Working from home, for many, has been a dream come true. Gone are the days of waking up before the sun in order to make the long, frustrating commute in heavy traffic, just to do it all again at the end of the day. It is, however, a little harder than most people realize.
Moving from busy office space to working from home often results in a drastic decrease in communication that can make day to day operations challenging at best.
In an effort to help mitigate this issue, here are five tips for your virtual conference calls.
Set some guidelines
Just like how offices have a code of conduct to ensure employees maintain a certain level of professionalism, a shortlist of guidelines that you can forward to any meeting participants ahead of time will do wonders in reducing distractions and delays.
These guidelines can involve anything from outlining the use of certain technology settings, to reminding people of their own specific responsibilities.
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Test everything and use the tools available to you
When communicating online with other people, it is essential that you thoroughly test all the equipment and software that you plan to use well ahead of time. If you have attended a virtual meeting already, chances are that someone in the call has had technical difficulties that have caused delays or distractions during the meeting.
You don’t want to be the one causing these delays, so be sure to test everything from your internet connection, to your camera audio.
While testing your internet connection and camera is pretty straightforward, we recommend that you use an external microphone and a pair of headphones so prevent any background noise or echo being fed back into the call for everyone else to hear.
In addition, be sure to use the modern technology and tools that are available to you and that can help you share information more efficiently, or even just maintain a professional appearance from the comfort of your home. Use zoom background video to function just like a green screen without the physical and screen behind you.
Whether you want to hide sensitive information on the show, or even just keep your private space private, there are hundreds of options to choose from so you can find something for any occasion. Tools like screen sharing and virtual whiteboards are also available and work extremely well as a means to share information or discuss ideas.
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Plan ahead and mediate
Something that is not typically necessary in the face to face meetings and can even seem a little old fashioned are the use of agendas. These are, however, highly recommended for virtual meetings due to their tendency to go off track fairly easily.
An agenda, time-sensitive or otherwise, will help to keep things moving forward and with minimum distractions. This agenda should include at least the reason for the meeting, the topics you wish to discuss, and the overall goal you want to achieve.
You should also consider assigning at least one member of the meeting to be a mediator, in online calls people frequently talk over one another, and whether it is intentional or not, a mediator can prevent this and help to not only keep the peace but also to keep things moving forward at a steady pace.
Keep interaction up
One of the bigger issues that virtual meetings suffer from is the fact that people who would usually pipe up and speak during a face to face meeting, often choose to keep quiet in an online setting either for fear of interrupting or simply because they are not used to the medium.
To prevent any awkward silences or uncharacteristically quiet participants, have one person assigned with the task of keeping up interaction between members. This can even be the same person who will be mediating the meeting, but it is important that they listen to who is talking and ensure that everyone says their piece.
Keep them short
Meetings are boring affairs at the best of times and this problem only becomes more prevalent when you move to the online world.
If you are sitting in an office conference room and you get bored, there isn’t much else to do so you tend to stay focused, however, when you are at home there are plenty of things that can grab your attention and cause you to lose focus and get distracted.
To combat this keep your meetings as short as possible, try to stay under 30 minutes but in the event that you need to go longer, be sure to take plenty of breaks to give members a chance to stay fresh and focused.