No two ways about it. Hosting virtual meetings is now more a “thing” than it ever was! I know anyone who purchased stock in Zoom is incredibly happy right now. Gee, I wish I had. All jokes aside, because of the current health crisis in our world, online meetings and webinars have taken precedence over face-to-face meetings for sure. It’s definitely our new “normal” – are you tired of hearing that phrase yet? I am. Either way, let’s talk about some video conferencing best practices.
Video conferences have been happening long before now. We are all just catching up to it in recent days, but this medium has been a long time option for workplaces and consultants like me. I love them! Online meetings strike me as more efficient and more productive. What do you think?
At any rate, there is a “science” to hosting a video conference and I’ll share my “go-to” best practices in a bit.
First, let me be clear of exactly what tools I’m talking about.
Video conference best practices includes being prepared, arranging your background and online appearance, equipping your attendees for the medium, having a clear goal or outcome, and creating a relational tone for your video conference.
Let’s discuss each one a bit. After reading this post, you will be aware of several video conference best practices and ready to host amazing online meetings yourself! Guaranteed! With that, let’s jump in!
Remember, people are people.
Anyway, aside from technical delivery, hosting a meeting online is not really much different from hosting one offline or in-person.
Make no doubt about it, the people on your team still need the very same things from an online session as they would if they were sitting right across from you. They need to know what to expect, what’s expected of them, to be heard, valued, and to feel connected to others.
Teleconferencing your meetings is no different. It just means you have to work differently to ensure their needs are met. The best news is interactive, dynamic online meetings are possible and, with a little planning, quite easy to execute!
Video conferencing best practices include knowing your tech.
First and foremost, it goes without saying, you absolutely must know how to work your technology. Be sure to pick an easy video conferencing platform like Zoom or Google Hangouts. Both are pretty user-friendly and intuitive.
Whichever one you decide to use, I promise you’ll find tons of YouTube videos to help you navigate it. I like to visit the Zoom – YouTube channel often. Always something new to learn there.
How to prepare for your online meeting.
If you neglect prep for your meeting, you’ll look like a bumbling stooge. I’m being harsh, but if you are not ready or know your technology, you’ll compromise your professional persona (i.e. look like a goober).
Many issues I’ve observed in video conferences could have been avoided had the presenter done a couple “dry runs” prior to the meeting. Look, the Three Stooges are a complete set, they have enough for the act. We don’t need you to be one too.
Yes, I’m a smarty pants “wannabe” comedian. Oh well, most trainers are. Hang in there with me anyway. I’ve got good tips! 🙂 I’ve been doing this online training/meeting thing for a while.
By the way, you’ll find many of my video best practices correlate to my tips for hosting online training. Be sure to check them out too.
As for your video conferencing meeting, please go ahead and do a rehearsal before launch. Check your camera and make sure it is at eye-level and people aren’t looking up into your nostrils. That’s gross. Who needs that visual?
Secondly, I hope you opt to share your camera so people can see you. Seeing a face builds trust and adds dimension to the experience. I sort of hate audio-only meetings on video conferencing platforms – especially if I don’t know the people in real life yet. Later, I’ll share some scenarios in which it may make sense to have an audio-only meeting.
Prior to your online gathering, be clear how to let people into the “room” or environment.
Have a password for Zoom.
If you are using Zoom which I recommend and love, be sure you have a password for your meeting. Otherwise, any crazy dude can pop into your meeting and say all kinds of nutty things.
A cool idea is to choose a password that correlates to the tone of your session. For example, if I’m meeting with a new client, my password will be “TeriIsYourBestChoice” or something like that.
If you’re a manager presenting changes to the team or to processes, your password can be “ChangeIsGood.”
As you know, as an “Increasing Human Effectiveness” trainer, attitude is directly connected to one’s thoughts. Shape those thoughts.
On Zoom, it’s important to remember that people will be on hold until you manually let them into the meeting environment.
When I first started, I was always leaving people in the waiting room. No fun, right? Well, at least not for them.
Another good idea is to test your mic and volume as well. Remember to”unmute” yourself too. My “inner 3rd grader” always chuckles when the meeting facilitator is talking while being muted. I’m such a child. I know. I know.
