Any good video conferencing network includes a host of conferencing and workshopping tools like virtual whiteboards, screen sharing, and media sharing. But simply hosting an online meeting through video conferencing can be a challenge on its own: how can you get the most of all these new tools at your disposal, and keep your meetings smooth and productive?
Know thy software, know thyself
The first step to facilitating an effective online meeting is all practice. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the software your business uses for video conferencing. Your provider will probably have resources available on their website to teach you how to use your software’s features.
The more streamlined and user-friendly your software package, the less time you’ll have to spend figuring out the ins and outs of using it effectively. System-agnostic or broad-based compatible software is often the easiest to learn. These systems are browser-based, and designed to be compatible with whatever operating system and hardware you use: PC or Mac, desktop or mobile. Video communication with Bluejeans is one of the easiest systems to learn, for you and your online collaborators.
Set an agenda and timeline
An agenda is important in a normal, face-to-face meeting, but it becomes even more important when you’re attempting to hold the attention of your collaborators remotely. Business communication experts from the University of California recommend setting not only an agenda, but a timeline for an online meeting, to ensure you keep the pace brisk and your collaborators involved. Set out each item on the agenda, and then estimate how much time you want to spend on that item before coming to a solution and moving on.
It’s extremely important to keep online meetings interactive: since you can’t rely on the normal set of visual cues, like yawning, wandering eyes, and doodling, you’ll have to work extra hard to keep the attention of your audience. Sticking to a timeline will help you here as well: University of California’s experts have found that after ten minutes of presentations or lecturing, your audience will start to lose focus. Plan your agenda so that you can break up presentations with interactive, collaborative activities to keep everyone engaged.
Don’t overload your screen (or your collaborators)
Screen sharing is a great way to keep your collaborators involved, but it can be a double-edged sword: if you over use your video conferencing software’s screen sharing capabilities, your meeting and workshopping can quickly turn into an incomprehensible mess. According to Facilitate.com, a business communications resource, you should limit the number of windows on your screen to three at any given time: too many more, and you and your collaborators will lose focus.
Features like screen sharing and virtual whiteboards are a great combination for workshopping a document in a group, combining ideas and expertise without overloading your screen. Use screen sharing to share a document or mockup, a virtual whiteboard to collect feedback and workshop ideas, and a video window to communicate face to face with your collaborators: an ideal setup that won’t clutter your screen.
Just like facilitating an in-person meeting, running an online video conference and using tools like screen sharing is a skill that takes practice. Using too many windows on one screen can quickly overload your collaborators, and moving a shared screen too quickly will have the same effect. Remember, even the fastest network will lag a little when you’re sharing large documents, so scrolling too quickly will cause your collaborator’s screens to blur and jump.
Learning how fast you can scroll to let a screen display properly takes some trial and error, and it will vary from system to system. According to Forbes, the best way to master screen sharing is simple practice: set up a call with a coworker and experiment until you find the right levels of screen movement, scrolling and switching.
Video conferencing is a tool every business needs in their arsenal. And like any new tool, you’ll have to learn a new skill set to get the most of it. Facilitating an effective meeting and moderating collaboration in an online video conference is a challenge, but once you’ve mastered the basics, it will have a huge impact on what you can achieve. Save money on travel, collaborate with experts no matter how far away they are, and get the best feedback on projects in progress. Whatever your line of work, video conferencing isn’t a skill you can afford to pass up on.
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