Whether you're meeting with a co-worker on the other side of the world or presenting to a client a few states over, video conferences have grown in popularity over the years as businesses become more mobile and remote. My team is mostly remote, so we use video conferencing often to meet with each other and our clients.
If your business requires regular video calls, here are some tips to help you get started and run an efficient meeting even though the attendees may not be in the room with you.
How to prepare for the meeting
Before you hop on your video call, make sure your microphone and headphones are working properly. You can test your audio and video camera in the settings.
If you're tuning in from a new location, check your Wi-Fi stability and background noise. It's frustrating for all parties if it's hard to hear you or your audio keeps cutting out because the Wi-Fi isn't reliable. Sometimes we can't control these outside factors, but they're still important to consider and acknowledge in the meeting.
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2. Keep it professional.
If you're calling in from your home office or a coffee shop, make sure your background and your clothing (at least from the waist up) are appropriate for the meeting. It can help to pretend that you're going into the office conference room for the meeting, motivating attendees who might work from home to swap out the casual outfit for business attire.
3. Set the agenda.
This goes for all meetings, but it can be easy to just hop on a video call, similar to a phone call, without preparing any talking points or action items. Agendas help you stay on track and avoid meetings running long. Create an agenda in a shareable Google Doc and send it out with the calendar invite ahead of time. Most video conference tools offer a screen-sharing feature so the host can show their screen with the discussion points and notes for everyone to follow along.
4. Limit the invites.
It's natural to want to invite the entire team, but try to limit it to the decision-makers or those closely tied to the project being discussed. It's easy to overinvite and risk wasting people's precious time. If multiple teams are involved, sometimes only inviting one "spokesperson" from each can be helpful and put it on them to pass along any vital information to their crew after the meeting. If there are 10 people on a video conference, think about how much longer that meeting could last than if there were only three.
How to host and participate in video meetings
1. Be on your best behavior.
Treat this video conference like you're walking into the meeting space at your office. Wear something presentable, clean up your desk area and background, and be aware of your facial expressions and eye contact with the camera.
It can be easy to shift your focus over to your second monitor and work on something else when others are talking. Maybe that's acceptable or expected in your line of work, but it can be very rude and distracting to others who are giving this meeting 100 percent of their attention. Remember, you're on camera!
Keep your eyes up and try to look at the camera as often as you can, especially when talking. This helps display confidence and positive body language.
2. Pass the mic.
Dedicating a host (usually the person who schedules the meeting) or project manager to the call can help keep the conversation on track. At my company, we do our best to avoid tangents even if they're beneficial to the discussion. However, having someone to chime in and remind us all of the goals we had for this meeting or the decisions that need to be made in the next 22 minutes is a game-changer.
Within the agenda, write out the topics that need to be discussed, and add names next to each one to appoint that section of the conversation to the person who knows most about it or requested to talk about it. This will allow the host to say, "Thank you, Adam. Lauren, can you tell us more about ..." and move on to the next bullet point.
I like to send out the agenda to attendees about 30 minutes before our meeting so everyone can review it and add anything I might have missed. Putting a name next to topics reminds the attendees who own that part of the conversation. When the floor opens up to discussion, we share our feedback when asked directly by name or take turns, going around in a "circle" as best we can. This discourages everyone from talking at once.
Some video conferencing tools include a chat feature, which offers the ability to chime in with comments without interrupting the speaker and can be a great reference to come back to when it's time to discuss.
3. Take notes.
This one may seem obvious, but a to-do list usually comes out of a meeting. Some video conference tools offer an option to record your meeting, which can be helpful if others weren't able to attend or if you want a backup for the note-taker. Maybe the attendees are all on the move and can't take notes. Either way, taking notes will allow you to assign tasks and follow up on previous meeting notes in your next call.
To sum up, when you hop on your next video conference, remember these tips:
Test your mic and preview your video.
Dedicate a host and set an agenda.
Make room for all attendees to speak, but only invite those who are absolutely needed.
Take notes and send a recap afterward.
Treat this like a meeting at the office.
Whether you're a regular at video conferencing or brand-new to it, I hope these tips set you up for success in your next video conference call.