Look and feel good – another one of my best video conferencing best practices
Let there be light!
If possible, always have a window near you, But never behind you. There is nothing like natural light to ensure that you look fantastic.
One of my favorite tips is not only to sit next to a window for lighting but also to be able to see out into the world from time to time. I tend to sit near my deck window most of the time. So relaxing. It provides a little break for my eyes and my mind too.
“Dude! What’s that behind you?”
By all means, don’t forget your background! Inspect and analyze it as a stranger seeing it for the very first time.
Another one of my video conferencing best practices is to preview what’s in your rearview. This means to actually sit down and assess how everything looks.
If the room is cluttered and resembles the messy living room on “Everybody Loves Raymond”, move the meeting somewhere else.
Sometimes, it can just be one simple item out of place that proves distracting. What’s worse than taking your meeting “live” only to find you have underwear strewn behind you on the couch.
Ok. Ok. I fold laundry in the living room. It happens! It happens! And yes, it REALLY happened once to me. It was a sock on the couch, but embarrassing nonetheless.
You know what else. Some web-based video conferencing tools will let you change your background to something more engaging.
Yes! Platforms like Zoom, MSOffice Teams 365, and others will give you this functionality. A green screen will help it look clear and crisp, but it’s not required.
Then, if the underwear is on the couch you can just add another background and suddenly you’re in a snazzy new York loft or an amusement park! For the record, the latter is NOT recommended for a business meeting unless you have a “fun” or personal group.
However, in all seriousness, once you determine the lighting is ok, the background is decided, then turn off your camera. As a facilitator, I keep my screen dark until I’m just about ready to go live.
That way no one sees you picking your nose, your kids running in the background, or anything else. At least not until you’re ready for them to see it (if you want them to).
My video conferencing
best practices so far now are to:
- Know how to operate your video conferencing platform.
- Testing your equipment (i.e. mic, camera, etc.)
- Sit near good lighting.
- Double-check your background.
You make an impression in whatever setting you’re in, even in video conferencing meetings. As a professional, you want to put your best foot forward. Always!
Do due diligence to prepare your team or attendees for the video conference meeting.
Help your team prepare. Whatever video conferencing software you select, create a quick “cheat sheet” for them, and send it prior to the meeting. You can also send them a good, short YouTube video about the platform in lieu of the cheat sheet. The choice is yours – but, send something.
If you’re using a platform like Zoom (which I clearly love), prior to the meeting explain the special features like the background feature I mentioned, or how they can scroll through and see everyone in the meeting should they want to do so. Inform them of little things like that.
Go ahead and encourage them to click that arrow and see everyone else. You know, during times like this, it’s such a good feeling to see your other colleagues’ faces. Otherwise, they likely just see themselves in a few other staff members on the screen.
Typically, you have several age groups in the workplace and you cannot assume everyone knows how to operate it. Some systems, like Zoom, are more than just clicking the link.
They need to know:
1) how to enter the meeting,
2) how to mute/unmute themselves
3) how to show their camera and
4) any password they may need to enter.
Have a meeting goal for your online meeting.
What’s your meeting goal?
As you continue to read through my video conferencing best practices, keep your meeting goals fresh in mind. For instance, if your meeting is purely information-delivery, who cares about seeing faces. Instead, you can easily do an online meeting minus the video component.
However, if your group is a team, opt for the video features. Just tell them prior so they will be looking awesome and camera-ready. The intention of the meeting determines what’s needed.
Zoom will keep you organized too!
While I’m talking about Zoom settings, it’s a good idea to set up meeting reminders in addition to adding it to your calendar. Automation sites like Zappier will help you connect things to your calendar, but you can also have separate reminders too…straight from Zoom.
Explore settings and you’ll be surprised how functional Zoom and other platforms are.
Let’s talk about the “flow” of your online meeting.
No video conferencing best practices would be complete without talking about some sort of agenda.
Agendas help all types of meetings! I do mean any kind of meeting whether you’re face-to-face or doing a virtual teleconference.
I found some tips from an article titled “Why do you need an agenda for your meeting” on Hearst’s Chron.com. Article author, Gail Sessoms. does a great job explaining the benefits of agendas.
