The ability to have meetings no matter where your employees are is transformative for an organization. Here’s how to get the most out of videoconferencing.
Where would managers of remote teams be without videoconferencing?
Unlike email or instant messaging applications, which most managers use whether their teams are in the office or not, videoconferencing is the primary tool for remote managers to affect change in their teams.
If they are using it correctly, that is.
Think about it. Managers, by definition, are connectors of people. They help make teams function and then help that team function with other teams. And when face-to-face interaction isn’t an option, videoconferencing really is the only tool for making the manager’s purpose a reality. What could take dozens of emails or just as many IM messages can be done in less than 30 minutes on a video call… if you’re doing it right.
Best Videoconferencing Tips
Just like any other tool, there are ways to get the most out of videoconferencing that can help the experience go from an uneven experience to an integral part of your team’s success. Over the past few months of increased remote work, you may have figured out some of these for yourself through trial and error.
- Turn your camera on: A videoconference without cameras is just a phone call. Avoid the Charlie’s Angels feeling in meetings of just being a faceless boss by going on camera. The goal is connection. And non-verbal cues are an enormous part of human communication.
- Collaborate in real time: The best videoconferencing tools feature screen sharing capabilities. With TeamViewer, you even have the ability to take over someone’s computer to get work done. These features often go underused but they’re just as good as working together in person.
- Get everyone familiar: Videoconferencing programs range from simple to complex with a range of features—some of which (like avatars or funky backgrounds) can quickly disrupt a meeting if misused. At the minimum, everyone needs to know the basic functions like muting, screen sharing, checking sound input/output, and how to optimize their connection (e.g., by signing off VPN and closing programs and browsers).
- Allow time for chitchat: Yes, chatting during a meeting can distract and lead to back-channel discussions, but when everyone works remotely with limited social interaction, the ability to talk about things other than work is not only appreciated, but can facilitate productivity. Five minutes at the beginning can save you time wrangling participants later in the meeting.
- Hit the record button: Most videoconferencing tools allow you to record meetings, either for the benefit of absent employees, to be used as a record of the proceedings, or as training materials for a later date. This is a great benefit, but make sure you ask for everyone’s consent before you start to record.
Avoid Common Pitfalls
During this pandemic, everyone has seen the ways in which a videoconference can get derailed. Working to avoid them can help your team look forward to the next meeting.
- One person at a time: When meeting in the actual world, people talking over each other is a way of life and we’ve developed our hearing to compensate. Because videoconferences aren’t omnidirectional (meaning only one person can be heard at a time), people talking simultaneously means words and phrases go missing and no one is understood. Work out a system for recognizing one speaker at a time, even if it’s something like raising your hand.
- Eliminate distractions: Over the past few months, children, pets, and lawn maintenance have derailed many virtual conversations. Model distraction-free videoconferencing for your team and request they do the same.
- Distribute information beforehand: Nothing derails a videoconference like some participants not being privy to necessary documents or information, leading to document sharing in the middle of the meeting (and people having to wait for downloads). Send any documents or presentation files ahead of time to all participants.
- Stay secure: Some videoconferencing tools are more secure than others. Make sure you lock your meetings with unique passwords and generate unique meeting IDs every time, rather than just giving out your static ID. Some tools allow you to create a “waiting room” that acts as a filter against unwanted guests. Also, look into where in the world your meeting data could go and how secure it is at the vendor level.
The Two Meetings You Need
As many people have found out, working remotely can often lead to the days blending together, especially if people are having trouble finding work-life balance. Structure is a critical weapon against this because certain regular events serve as subconscious triggers to the brain. For instance, pre-pandemic, the commute to work told the brain to get into “work mode,” while the commute home did the opposite.
That’s why it’s important to have a couple of meetings that your team can count on for their own sense of regularity: status meetings and one-on-ones.
- If your team is collaborative, a status meeting should be more team-oriented, while status meetings for individual contributors might also occur during a one-on-one. Meet as a team every morning to get your priorities straight. The important thing is the regularity.
- But don’t forget the one-on-ones, even if they’re just weekly catchups. There, you’re more likely to hear about the struggles or bottlenecks team members are facing, things they may not be willing to share during a team meeting. In a time when those struggles could be health-related, that confidentiality is important.
Although these may seem like a lot of things to keep in mind for such a simple application like videoconferencing, it shows just how much power the practice can have. When it goes wrong, videoconferencing can be disruptive and even affect team culture. But when it’s working, the ability to have meetings no matter where the participants are is transformative to an organization.