Requirements for Excellence in Video Conferencing

video_conferenceGetting your video conference off the ground and turning it into a productive session is not just about your equipment and your software, but how you conduct the meeting. Meeting participation, especially across multiple locations, takes coordination, effort, and organization. But with following just a few tips and working with your staff, videoconferencing can become a positive and productive experience for everyone involved.

Videoconferencing 101

Videoconferencing is the business version of video calls or video chats that occur under more informal circumstances on apps like Skype. However, with videoconferencing, multiple users can hold face-to-face meetings and engage with their coworkers beyond the voice over the phone, or the text line on instant messengers. This technology also saves the costs associated with business travel, and the nonmonetary cost of having some of your top people out of the office while their other work piles up. Investopedia touts the many uses of videoconferencing in situations from interviewing geographically distant job candidates, to holding routine meetings with office staff and out of office staff, and other tasks.

Getting to “Go”

As videoconferencing technology becomes more widely available via cloud platform apps such as Blue Jeans, room-based meeting platforms while still viable are becoming obsolete. Tablets and laptops, or even smartphones, can be used in the process of initiating a videoconference. The key factors to running a successful videoconference are little different than running a larger meeting. As you get ready to choose and deploy a videoconferencing system Gigaom research have some factors that need to be kept in mind.

  • Anyone should be able to start a meeting from any device. Providers like Blue Jeans SG offer a cross-platform service that can allow this. Your meeting software should work much like a collaborative invite on Google documents, with the participants able to click on a link and join the meeting. An automatic reconnection function should be an absolute, nonnegotiable requirement so that when a connection is lost, you do not also lose the participant.
  • High-quality video and fidelity audio are crucial to being able to see and understand the other participants in the meeting. The videoconferencing application should also allow participants to interact with the presented content without needing to access another outside application.
  • Participants should also be able to access recording of the meeting from their regular workstation or even their tablet, in order to replay certain points or even take post meeting notes. The application will need security measures such as encryption, a protected space for documents, and for recorded meetings.
  • Remember that not all of your potential participants will be using the same technology. Companies utilize different vendors for their videoconferencing systems, so yours should have the potential to interoperate with theirs.

Tips for Meeting Success

Everyone has “Bad Meeting” horror stories. When you throw in videoconferencing you also need to take environmental factors into account. You will need to have location with good lighting so that the participants can see each other, and also one where minimal noises will distract from the speakers. If possible smaller meetings are better, keeping the participants to around 10 allows everyone to speak and also the opportunity to be heard. One of the drawbacks of meetings that last for many hours is meeting fatigue, where the participants have been so overloaded that they’re not really engaged. Creating and distributing a small checklist of behaviors will often help people unfamiliar with teleconferencing or videoconferencing with the etiquette of participation.

  • Meeting preparation is critical. Meeting hosts should arrive before the conference starts to test the system, check lighting, and do an audio check.
  • When speaking, according to tips on videoconferencing from Northwestern University, participants should use a normal tone of voice, and speak directly into their microphone.
  • Looking at the camera will give participants at other sites the perception that you are looking directly at them. For some, looking directly into a camera can be an uncomfortable experience. Encourage your staff to practice engaging with the camera and speaking.
  • When participants begin to speak, they should identify themselves by name, location, and department. For example, “This is Linda in Los Angeles, with the sales department.”
  • When not speaking, participants should either mute their microphones, or minimize side conversations and paper rustling so as not to drown out or distract from other speakers.

Change for the Better

While implementing any new technology can be extremely stressful, videoconferencing can actually help reduce the stress on your staff and help them to be more productive and satisfied with their jobs. In a study commissioned by Verizon, 73 percent of busy professionals noted that spending time on business travel away from their families was a primary source of stress. Conversely 92 percent strongly valued meetings and felt that successful meetings contributed to their job satisfaction. By implementing a videoconferencing system, companies now have the chance to combine the best of both worlds.