Making video conferencing a success

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A multipoint video conference can either be an unqualified success or an unmitigated disaster. The approach you take will determine your success, and how all parties feel about participation.

By increasing participation without allowing chaos free reign, you can moderate a successful meeting and make it an experience that your staff and teams will want to repeat. Setting up your policies well in advance will allow participants to familiarize themselves with the expected behavior.

Etiquette and Technology

Even Emily Post, the great maven of manners, understands videoconferencing etiquette and states that in order to encourage your staff and teams to accept videoconferencing and even embrace it, it is necessary for some key factors to be in play.

  1. The technology must be openly embraced by upper management without qualification. This means your management team must fully back employment and encourage the adoption of the technology in everyday use. This means no eye rolling, no backstopping, and no bad mouthing the new procedures.
  2. Make videoconferencing as portable, convenient, and comfortable, as you possibly can. Deploying multipoint videoconferencing Blue Jeans from phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and meeting room sized venues should all be on the agenda. If it is as simple as deploying an app from one's tablet or mobile phone, the practice of using it will become as reflexive as playing Candy Crush.
  3. Training in order to make your staff familiar with the technology procedures will increase their comfort with the new practices and increase their confidence in using the technology.
  4. One key person, such as the Chief Communications Officer, can motivate your entire staff. Pointing out not only what the technology has the potential to accomplish, but accomplishments that are already fact will encourage people to use the technology in much the same way as they would their own productivity suites.

Establishing ground rules will allow your staff to know what to expect, and how to behave. Every moderator's nightmare is a video conference that less resembles a meeting of professional adults, and more a class of unruly seventh graders testing the limits of the substitute teacher. Thinking about the social dynamics, the University of Glasgow psychology department developed guidelines for meeting staff.

  • Large-scale social dynamics include preparing for the meeting by having a clear idea of purpose that will allow you to tell participants how to prepare. A defined agenda for the conference should be agreed upon and circulated well beforehand to inform the varied participants how they need to prepare. Participants should have access to all relevant materials and time to read it before the conference takes place. Just as in face-to-face meetings, a general discussion requires the parties knowing what they will be talking about in order to allow them prepare and present their ideas.
  • Medium scale social dynamics are the meat of the meeting. Designating a chairperson or a moderator will help control the chaos of everyone wanting to talk or present once. Unless this particular group has already met before, each person should have the opportunity to introduce themselves, including making a brief statement about what they hope to gain from the videoconference. Each participant should also be provided with a nameplate or name tag with their location and department that will be clearly visible to others; when was the last time he could remember more than two or three names at once? When giving a long presentation allowing multiple screens to show both presenter and presentation is helpful in maintaining participant engagement.
  • Small-scale social dynamics relate to operating the equipment, and interacting with the operators at other sites. You may need to ask other operators and participants to adjust sound, change the camera angle, adjust the resolution, and occasionally ask for a whole room shot so that you can see how other participants are reacting and how engaged they are in the meeting.

Best Practices

Preparing for your meeting should involve wearing the clothing that you normally would for your professional situation. It is best, however, to avoid wearing stronger colors such as red or orange, or busy patterns such as paisleys or plaids. Wear neutral or pastel colors, and avoid colors such as black or white which can cause contrast issues with the camera.

Think about the clothing that you see news anchors and presenters wearing on camera. The State of Maine in their videoconferencing protocols also reminds you to look straight into the camera when speaking, speak clearly, and to mute the audio feed from your location when you are not. Most microphones are very sensitive and will pick up then transmit such noises as wrestling papers, whispers, and other conversations. Do not interrupt speakers, but instead await a request for questions from the moderator when it is requested from your location.

In short, when taking part in a video conference, stay polite and engaged with the other participants and don't do anything you wouldn't do in a face-to-face meeting.

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