However the current public health emergency plays out, social distancing isn’t going away any time soon. Online meetings can be frustrating, but they’re going to play a big role in keeping SMBs running smoothly. The good news is, it’s possible for video conferencing to be more productive and enjoyable if you and your employees follow some simple best practices.
- Find the Right Video Conferencing Software For Your Business
The technology is ready. There are several well-established and reliable video conferencing providers to choose from including Zoom and GoTo Meeting. What small business leaders need to do now is to choose the right software for them. Think about your priorities—and consider how these may have changed recently.
Some features to consider:
- Ability to handle large meetings
- Easy screen sharing
- Collaboration tools
- Meeting Recording
- Security Features
- Integrations with existing tools
The Right Preparation
So, you’ve chosen your software and it’s time to have a meeting. As a host, your first responsibility is to make sure that everyone who needs to be is invited and able to access the meeting. But watch out: you always need to avoid unwanted guests. Don’t post meeting codes publicly and, if possible, require password protection to join.
Before any online meeting, you’ll want to make sure that you’re actually able to communicate—test your connection, microphone and video. To avoid any unwanted communication, set your microphone to mute as default and if you’re in a loud place, use headphones.
Everybody knows you’re at home and there will definitely be meetings where lying on the sofa in your pajamas is the right vibe. Sometimes, though, you’ll need to project your A-game. Small fixes can make a big difference, and it’s not just about putting on a shirt and tie:
Look Professional (When Necessary)
- Avoid stripy shirts and earrings (they don’t do well on video)
- Face a lighting source, rather than sitting in front of one, to avoid backlighting
- Set your webcam at eye level. When using a laptop, prop it up with books
No, it’s not just you—holding meetings online is awkward. There’s no time for “corridor chat” and small talk as people arrive can feel stilted. Plus, it’s understandable that employees are a little anxious right now.
Lighten The Mood
Instead, you have to work a little harder to get people relaxed. Start the meeting with a joke or an icebreaker story. It depends on the meeting, but one great way to get everyone involved and in a good mood is to encourage everyone to share a favorite (or funny) photo as their video background.
No matter how relaxed participants are, it can be tough to replicate in-person meetings. Lagging internet connections are the enemy of free-flowing conversation. Instead, a host might need to push a little harder for contributions. It can be helpful to develop a system for whose turn it is to speak—though this can be as simple as agreeing for everyone to wait for their turn.
Alternatively, it can also be effective to make use of video conferencing platforms’ more advanced features, like a virtual “hand up” option. Even a basic chat capability can help participants get in line to speak, express agreement (without interrupting) or share links for the group to read later.
Appointing someone to carry out an agenda is helpful to keep any meeting on track, but it’s especially true online. It helps if this person isn’t the main speaker (they should be thinking about what they have to say). Instead, a moderator ensures that everyone is heard, interruptions are kept to a minimum (possibly using the power of selective muting) and the right person is screen sharing.
Choose a Moderator
Online meetings require more concentration than in-person meetings, since it’s so easy to lose focus. This is especially true while working from home—who can follow a speaker with a big pile of laundry in the corner? To avoid this, do your best to find a space without visual distractions.
Definitely don’t think of meetings as a chance to do chores, and that includes going through your unread email. Even if people can’t see your screen, they can tell when you aren’t following. If you do need to respond to an urgent message, acknowledge it openly.
Many employees never expected to be working remotely, especially with kids at home too. So when a preschooler unexpectedly walks into the shot, this is a moment for some empathy—it can happen to anyone. If the meeting isn’t super urgent, let the parent introduce their child to the group.
Expect (and Accept) The Unexpected
Varying internet quality is also something that an employee can often not do much about. Don’t be surprised by crackly connections or sudden disappearances from video calls.
Online meetings can get tiring, no matter how many best practices you follow. SMBs should consider cutting down on the volume of meetings—if that’s not possible, consider splitting meetings into smaller, more manageable groups or even one-on-one calls.
Realize That Less is More
One the other hand, while it’s important to respect employee’s time, online meetings do serve an important role during this crisis. They counter isolation and following a pre-arranged schedule allow for a feeling of normalcy, and reminds everyone on big teams that their colleagues still exist!
While it’s usually recommended to always use video (it’s much easier to communicate when you can see someone’s face) if employees are facing whole days of online meetings a nice compromise can be to allow audio-only times so everyone can focus solely on what is said, and forget about how they look.
Paycor is Here for You
For expert advice and support during this public health emergency, visit Paycor’s Coronavirus Support Center.
Paycor builds HR software for leaders of medium & small business. For 30 years, we’ve been listening to and partnering with leaders, so we know what they need: HCM technology that saves time, powerful analytics and expert HR advice to help them solve problems and achieve their goals.
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