Workplaces are changing. More and more, companies are turning to remote workers, freelancers, and outside consultants to increase productivity.
The physical office is less important. And modern teams don't need to sit together to work together.
This is the same now for sales too. Customers are likely more comfortable having you on the other side of a screen, rather than showing up in their offices. It's more convenient for them, and more efficient for your sales people.
That said, we still have meetings. Whether it's salespeople meeting new customers, or presenting your quarterly review to the whole company.
It's just that, instead of finding meeting rooms and dragging everyone away from their desk, meetings can be attended and presented from anywhere, easily.
All thanks to video conferencing.
Dear tech companies,— Rodolphe Dutel (@rdutel) 15 septembre 2018
Employees don't need ping pong tables or beer fridges at work. 🙅♂️🙅♀️
Employees need flexibility to do their best work and enjoy life. For instance, working remotely. 🙋♂️🙋♀️
Please offer trust, not toys. 🙌
Why host a video conference?
There are still plenty of businesspeople who're uncomfortable with the idea of video meetings. Either they don't trust the technology, think it's just a fad, or still cling to the idea of face-to-face at all costs.
But sometimes old ideas need to be left behind. We now have the opportunity to make meetings easier and more efficient for more people. Face-to-face may still be necessary from time to time, but they're not suitable in a lot of circumstances.
Instead, video conferences are perfect for:
- Remote teams. You can still meet regularly and connect with one another, without actually having to be in the same room. Which is probably why you have a remote team in the first place.
- Sales calls. Want to accompany your call with a slide share or show your screen? A video conference lets you present to every stakeholder easily, without having to show up on their doorstep.
- Recording meetings. An added benefit of using video conferences is that people who missed them can refer to the videos later.
- People who only need to be attend part of a session. Ever had to sit through a long meeting because there was one tiny item that required your input? Video conferences let people come and go as necessary, without having to leave their desks.
Convinced? Great. If you're about to get started for the first time, here are the 10 things you need to figure out in advance.
A video conference is different from your average meeting for one obvious reason: you're not in the same room. You rely on modern technology to bring you all together.
So if this is the first time you've done one of these, what do you need?
1. A stable internet connection
We've all had those Skype calls that drop out halfway through. Or maybe everyone switches to audio only to keep the conversation alive.
If this happens during your video conference, it not only looks bad but it defeats the whole purpose.
You can check your internet speed in a few seconds, with a whole range of different tools. Google recommends the Network Diagnostic Tool from Measurement Lab, and service providers like AT&T and Verizon also provide their own.
At Livestorm, we recommend 15Mb/s upload and download speeds if you want to host a live meeting or webinar, and 5Mb/s if you're an attendee.
2. Solid microphone and webcam
Two key aspects make this a "video conference": sound and visuals. The audience needs to see who's talking, and hear what they're saying. Obviously.
If you're doing this for a large, premium audience, you may want to invest in some specialized equipment. We recommend these microphones and webcams for webinars, and they'll be ideal for your video conference as well.
If this is for your own team - an internal meeting - you probably don't need to worry. Just make sure that your computer has a quality webcam and that your microphone at least works.
And check all this beforehand. There's nothing worse than waiting 10+ minutes at the start of most video conferences for the presenter to get their sound and video working.
3. Good video conferencing software
The success of your meeting really relies on the quality of the video conferencing software you use. There are good options available, and also some that are no longer cutting edge.
A few things to look for:
- The audience shouldn't have to download anything. The web conference should be ready to attend with just a link.
- A simple chat function. Most web conferencing tools have this, but it's still important to check for.
- The ability to share files. You may want to share your slides or further resources while speaking. It's best to do this within the conference itself, rather than in a follow-up email.
This is the one major investment you'll have to make if you want your video conference to succeed. So do your homework.
4. Clear lighting
This is an easy one to forget, because you probably assume that your office has decent lighting. After all, you can easily see everyone when you're in the room together.
But things often look different on camera, especially if you're using a built-in webcam. So it pays to check how the presenter looks before you go live. It can be as simple as moving to a different spot in the room, or to sit facing towards a window.
Again, you don't necessarily need to buy specific lights for video conferences. Just make sure that the speaker is clearly visible.
To help, here's a quick guide to the perfect webinar and video conference setup.
That's probably way more than you actually need... But you get the idea.
Once the technical matters are taken care of, it's time to think about what is actually going to take place during the meeting. It needs to run smoothly and keep everyone engaged.
Here are a few tips.
5. Plan and send the agenda
Hopefully you're using video meetings because you want them to be more efficient for everyone involved. If that's the case, your meetings need to be well-planned and have a logical flow.
Even if you have a clear agenda in your head, it helps to write it down.
It's also important that everyone else understands the agenda ahead of time. This lets them prepare for the parts of the meeting that are most relevant to them. And it even lets people join the meeting halfway through, once it's time for their particular topics of interest.
6. Remind people to introduce themselves
Since people aren't in a room together, it's nice to start with introductions. This lets people know who they're talking to, and is especially useful if you're working with clients or consultants who won't recognize people by their voice.
It's also important to have people introduce themselves when they speak during the meeting. Again, not everyone is able to identify others just from their voice. It only takes a moment, and makes it easier to follow for attendees.
7. Close other programs while presenting
It can be very annoying when Slack notifications pop up throughout a presentation. Or worse, a sensitive email could arrive with a subject line that you don't want others to see.
To be safe, it's best to close all unnecessary programs while sharing your screen.
Once you've got all the technical and practical matters out of the way, you still have to answer one question: is this presentation interesting? You're asking people to take time out of their day, so you need to deliver.
These next tips will help.
8. Make your slides compelling
A boring presentation is definitely not okay. You'll lose listeners right away, and it's going to be a hard sell to get them to show up next time.
We've created this guide to the perfect webinar Keynote or Powerpoint. And the same concepts apply to a video conference.
Your presentation should:
- Have a clear goal or purpose
- Have a neat visual style
- Focus on a 3-5 key ideas
- Be short if possible
- Be interactive and allow others to comment
For more, simply read this guide.
9. Encourage questions and comments
The worst meetings involve everyone sitting quietly while one person drones on for an hour. Not only do most people forget what was discussed, you miss key moments for feedback.
Make sure that your presentation has plenty of room for questions and comments. You can either plan to let everyone talk at the end of a topic, or keep questions open throughout the meeting.
As long as people are respectful and everyone has a chance to speak, this should help the meeting progress, not slow you down.
Remember, this is a conference, not a movie.
10. Don't worry about mistakes
Despite what we've said about being prepared and having the technical aspects figured out, mistakes are going to happen. The internet might drop out, your microphone could stop working, and your slides might be out of order.
Don't panic. Even if this is a big client meeting, it doesn't have to be perfect every time. It's more important that you're confident and clear, and that they leave the session with valuable takeaways.
Everyone will remember the insights you bring, not the tiny technical issues.
Start planning your next video conference
In case it's not clear, we think that video meetings should be more common in your workplace. That's because they're:
- Convenient. People can attend from wherever they are, and you don't have to make time and space in a busy office.
- Easy to arrange. All it takes is decent presentation and some good software.
- Efficient. You save on travel time, and attendees can come and go easily when needed.
So why not give them a go yourself, and see what all the fuss is about?