By Grace Lau
We all hated being in groups at school where no one pulled their weight, right? Where presentations to your peers or a teacher would get let down because either someone wasn’t bothered enough or wanted everything to be done their way?
Well, it seems that we haven’t all learnt from this experience. Far too often secure video conferencing – which is now more so than ever part of our work day schedule – leads to unproductive, uncollaborative meetings or discussions.
The same voices either do or do not take part. The same questions and hurdles are mentioned. And the same solutions are agreed upon (and then immediately forgotten). Already, most of us can see that this is hardly a recipe for forward-thinking or progressive business. And without that, how do you expect to grow?
Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Here are seven top tips to allow for more collaborative, and therefore productive, video conference calls.
1. Have an Agreed Agenda
It may seem obvious in some ways, but you’d be surprised how often this simple solution is overlooked! Having a clear plan before you go into something will help with ensuring that you get out of it what you need to. Outlining points that need to be discussed in advance and having it clearly displayed throughout the meeting can keep everyone on track.
Simply having an agenda that all participants agree on may not be enough by itself, however.
We spoke earlier about the unevenness of group work where some aren’t seen to be pulling their weight. However, this isn’t always down to them not having ideas. Some people prefer to go into something prepared. And if they haven’t been given the chance to do this, they can often get caught out or not be able to produce their best ideas on the fly.
If you have a scenario where this is the case, the best solution to a problem can be missed. If you’re discussing how to scale a business, or how to move to the next stage of progression, why leave the best idea unheard?
Having and distributing an agenda in advance allows you to plug this gap, allowing everyone to bring their best work to a video conference.
This is another point that probably seems very obvious. Having a meeting where everyone is there on time helps to get things moving. For you to maximise the collective talent that exists within the meeting’s participants, it’s crucial. Unfortunately, ignoring this is one of the biggest webinar mistakes people tend to make.
Luckily, video conferencing has already made this point a little more achievable. Now, people don’t have to be on time to a specific place that requires a journey from their home. They can, if they should wish, roll out of bed, turn their computer on, and be present on time. However, new problems like difficulties connecting to the call mean it’s still not a guarantee!
You can ensure punctuality is even more likely by sending reminders out for meetings ahead of time. Not so far ahead of the meeting that someone could forget about it, and not too close that someone is already head down in other work and doesn’t have the chance to get ready for the conference. Sending out reminders between 15-30 mins before the meeting starts is best. Make sure everyone checks their tech regularly too, rather than finding out as the meeting starts that their microphone is broken.
3. Minimise Noise
By this, we don’t mean cutting people off from talking, or ensuring that everyone’s microphone levels are as low as possible.
Instead, we’re talking about the potential for distraction or background noise. Here is a point where in-person meetings have the upper hand over video conferences. With video conferences, you’re relying on as many rooms as there are people to have the same sense of isolation. Even with all precautions taken, it’s impossible to avoid – some people might live near busy roads, and others have noisy neighbours. Should things become too intrusive, you may want to refresh your knowledge of the phonetic alphabet, in order to make sure you aren’t misunderstood.
Some key things to consider are:
- Keep pets and/or children out of the room if possible
- Close windows to keep outside noise to a minimum
- Ensure any fans or heaters aren’t pointed towards the microphone
- Reduce microphone sensitivity
- Mute the microphone when not speaking
Should someone decide not to do these things, requesting they do so as soon as possible allows for the video conference to progress uninterrupted.
At this point, we’ve covered the basic things that you can do as part of preparation for a video conference to ensure that it is as productive, and therefore, collaborative as possible. Now, let’s look at some things you can do during them to avoid any potential blockages to collaboration.
Sometimes, things go a little quiet. In all of the different virtual events you hold, this will happen. Don’t be afraid of this. People, especially those who may not be the most forthcoming, often do their best thinking in silence.
However (and let’s face it, we’ve all been here), sometimes conferences can struggle to keep, or even gain, momentum. If you let this go on for too long, though, you’ll be left with a conference that draws more questions than answers.
Keeping some quick icebreakers or points of discussion in your back pocket for these instances can prove beneficial. If the subject of the meeting doesn’t directly correspond to the “icebreakers” you have, don’t stress.
Sometimes, these tangents can lead people to look at an issue from a different angle, making it easier to come up with solutions.
5. Do It More Often
As with so much in life, practice makes perfect. If you don’t have a library process to fall back on, day-to-day repetition of workplace tasks is the best way to remember how certain things are done.
Building video conferencing increasingly into the operation of your business will naturally help you in making things run more smoothly.
With the people involved becoming more familiar with the process itself, they’ll soon feel more comfortable in both what to expect and what’s expected of them. This makes collaboration more possible as people will relax and open up more, feeling less scared of failure or awkwardness.
Recording a video conference in a manner that people can refer to afterwards can be of real benefit. Storing it in hybrid cloud architecture makes it easily accessible to anyone who may want to use it.
This won’t necessarily improve the content of the collaboration in the conference itself. However, for future conferences – something that, if you follow point 5 will be an increasingly regular occurrence – people can bring any ideas they didn’t think of last time to the next meeting while avoiding repeating things that have previously been resolved.
It also helps people to refer to the content of a meeting when it comes to putting things into practice. If your conference takes a more strategic look at things, this can allow the execution of any solutions arrived at in the conference to manifest in a manner more in line with how they were intended.
7. Assign Roles
When people understand what is expected of them, they’re more likely to want to contribute – and make contributions of real value. Failure to do this can lead to quiet meetings, wasted meetings, or both, and that isn’t good for anyone.
Along with setting an agenda (as we discussed at the start of this article) it is worth ensuring that people are assigned their roles for the meeting itself. This is less to do with roles with a title, and more to do with how, if at all, they should feature in the meeting. Are they going to be talking? Or just listening? Or recording (taking notes) in some way?
By sending this out along with the agenda, people won’t be in a position to argue about whether they feel that they should be fulfilling a different role in the meeting itself.
No matter what your call is about – from planning the next big marketing campaign with your entire team, to a one-on-one ad hoc testing discussion – these tips can help ensure you remain collaborative and productive. And, when this is the case, companies are brilliantly positioned to make progress that could see them etch out an advantage over their competitors.
About the Author
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communications platform for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Here is her LinkedIn.