Most people who use computers have now used video conferencing software at least once, perhaps to contact a friend or colleague from a long distance. There are so many benefits to communicating this way that an increasing amount of companies are relying upon it to run remote teams. If you aren’t yet too used to this software or you have only used it for one-on-one conversations rather than group chats, your first time running a conference for a large group of people can be nerve-wracking. However, you will find that aside from the different format, it won’t run much differently than a regular in-person meeting would, so there is no need to feel increased anxiety. These tips will help you to prepare for and run your first large online meeting like a pro:
- Schedule a Waiting Period
The more people who will be attending the conference, the likely it is that somebody will arrive late, potentially disturbing the conversation. It may not always be their fault, but you can cut down on the distractions and give everyone a little leeway by scheduling a few minutes at the beginning of each talk to wait for any latecomers. This is a good opportunity to encourage everyone to chat informally, which will help them to nurture working relationships that they will need to make up a good team. Be sure to arrive in plenty of time yourself in order to solve any technical errors that may arise. Being late for your own meeting is an embarrassment nobody wants to experience.
- Stay Focused
The Dummies’ Guide says that one of the main pitfalls of meetings, be they online or in-person, is that they can easily lose focus, or might not even have had any focus to begin with. You can avoid this issue by deciding the key objective of the meeting in good time beforehand. This will also help to avoid any unnecessary meetings which do nothing but take up valuable work time. By writing up and distributing an agenda before it starts, you can ensure that everybody knows the objective and what you will be discussing. If during the conference the conversation goes off on a tangent, as conversations between large groups of people frequently do, try to spot it in good time and bring the focus back to the topic at hand. This will also ensure that the meeting ends on schedule and that everybody can get back to their regular jobs on time.
- Ensure you are Heard Clearly
You probably don’t worry too much about how easily you are understood in the board room, so it can be easy to make a mistake and become unintelligible while speaking online. Remember that microphones pick up sound and speakers transmit it differently than the way our ears naturally work. It is important to invest in a good microphone, if your device doesn’t have one already, and to not hold it too close to your mouth while speaking. Remember also to check and adjust your microphone settings before the conference begins to avoid an embarrassing blunder that takes up even more valuable time, and encourage others to do the same.
- Cut Down on Interruptions
Nerds on Site says that one of the biggest breaches of online conferencing etiquette is to interrupt somebody else and speak over them. It wouldn’t be acceptable in the board room so it shouldn’t be acceptable online either. Thankfully, enterprise videocasting software, for example, BlueJeans’ does make this issue easier to manage. As the meeting administrator, you will have the option to mute the microphone of any person who you feel is out of line. You can even mute the microphones of everybody except the current speaker, meaning there won’t be any rude interruptions or pointless arguments. The added bonus of this option is that it cuts down on the amount of background distractions that can be picked up through microphones, such as the sounds of pets or family members in other people’s homes.
- Finish on Time
This is perhaps the most important thing to remember during group conferences. Everybody has other work and commitments they need to get on with, so nobody wants to sit through a meeting for much longer than they have to. Write out a time frame with your agenda to ensure that all necessary points are covered in time for the end of the conference.
Once you start becoming used to hosting online conferences, you will find that aside from the technical aspects, there is little difference from the traditional meeting and nothing you have to worry about. If you familiarize yourself with your software, invest in the right tools, and treat each online meeting as you would a regular one, you will learn how to run them effectively and to keep your team working together smoothly.