Remote meetings can be tricky.
As a public relations and marketing firm in today’s market, and especially in the context of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and social distancing, we at Mecoy Communications know this all too well.
Just yesterday, we tried to join an important crisis communications conference call that included 11 other people. After issues with 3 separate calls and 2 conference services later, the (understandably) flustered host finally got everyone together on a working line 20 minutes after the meeting was scheduled to start.
Unfortunately, in the limited time left and without the ability to see one another, we struggled to talk over each other and failed to make the most of our time. We ended up needing to reschedule the call (no easy task with 11 participants) as a videoconference.
This story is a dime a dozen, and even more relevant with Stay at Home Orders issues across the U.S. Now, more people than ever before are relying on technology like videoconferencing to keep business running as close to usual as possible.
From dealing with coronavirus to communicating with out-of-state clients and remote workers, videoconferencing is not just an answer to conducting meetings during quarantine, it can also serve as an invaluable tool to promote collaboration and improve productivity.
If you aren’t videoconferencing already, there has never been a more important time to catch up to the competition.
Given the current state of affairs with COVID-19, and the fact that American businesspeople hold approximately 11 million meetings a day, video and web conferencing have never been more relevant. With 52% of US-based employees working from home at least once a week and 89% of companies using multiple videoconferencing platforms, it seems that videoconferencing is an unavoidable part of our new, hyper-connected reality.
During the modern era of “social distancing”, videoconferencing services like Zoom, WebEx and Google Hangouts allow businesses and individuals to effectively conduct in-person virtual meetings that ensure all parties are heard and business continues as usual. They allow businesses and individuals to speak face-to-face with clients and employees, share presentations and files for review in real-time and even facilitate large-scale communications like investor conference calls.
Below are a few tips on setting up and executing a successful videoconferencing meeting:
- Choosing the Right Platform: First, choose the right platform for your needs. If you already have purchased an enterprise G-Suite account, then Google Hangouts is a free service that is easy to use. If not, Zoom and WebEx are two of the most popular options, each with a series of tiers to choose from. Review their respective strengths and price points and choose the tier and option that makes sense for your company’s needs. Make sure the platform you choose works with your hardware of choice. For example, if you prefer to use mobile videoconferencing, make sure that the platform you choose also has a functional mobile app. At Mecoy Communications, we use Zoom for its functionality, ease of use and price point.
- Know Your Tools: Make absolutely sure that you have a good internet connection to ensure there are no interruptions. Test your microphone input and speaker output prior to beginning the videoconference (most videoconference services will prompt you to do this before beginning, but audiocheck.net is a good resource in a pinch). Just as important is knowing how to use the videoconferencing software. This will allow you to avoid serious hiccups, and enable additional functionality including sharing your screen, muting yourself and recording the meeting.
- Location, Location, Location: Thinking about your location and being sure the background is what you want to be seen on camera will help viewers focus on what you’re saying and not on the distractions in the background. Make sure to test your lighting and camera angle before joining the meeting with a video preview (easily accessed in settings), and some platforms like Zoom even offer the option to “touch up your appearance” in the same menu (I suggest using it). Zoom and some other videoconferencing services offer virtual backgrounds as well, but make sure to choose something that matches the tenor of the audience and meeting. If you have an unfortunate earnings report to address with concerned investors, a Hawaiian beach with tiki torches is probably not the right background.
- Where to Look: Appearance is important both when speaking and listening. If you have the camera (on your laptop or whatever device you choose) at eye level, that will help the audience avoid looking up your nose or seeing a distorted image of you. Keeping your eyes on the screen and ignoring the video of yourself, if it’s visible, will help avoid a shifty-eyed look on the camera that can make you appear untrustworthy.
- What to Wear: Dress conservatively and avoid loud ties or intricate patterns that will distract the camera. If you’re wearing a jacket, using the old trick of ensuring your jacket is beneath your derriere avoids it riding up in the shoulders. Avoid wearing large, shiny or noisy jewelry that might cause a distraction. If you have contact lenses, we recommend wearing them instead of glasses to avoid potential glare.
During these trying times, we hope these tips and tricks will help you conduct remote meetings effectively and keep your business running as close to usual as possible.
At Mecoy Communications, we specialize in helping our clients define and execute crisis communications strategy both in-person and virtually. We are an agile, highly responsive network of Los Angeles-based specialists with decades of experience in crisis communications, media relations and public affairs. Our virtual team is ready to help at a moment’s notice — handling everything from developing plans and messaging to directly communicating with media, consumers and stakeholders.