They seem dated, but they really do help.
Define at least three desired outcomes you hope to (or need to) accomplish. Share them with the team both before the meeting time and, then, go over them again when the meeting begins.
If if you’re a free-flowing True Colors Blue or Orange temperament, an agenda will come in handy and keep you on track. Generally speaking, it just helps to have your thoughts and your process organized, and if possible, written out so that you can refer to them often.
Whether you decide to share your agenda with the participants is completely up to you.
Bear in mind your meeting is likely to have individuals of the Gold temperament. These attendees will be most pleased to have an agenda before and during the meeting. Their motivation is not to control you or to make you feel uncomfortable, but it simply helps them feel a sense of predictability. For them, knowing what to expect helps them focus, prepare, and ask questions.
Stay with your “compass”…
An agenda is like a compass ensuring you go the direction you attended. For this reason, try to somewhat stick to your meeting agenda.
Don’t be rigid or a doody-head about it (professional term), but adhere to it as best you can.
The only thing worse than being held hostage in a meeting in a stuffy conference room is being held hostage in your own living room or office. The agenda will keep you efficient and effective. Plus, it will help keep things moving.
Allow transition time.
One of the very best video conferencing best practices is to allow people to mentally transition into the meeting space and time.
Avoid jumping right into your meeting format at the very onset, if possible. Provide that moment for them to see who is around and just smile at one another for a bit. Yes, allow them to mentally transition. Do you agree?
Reptilian brain … don’t feed it.
The “fight or flight” response in our brain is called the reptilian. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. This oldest part of your brain is responsible for our survival instinct. Often this is the way people “show up” to your meetings – in this brain mode.
We know the “nerves” arise in face-to-face meetings, but I contend they spike online meetings too. Learn more about the “lizard” brain here.
I know you’re familiar with the fight-or-flight stage that individuals have often when they enter a new environment.
Online is pretty much the same. They may be in the comfort of their own home or desired place, but when the meeting starts, everyone still has that “deer in the headlights” moment.
Prepare them for it or at least make an allowance for a mental transition. The end result could be increased creativity and retention (i.e. remembering what they hear or learn).
Along the same lines, as the facilitator, I like arriving early too. It helps me to get relaxed, accustomed to my software/my controls…and deactivate my own “fight or flight” response.
Incorporate fun into the process.
Have sort of an icebreaker…
Go ahead and transition them with some basic simple, low-risk, fun questions.
Here’s some ideas to ask the participants during your video conference:
“What was the most recent thing you ate prior to this meeting.”
“What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you during an online or teleconference meeting?”
“Just for fun, let’s do a quick poll. How early do you log in for your Zoom meetings? Raise your hand if you log in at least 5 minutes before, three minutes before or you log into the meeting at the meeting start time.”
“Who has the television on in the background? What’s on this very moment?”
“If you had to define what this meeting is about in one word, what would your one word be?”
“What is the best part of an online meeting like this?”
“If you had to come up with one hashtag describing how you feel at this very moment, what would it be?”
“What is your most-used emoji and why?”
“Is your phone usually on silence or full blast? Why or why not?”
My best practices so far are:
- Prep your team for the technology.
- Confirm if a video meeting is even necessary.
- Pay special attention meeting process.
- Have an agenda to guide you.
You can even play around with a mindful moment.
Ask everyone to stand (unless someone has physical challenges, then think of something else) and do a series of simple, easy stretches together.
They don’t need to be on-screen during their stretches, in fact, I recommend they step away from the camera.
Again, we are helping them mentally transition to the meeting time so they can come calm, relaxed, and creative.
The reality of the matter is you are looking at one another through a cold, impersonal screen. You need some way to warm up the meeting environment to put people at ease so to speak. And don’t forget, as a meeting facilitator you need to participate as well.
Very often, you’ll find that you need to start off the process with a chuckle or a giggle and then everyone else is more emboldened to contribute.
There you have it, you have an agenda and a process to acclimate everyone to the online session. Bringing your team together regularly is very important to team cohesion. So find a way to get them all in the same headspace, virtual space, and relax a little prior to the meeting.
Don’t worry, this whole process needn’t take very long.
