We’ve all been there. The video meeting from hell.
If you’ve been a partner, customer, or vendor of ours, you know that, here at BITS, we love video meetings. As a Cisco partner for 15 years, we’re part of #TeamWebex, and we’ve been politely (or maybe it’s not always been that polite) encouraging all online events be hosted via Webex, long before this pandemic started.
Video and conference call parodies are abundant these days –SNL even did a sketch this weekend about remote employees calling into video meetings – with their actors also actually working remotely from their homes using video calling. (How’s that for method acting?) In this case, they used Zoom as their meeting platform and highlighted the issues that older employees may have understanding how a video call works, including where the camera is located, how to not talk over each other, and most importantly, the etiquette of not taking your laptop into the bathroom with you (can you even imagine?!?).
A lot has changed over the past month, and this week represents one month since our team started working remotely because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Luckily, we’ve been using Webex for years, and our team is fairly well adjusted to communicating and holding meetings over video.
But for those of you who aren’t, let’s walk through that video meeting from hell – and what you can do to avoid it.
First and foremost: security for video meetings is not always created equally. While some systems may allow for you to have a cool background to daydream that you’re at the beach or in Europe (or let’s be honest, anywhere except the home office you’ve been stuck in for the past month), the most important aspect in picking a video conference platform is security. Your work calls need to remain private, and Webex consistently ranks at the top of this category.
Next, try and keep your video calls to eight or less people (this is also a good tip for any productive meeting anytime!). In general, if there’s more than a handful of people on a call, we recommend disabling video, as it can create distractions. If there’s only one presenter, keep the video on them (or even better – just show their screen/presentation) to limit the distractions of other people and keep the focus on the topic at hand.
Establish house rules ahead of time if there’s a large number of people participating. If you are the host or running the meeting, all platforms give you the option to mute participants as they enter, so you can control the chaos as everyone joins – or mute lines if someone is talking in the background or pounding their keyboard like a set of drums.
If you’re a presenter or even a participant, test your audio ahead of time. There’s nothing worse than to be told that your audio isn’t working while you’re trying to address an important issue. Also, familiarize yourself with the mute button and video on/off toggle. In case you’ve missed them, the SNL depiction of the team member sitting on the toilet while on the video call was taken from some (possibly real) viral videos over the past few weeks. Learn where the mute and video off buttons are and use them. (And…our suggestion, wait until after the video call is over to use the restroom or undress!)
You may have seen video or conference call bingo calls floating around the internet– we certainly have…and even created our own Covid-19 specific one (see below!), and we know that we are guilty of some of these ourselves. With a large percentage of the workforce working from home – a place where spouses, school-aged children, and college students are now also working/learning from home – it can certainly be difficult. Here are our recommendations for some things that should be avoided whenever possible:
Lastly, try and start your video calls a few minutes past the hour. Instead of starting at 11:00 on the dot (like many other meetings), start it at 11:08 or 11:11. It lessens the impact on the servers, and it also gives your attendees a chance to breathe if they are just finishing up a call from the previous hour.
And, let’s not forget one last, but important, tip. Like any meeting, having an agenda and outcome is key to productivity. Share the agenda ahead of time and also share while on the Webex. It’s not just about the video and seeing your team, it’s about collaborating on the work to maintain or increase your productivity, and keep as much of that human interaction as you can, even if your dog (or cat) is loving all this extra time they get to spend with you while working from home.
This post was inspired by a piece written by Peter Caperonis, BITS Regional Sales Director, in 2014 in regards to an ancient technology…a conference call.