Video Conferencing – How to Maximize the Effectiveness of Online Meetings

Video conference vs. Phone conference

Phone conferences were the go-to-solution for the longest time when connecting with geographically distributed colleagues and business partners. Video conferences offer the additional benefit of face-to-face interaction. Actually seeing your teammates adds the personal factor to the conversation and helps improve the communication because we don’t lack the essential communication factor of body language and mimics. The close to face-to-face situation makes it even more important to stay focused on the conference. Don’t let incoming e-mails and colleagues passing by your office or booth distract you. It is helpful to go to a dedicated meeting room and conduct the web meeting there. With an online conference, even small distractions can make you look inattentive which might have a negative effect on the team dynamic.

Get the technology right

We all have experienced meetings in which technology turned out to be a problem and it has a tendency to cause frustration and nervousness. The same accounts for online meetings. You can make things easier for yourself if you have a plan B ready and enough time before the start of the conference to test your systems. Here are a few things worth considering:

  • Connect early. If there are issues, you want to know about them before the conference officially starts. Especially when using a web conferencing system you will want to set up everything 10 to 15 minutes prior to the meeting. This gives you enough time to troubleshoot, if necessary.
  • Have alternative connection infos available. Most web conferencing tools allow you to use audio over your computer or over the phone. Have the information at hand you need to connect both ways. If people don’t hear what you are saying, they won’t be able to contribute and the conference is of no benefit to either party.
  • Ensure a steady internet connection. The internet connection often times will be the bottleneck. In order to avoid technical problems related to connectivity and upload speed, don’t try to run other uploads or downloads at the same time.

Use the right equipment

Most laptops today have a built-in camera that usually work just great for private Skype calls. For business conferences and online team meetings you will want to go with the better quality external cameras. Such cameras have the additional benefit of a remote control zoom that allows you to adjust the framing without reaching for the camera and leaving the image. Make sure you have enough light in the room.

Using a good headset is the best option to ensure great audio quality. If you can’t use one, make sure that the room is quiet.

“Work the camera”

It takes some time to get comfortable looking at a camera lens and pretending you speak to a real person. Practicing camera skills will help you relax keep your confidence. Apart from focusing on the camera rather than the screen, make slow gestures and keep a smile on your face while you’re speaking. If conference participants at a different location speak, look at the screen, so that you can see their body language and facial expressions. Keep in mind that even if you are alone in a room, the camera is on at all times and everybody on the conference will be able to see and hear you.

Follow up with an email

Try to create a recap of the online meeting and send out an email that summarizes what decisions were made, who committed to what and include clarifying comments where needed. This helps prevent misunderstandings and establishes binding responsibilities. It also creates a record that will be useful during the project recap and reporting.