3 Simple Ideas that Made my Video Conferences Better

This time last year, videoconferencing was something I didn’t do very often. My day to day consisted of a lot of audio conferences, web conferences and avatar-based virtual meetings – all of which worked great to get things done. At the time, I didn’t think that adding video to my tool set would really make a big difference to the way I ran my meetings or how efficiently I could get things done. But a year after Avaya acquired Radvision, I now use some form of video conferencing every day in my work.

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I am not alone in my transition to video conferencing. A recent study by Infonetics states that PBX-based video drove a 47% increase in endpoint shipments in 2013, and that the overall video market is expected to grow at 6% compounded over the next 5 years.

As the world transitions to the world of video, we will need to adjust how we run our daily meetings to ensure we engage with others effectively. With that in mind, let me share some tweaks I have made to the way I structured meeting in order to maximize their effectiveness. Here are some of the things I do in my meetings to help them run more smoothly.

1. Add a personal touch

A month ago, I had the privilege of having a corporate coach talk about the importance of bringing a more personal touch to meetings. His suggestion: dedicate some time in your meeting to talking about personal items. This gives people time to chat the same way they would if they were in a room milling about before a meeting. Often times, when we structure our meetings, we get very focused on the task at hand and not enough on the people.
This can lead to very cold interactions for those that are at a distance.

Now, in my weekly team calls, I dedicate 10-15 minutes of every call to talk about what is going on in our lives personally. I have found that adding in time to talk about personal items focuses the team and actually reduces the length of the call, as people tend to focus on the most important items for the remainder of the call.

2. Virtual Coffee is Your Friend
You would never think twice about leaving your desk to go have a 5 minute coffee chat with a colleague. But when was the last time you scheduled a coffee chat with a colleague on the other side of the world? It’s no wonder that we forge better ties with the people we see every day in the office – we ask each other about our families, friends, hockey, the weekend, etc.

I have found it extremely effective to set up coffee chats with people in other countries in territories, spending time talking about our lives. It is amazing how much it helps me understand another person’s perspective on a tough issue when I understand more about their personal lives – their goals, ambitions, challenges, etc. It also helps me to uncover hidden strengths and knowledge that I can leverage when I run into my own challenges.

3. Quarterback the Call
While video adds a lot of value to your communications, I have found that people aren’t quite used to how to interact on the medium yet. Often times, people want to jump right in like they would in person. While this enthusiasm is very much welcome – it can be confusing on a long call to know who has the floor to speak. If you are running the call, don’t be afraid to be the quarterback. Take note of who is talking, and give the floor to individuals in turn so that they have a chance to speak.

Also, if your videoconferencing solution is like Scopia and includes a chat window, encourage your audience to add to the discussion by posting information in the chat window. This is especially helpful in sharing links to documents and tools during the call. As the quarterback, make sure to police the mute button. There is always someone on the call who dials in without a proper headset or audio connection – make sure to mute them as appropriate to keep the call flowing!

While I’m still learning the ins and outs of how to best use videoconferencing, I have found it to be a tremendous benefit to my day to day communications. I love arriving in distant cities and greeting team members that I can now recognize in person thanks to the power of having video at our disposal. Only 2 or 3 years ago, I would have struggled to put a face to a name, even for someone I interacted with several times a week. I don’t ever want to go back to those days!

Do you have a videoconferencing tip to share? Add a comment below – I’d love to know what is working well for you.