Before scheduling, ask yourself: “do I even need to know these video conferencing best practices at all today?”
In other words, is this meeting even necessary?
What I have found is a lot of people are doing Zoom and teleconference meetings for information that could be easily handled via email or even a quick telephone call.
Now, I clearly understand during this current season most managers are trying to get their teams to connect. I understand that. That’s a good thing.
At the same time, I also feel unnecessary meetings are a bit of a time-waster. They can inhibit people from doing their actual jobs.
In my opinion, too many “check-ins”, whether in an online teleconference or face-to-face, can be a productivity-eater. Put simply, make sure you even need to have that time together before you schedule it.
Do you agree some people have unnecessary meetings? Why do you think that is?
Don’t fool yourself, Manager…
Just because people see one another weekly on a screen does not mean that the team is bonding. It would make more sense to have a buddy system in which colleagues are required to touch base with another colleague each week.
That might be a little bit more meaningful than forcing everyone to a weekly happy hour assuming that’s going to maintain team-cohesion.
Trust me, in most cases, it just will keep your team annoyed.
Interaction is one of the premier video conferencing best practices!!!!
As I alluded no one wants to sit and be held mentally hostage by a “talking head” – so try not to be one. In addition to the transition time I mentioned earlier, add in some meaningful interaction time throughout the meeting.
As you organize your agenda literally pen a few questions to ask about every 15 minutes or so.
If you’re using Gotowebinar or GoToTraining, you can easily create a poll or something like that. If you’re using Zoom, you can utilize the “File Transfer” feature to upload documents everyone can see and chat about. Click here to see how.
After you ask a question, don’t be intimidated by the inevitable pause.
Online meetings are a little trickier than face-to-face. Many times, people are not sure if they should speak, when they should speak or if they’re speaking over someone else.
So chill, and be comfortable with what I call the “pregnant pause.”
Here’s what I do myself (most of the time): ask your question and count to about 8 to 10 seconds. Trust me, somebody will talk. Try not to look uncomfortable, don’t say anything… just sit there with a slight smile as you wait.
Again, someone will talk.
Practical items you will need for your video conference.
Having what you need is also one of my video conferencing best practices.
Have some practical necessary items handy for your meeting. I’m talking the basic stuff like water, or tea, cough drops, tissue, etc. Also, make sure everything is charged and ready to go. It’s never a bad idea to have your laptop charger close either…just in case.
At the start time, don’t forget to smile. Not in a creepy way, but in a way that adds some friendliness to the meeting. It’s so easy to look angry on a Zoom call. So, compensate for the cold medium and smile a bit. Remember your soft skills.
Finally, make sure your email client or anything that could pop up on your screen is closed. Close all apps/programs or screens except for the ones you absolutely need open. Having too many programs open can not only slow down your processing, but nobody needs to see your Walmart shopping list.
Don’t forget to test your microphone.
If you’re a dinosaur like me, you should also silence or unplug your landline. That’s definitely a necessary thing to do. Ask me how I know. Yeah, my old-fashioned phone has been known to ring during several meetings. It’s usually Stanley Steamer or someone like that bugging me. Silence it. Be better than me in that department for sure.
Give ’em a break
If your meeting lasts over 45 minutes, allow your team to take a 5-minute break.
Invite them to black their screen and do whatever they need to do. Don’t forget to include the break(s) on the agenda or you can easily forget to do it.
Get outta here
One of the most challenging (and boring) parts of an online meeting is seeing the same face the entire time. Mix things up every so often. Alternate between showing your face and showing your screen.
I must repeat. Showing your LIVE face is a good rapport-building tool.
The other day, I attended a meeting and everyone’s face was showing except the facilitators. It looked stupid and a little insecure. If you haven’t had a face-altering incident, show your screen!!!!
PowerPoint is your friend…
While I’m at it, I definitely recommend some sort of PowerPoint slide deck even if you don’t think you need one. It will “wake the brain” and allow people to see something different from time to time.
If you are having other individuals on the team report out or share doing your virtual conference, ask them to create one to two slides for their report-out. Tell them to make them colorful and bright.
