Four Techniques To Improve Videoconferencing During Covid-19

With untold numbers of employees suddenly working from home, videoconferencing has promptly become the go-to method for running meetings and communicating with staff.

But if you’ve ever sat through a poorly-run videoconference meeting (and who among us hasn’t endured dozens of those), you know that simply purchasing the latest videoconferencing platform is not a panacea.

Fortunately, there are four simple techniques that you can implement today that will immediately improve your videoconferences.

Technique No.1: Everyone Must Use Video

This might seem like an obvious point, but the majority of videoconferences have at least a few people who eschew video and only use audio. Unless there’s a serious technical glitch, you should require everyone on the call to activate their webcam.

When only a few people use video, it quickly erodes the team’s cohesion. Most of the folks who activated their video will be thinking “It’s not fair that Bob isn’t using video,” or “How come I have to be on video but Sally doesn’t?” or “I know Pat’s not really paying attention and that’s why they didn’t activate their webcam.”

When people are already stressed, and more likely to engage in negative thinking, those are not thoughts that you want to encourage on your team.

Technique No.2: Everyone Must Use A Headset

Most people log into a videoconference with their laptop and simply use the computer’s built-in microphone and speaker. And while that’s certainly cheaper than buying an external headset, it makes for a painful videoconference.

If you’ve ever heard disruptive echoes, reverb or someone who sounds like they’re speaking in the middle of an airplane hangar, it’s often caused by two factors. First, the built-in microphones on most laptops and computers are low quality, especially compared to what you’ll find on even fairly inexpensive headsets and external microphones. In fact, if you have kids who play video games, it’s quite likely that they have better equipment than you do.

The second reason you hear those awful echoes or reverb is that when you’re using the internal microphone and speakers, you’re essentially on speakerphone. Thus you run the risk of your microphone picking up sound from your speakers, the speakers playing that sound back, which is again picked up by the microphone, and now you’ve got an infinite loop of annoying sound.

It’s possible that your laptop has an echo cancellation feature, but if you’re experiencing a high CPU load because you’ve got multiple applications running, that feature could be rendered ineffective.

Also, it’s much more difficult to interrupt someone when they’re essentially on a cheap speakerphone. So get everyone on your team using headsets, and you’ll immediately experience a big improvement in the quality of your videoconferences.

Technique No.3: Pause Every Three Sentences When You’re Speaking

Apropos interruptions, even with headsets, it can sometimes be tough to hear when someone wants to cut in and ask a question or make a comment. Therefore you’ll need to instruct everyone on your team to pause for a few seconds after they speak (approximately) three sentences.

It’s shocking just how many people can speak uninterrupted for 5-10 minutes (if not more) on a videoconference. And when that happens, the other people on the call are virtually guaranteed to lose focus. And forget the question they wanted to ask. And even become seriously irritated.

It takes a little practice, but if you remind your team at the beginning of every videoconference, and model the behavior yourself, you’ll quickly see a marked improvement.

Technique #4: Have Clear Rules For Your Videoconference

More than 20,000 people have taken the free online test “Is Your Personality Suited To Working Remotely Or In The Office?” Respondents answer ten questions and receive results indicating whether their personality is better suited to working remotely or working in an office.

One of the questions asks people to choose between these two statements:

  • I prefer not to be constrained by a set of rigid rules.
  • I like having rules and clearly defined expectations.

The data shows that 43% of people like having rules and clearly defined expectations. So if your videoconference doesn’t have a clearly defined agenda with clearly defined blocks of time, a process for everyone to take turns speaking, and strict start and stop times, you risk running afoul of the desires of nearly half your team.

In a typical face-to-face meeting, you can afford to get a little sloppy and careless with your meeting structure; you’ll immediately see via everyone’s body language that things are going poorly and you can regroup quickly. But on a videoconference, the telltale signs of a meeting going poorly aren’t quite so obvious.

Even though a minute-by-minute agenda, or prescribed times for questions, might seem a bit much for a videoconference with your internal team, structure is a good antidote for stress. Structure provides a sense of clarity and calm, because it means there’s one less thing we have to stress about.

With your employees likely feeling all-time-high levels of stress, it’s a great idea for you to eliminate as many irritants and stressors as possible. And with an exponential increase in the number of leaders and employees conducting videoconferences, even small tweaks can deliver significant improvement.

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