Ever-improving web cameras and video chatting apps mean that coworkers, clients, and teammates from around the globe are only a screen away. But even though video conferencing has been around for almost two decades, few companies are doing it effectively. Promevo highly recommends using the Google Hangouts Meet system to facilitate your meetings because it gets rid of the tech troubles that traditional web camera systems have. However, these tips are applicable to any video meeting scenario, whether you have a dedicated conference room or are joining in from a laptop at home. Follow these 8 tips to make sure people will want to come to your next virtual meeting.
Before Your Virtual Meeting
#1 Find the Right Location for Your Meeting
First, think about the room you’ll be in. You’ll want a room with few visual distractions, that is clean, and has good lighting. The wrong lighting can make it hard to see your face or make it look like you’re joining in from a cave. Mark Borison, our tech and video expert at Promevo TV, recommends a room with natural lighting if possible because “Your eyes are used to it. Obviously, office lighting/room lighting can totally suffice, [though it] can occasionally create weird shadows and lines on your face.” Either way, “The light should be shining on the subject and the camera should face them.” Luckily, the Hangouts Meet video camera uses dynamic lighting optimization, so you’ll look totally natural, even if you don’t have the time or space to adjust your lighting.
#2 Test your Technology
With the Hangouts Meets kit, this is easy. Simply make sure you have everything plugged in and booted up. With any other video camera or speaker, we’d recommend trying everything out at least 15 to 20 minutes before your meeting is scheduled to begin. Make sure your lighting looks natural on the screen and that the camera angle shows your full face(if you are meeting as individuals) or your entire group (if you are conferencing as a team). You might need to huddle towards one end of the table to get everyone in the shot, depending on how many people you have. Then, double check that your speaker and microphone system are working, and if you are getting echoes and feedback from your microphone. If you are in a room with a group, check to see if everyone can hear your system’s speaker.
#3 Write and Distribute an Agenda
An agenda will help set everyone’s expectations for the meeting’s content and length. Your participants will know ahead of time your goals and what specific action items will be discussed. A good agenda will tell people what they should prepare, what(if anything) they need to bring, and allow a space for taking notes. If you make it a Google Doc, everyone can collaborate and add their questions and comments. You might also want to include how long you expect discussions to take so you can refer back to the document if you are getting off topic. Make sure to send out your agenda at least five business days before your meeting, so everyone can develop ideas to contribute.
During Your Virtual Meeting
#4 Turn Your Video On!
It might seem obvious, but make sure you are using your video camera if you are having a virtual meeting. Voice-only calls mean everyone misses out on each other’s body language and facial expressions. Noticing these things can reduce misinterpretations that might fester into conflicts.
#5 Use Digital Meeting Etiquette
Since we’ve established that your meeting should have a video camera, assume it’s ALWAYS on. If you’re in a conference room with your coworkers waiting for a video call to start, don’t talk about what a waste of time the meeting is (hopefully with your agenda, it won’t be!), your wild weekend antics, or anything confidential, your client or boss might join the call before you realize it. When your meeting does begin, make sure to start it on time, and announce if it will be recorded. If there are any new faces, introduce all your parties. You might want to have people say one thing about their holiday plans to humanize everyone by simulating pre-meeting small talk.
Would you check Facebook during an in-person meeting? Probably not, so give the same attention to your virtual meeting. This should be a time with limited distractions, so keep your phone on silent, turn off pop-up notifications for your email, and don’t get up or walk around.
#6 Keep Everyone on Track
While your agenda might have expected discussion times, it can be hard to tell a coworker that they’ve gone off-topic. A less awkward way of doing this is by establishing a Parking Lot system at the beginning of a meeting. Tell everyone that you want to keep the meeting on track, but don’t want to discourage creativity. If someone is getting off topic, you can say, “That’s an interesting idea, but let’s put that in the parking lot for now”. Then add the person’s name and what they were talking about to a designated shared document. At the end of your meeting, ask if items in the parking lot need to be revisited.
#7 Keep People Engaged
When people are using their computer to take notes or to tune into a video meeting, it can be easy to get distracted by an email, Tweet, or favorite YouTube channel. Having ways for everyone to participate can keep people focused on the task at hand.
An easy way of doing this is through polls and pulse checks. You can use Google Forms to quickly and anonymously get everyone’s opinion, which can help spark more discussion. But if your meeting has come to a standstill, you might want to run a quick pulse check to see if people are on board with what you’ve discussed. If the results are significantly different from how you thought people were feeling, ask for someone to talk about why they are feeling this way, or why someone might feel this way. This should prevent a rehashing what you thought was a done deal at a future meeting.
At The End of Your Virtual Meeting
#8 Send out a Meeting Summary
Sending out meeting notes or a recording keeps everyone accountable and lets people who couldn’t make it know what they missed. The Hangouts Meet’s Vue controller lets you record your meetings, saves the recording to your Google Drive, and automatically emails it to everyone who was invited. Otherwise, send out a Google Docs summary document with what you discussed, what the next steps for individuals and the group are, and when you’ll next be meeting.
Virtual meetings can be useful for connecting teams, but they need some preparation to be effective. The Google Hangouts Meet kit can make it effortless to run and document your meetings, and with these tips, you’ll never hear “Couldn’t this have been an email?” again.