If appropriate, encourage creativity with the slides. Maybe even have them find an image that represents the report out. For example, if the sales team had a good week, their slide could be a happy face, a piece of cake, or whatever would garner a smile.
The end game is to incorporate some levity and warmth to the presentation.
A real “human” resource…
It’s not always possible, but if you can, have a technical assistant there to help you with your video conference. This person will guide interaction and manage tech during the meeting.
As a consultant, I usually fly solo, and that sometimes can be a hurdle when I have large groups to facilitate.
Think about it and make a decision that will work best for you.
If you utilize a person to be your technical assistant, make sure they know how to use the software. Seriously. I’ve been in meetings where the assistant didn’t know how to change a screen or something.
Make clear the expectation is they know how to work the software like a pro so you can keep things moving efficiently. Encourage them to do some rehearsal on their own and one with you prior to the meeting.
That help can be invaluable. With that, go over your expectations for their role. Let them know if you’d prefer them to hold their comments until you acknowledge them or something. If they are co-facilitating, that’s an entirely different scenario. Otherwise, ask them to “tick a lock” or remain quiet during the meeting. Still, discuss the desired dynamics so no one is confused.
Some of what I’ve discussed…
- Do something fun with the team!
- Make your video conference interactive.
- Test your equipment.
- Use a visual medium.
- Get a little help.
Visual branding…always a nice touch.
Remember to “brand” yourself for your online meeting.
During the video call, wear your company t-shirt or even your company’s colors.
If your company has a mug, use it so they see the company logo. It’s the little things that set the atmosphere in real life and online.
Have some sort of visual connection for them – some sort of image or concept that will remind them they are part of a domain or team.
Since you’re not in a physical meeting room at the company, do what you can to create that “comrade” atmosphere online.
Another element of belonging and membership…
While you’re at it, encourage everyone to wear their company t-shirt – if they have one.
Or, if your team spends time on social media, create a hashtag for each meeting. Have the team come up with a quirky “#” they can use on Twitter, Instagram during, or after.
They can use that “#” to post questions, thoughts, or even a fun inside joke. You want to keep them engaged and connected.
An intentional well-planned meeting can go a long way toward maintaining a sense of cohesion. It can also be a teambuilding aid if you plan it well. Need ideas or help to craft a virtual teambuilding plan? Contact me for an hour consultation…via Zoom, of course.
Go ahead and hit that “record” button!
C’mon…record your meeting!
You can refer to it later, grimace, and identify ways to improve. It’s also cool to have it available for attendees too. With a recording, no one can ever say they didn’t know something or other.
Store them on Jumpshare or some other site for later referral or review.
Speaking of the “grimace”, even though I’m a podcaster, I can’t stand hearing my own voice. Are you like that too? It’s like when you hear yourself on voicemail and think to yourself “I sound like a dork.” *hahaha*
Looking at myself is just as awkward which is why YouTube bugs me. Nevertheless, I go ahead and record most of my meetings anyway.
As one of your video conferencing best practices, always tell folks you’re recording them. Many teleconferencing platforms will do it for you, but it’s nice that you verbally let them know too. Is it illegal to record without permission? I don’t know.
I certainly hope you enjoyed my video conferencing best practices!
Yeah, I emptied my “trainer/facilitator” brain in this post. Well, not really, but it got a little long.
My ultimate goal is to share what I’ve learned through the years so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I made before I knew any video conferencing best practices.
I sure hope it helped. If it did, let me know!
The mechanics of meetings have not changed one bit. It’s just the modality that evolved.
During an online meeting, people still need the same experiences and have their needs met in the same ways.
Meetings will never ever go out of style. They’re too important.
For instance, you can use them to set goals, figure out a way of work, get team feedback, assign tasks, and more. Nah, meetings aren’t going anywhere.
Still, bear in mind, just like salt or my favorite habanero hot sauce, a little bit goes a long way.
Hey, what’s missing? What would you add to this list of video conferencing best practices?
What I do with my consulting...
Leveraging the 4 personality styles to help you when working with different personalities in the workplace. You can also learn how business personalities play a role in how you approach work and manage work personalities in general. I also answer the question” “how does personality influence communication at work?” Your temperament plays a role in everything. I love talking about it and exploring exactly how!