off into space or checking your email. Treat the meeting the same as you would an in-person meeting. Pay attention to other participants and keep your eyes focused on the screen. Quite simply, show your colleagues the same respect you expect yourself.
You should also dress appropriately. Wearing pajamas may not impress your co-workers and supervisors. Business casual is typically acceptable. Just make sure that you do not forget to put on your pants. (see previous comment, you’d be shocked how many people forget this!)
Muting yourself when you are not talking is also a common practice when on a video call. Staying muted keeps you from broadcasting unnecessary background noise. Wait until you are ready to speak before unmuting yourself.
Business meetings also deserve your full attention. If possible, set up your camera in a room with privacy. Kids, pets, and other distractions may disrupt the meetings. Your co-workers are unlikely to tolerate frequent distractions..but you shouldn’t be not mentally present, anyways.
7. Plan Virtual Meetings in Advance
Always plan your virtual meetings so you can save them in your calendar. Take the time to consider the following details before you arrange a video conference:
You should first set an overall objective for the meeting. If the meeting does not have a clear objective, it could likely be handled through email or text messages to save everyone time.
Break the objective down into separate talking points. This makes it easier to keep the meeting on track. After outlining the meeting, assign tasks to workers. For example, you may need someone to take notes or update records.
Keeping meetings short ‘n’ sweet is usually the best way to go. Long meetings take time away from other tasks and decrease employee engagement. Some experts believe that meetings should be kept to 30 minutes or less.
If you are not responsible for planning the meeting, you should still prepare beforehand. Gather any necessary documents or materials that you may need to review or share during the meeting.
8. Avoid Using a Smartphone or Tablet
Smartphones and tablets should only be used when a laptop or desktop computer is not an option. For example, a worker who works from multiple remote locations may have to use a mobile device. Everyone else should use a laptop or a desktop for more efficient virtual meetings.
Even high-end smartphones and tablets struggle with multi-tasking. If you need to access documents or websites during the meeting, you may waste too much time switching between apps on your phone or tablet.
Using a desktop or laptop also allows you to use a wired ethernet connection instead of Wi-Fi. A wired connection should provide greater stability compared to Wi-Fi, decreasing the risk of dropped video calls.
9. Turn Off Notifications on Your Computer
If you use desktop notifications on your computer, turn them off. The notifications may be distracting and interfere with the video conferencing tools.
On Windows 10, you can disable all notifications at once. Click on “Notifications & Actions” in the Settings window. Toggle the on/off switch under “Get notifications from apps and other senders” to the off position. This stops all apps from sending notifications to your screen.
On macOS, go to “System Preferences” under the Apple menu. Click on “Notifications”. Under the preferences section, you should see a list of apps. Deselect the “Allow Notifications” option next to each app.
10. Separate Large Groups into Smaller Pods
Zoom and Talkroute Meetings allow you to add up to 100 people to a single video call. However, having too many people at a meeting can be distracting and make it difficult for everyone to share their input. But it’s nice to have the option for more if you need it.
Try to keep the sizes of meetings down to a manageable number. For example, you could divide a large group into several smaller groups, each led by a different supervisor. The meetings could also be scheduled back-to-back if a supervisor or manager needs to attend all meetings.
11. Always Attend Video Meetings on Time
NO ONE wants to wait for others to arrive for a meeting. Make sure that you open your video conferencing tools and prepare for the meeting so you can join on time. Don’t be that annoying late person, that’s the worst.
If you are responsible for holding the meeting, start the meeting by recognizing each attendee. Let people know that they see them, which also gives stragglers a minute or two to join.
12. Upgrade Your Video and Audio Equipment
If you aren’t happy with the quality of your video and audio during a virtual meeting, upgrade your equipment. As mentioned, using a headset helps isolate audio, which makes everything much easier to hear.
When buying equipment, avoid Bluetooth headsets and headphones. A wired connection eliminates the risk of a dropped connection, which could leave you without audio while you try to figure out what went wrong.
You can also upgrade the video camera. Even if your laptop or computer monitor has a built-in camera, you can attach an external camera. Look for full 1080p HD cameras. Due to advancements in technology, full HD cameras are now relatively cheap, which means that there is no excuse for SD video.
13. Keep Your Laptop Plugged in
If you attend a virtual meeting using a laptop, keep it plugged in. A long video call can easily drain your battery super fast.
For those who need to attend a meeting in a spot without access to an electrical plug, consider getting a portable charger. You can find chargers powerful enough to charge a standard laptop battery once or twice before it requires recharging.
14. Create a Backup Plan for Virtual Meetings
Always have a backup plan in case your technology fails. For example, you can install video conferencing software on your phone or tablet.
While smartphones and tablets should be avoided, they can work as a backup if your computer or laptop shuts down. Instead of attempting to fix the problem during the meeting, you can quickly sign in on your mobile device to avoid disrupting the meeting.
15. Determine Whether a Virtual Meeting Is Necessary
The last tip for holding better video meetings is to decide whether the meeting is actually necessary in the first place. You don’t need to hold an actual meeting to discuss every small detail. Holding too many meetings can decrease productivity and totally stress out your workforce.
First, decide whether you have thought through the situation you plan on discussing at the meeting. If you have spent time strategically thinking about a situation and require input, you may want to hold a meeting.
Next, decide whether the input you need requires real-time conservation. If you need to discuss a complex situation with many variables, a meeting makes sense. However, if you simply need a yes or no response, you can likely send an email.
Choosing a Video Meeting Provider
Every team is different and every business has its own needs. Make sure that you’re clear with prospective providers on what communications elements are important to you. Is video vital to your operation? Is audio your focus? How many participants do you plan on having a call at one time? For example, a meeting provider like Talkroute supports up to 100 internal and external meeting participants.
Another important consideration is the size of your company and whether or not you plan to scale. Choosing a robust system that can grow with your business will give you peace of mind. No one wants to be worrying about counting licenses to software when your company is in an exciting expansion phase. You should never feel inhibited by the technology that is meant to help you grow.
Find a provider, like Talkroute, that is known for its ease of use, quality design and strong customer support. As with any tech issues, virtual meeting services will take some setup and getting used to. Make sure that you pick a provider that’s committed to you using their service successfully.
Get More Out of Your Meetings
Video meetings are likely to remain a part of office culture. The pandemic forced more people to start working from home, which is a trend that is unlikely to go away.
Using the tips discussed should help you get more out of your meetings. Remember to take the time to set up your video and audio devices correctly, this is key. Choose a brightly lit room or use bulbs that produce a soft cool light. The camera should be about eye level.
Before the meeting starts, close all unnecessary apps and websites. You should also shut the door and turn off external sources of noise, such as the TV or radio. In the end, video meetings deserve the same level of professionalism as office meetings. Treat each meeting with respect and avoid making any video conferencing etiquette mistakes. Simple, but really will make your meetings work even better. Now go and put these tips to use!
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.