As I experienced myself, especially large, international companies have a huge meetings culture and it may be hard to find a free spot that suits everybody. Now, when you finally found that precious time in everyone’s agenda, you want to make the call as efficient as possible. And while you may save on walking to meeting rooms now, you might lose a lot of time with other issues coming with online meetings and video conferences. Let’s dig into 5 quick tips that help you organize your next video conferences and make them more time-efficient.
1. Open a waiting room
It often takes a few people some time to set their audio and video for the online conference, realizing that the angle of the camera is showing details that should not be displayed, or that the call is not picking up the right mic. To avoid such delays, create a digital waiting room by allowing attendees to enter the link ahead of the actual meeting. Like this, they have enough time to set up everything and are ready to start once you or the host is welcoming everyone.
However, a simple waiting room or “please wait until the host lets you in” is not enough. Since you don’t provide anything for the participant at this moment, you immediately lose their attention and they will use those last minutes by checking emails or browsing or any other “quick task” that may end up in having them join too late in the end. Instead, consider playing some slides that you want your attendees to read to prepare for the meeting. Even more capturing are off-topic slides though that are fun to watch.
If the tool offers, you should definitely play music. It can be your favorite tunes or some excitement rising songs that put the attendees in the right atmosphere and energy. Use the few valuable minutes upfront to motivate them with the right music and make their waiting time more pleasant.
2. Use ice breaker questions or activities
At the beginning of the meeting, you can engage your audience and test the functions at the same time. By asking ice breaker questions and letting them virtually raise their hand, send emoticons or use the chat, you get the attention of all attendees and can playfully show and explain which options they have to interact with the platform or tool.
Often there are a few minutes in the beginning of a larger conference until all attendees are virtually ‘present’, so use this time to let the others familiarize themselves and ensuring that they know how to interact later during the event. Point out where questions can be asked, where to find polls, whether they should have sli.do or menti open on their mobile devices. This is much more productive than repeating, “please be patient, we will wait another couple of minutes until everyone is logged in”.
3. Auto-mute everybody!
How many video conferences have you attended and every caller was on speaker, moving items along their desk, having their fan blowing into the mic, etc. Sometimes it may even happen that somebody starts talking to someone in the background while the host or other speaking partner are actually talking…totally oblivious that everyone can hear them. Seen and heard it all.
Therefore, to avoid such disturbances and keep everyone focused on whoever is talking, make sure to mute everybody. Especially when the online meeting hosts a larger audience. Many tools have a setting that lets the host of the video conference automatically mute everyone who is not set as speaker, which helps you by not having to mute every single attendee.
Which leads us to…
4. Address people with their names
When meetings are held in person, everyone usually has a more or less clear overview of who is talking and who is gesturing or kind of opening their mouth to jump into the conversation. However, this is not as clearly visible at online meetings. First of all, the more videos are displaying on the screen, the smaller they tend to be and the harder it is to identify everyone’s face expression – that said, if the video quality is good enough anyway. Second, some participants may not even have their video turned on and a voice suddenly appears from “the off”. Who’s talking there?
To make sure the conversation keeps flowing smoothly without unnecessary delays of identifying who is talking to whom, start using the names of the colleagues or guests you ask a question to or handing the word over. In the same moment, you may also remind said person whether or not their microphone is still muted.
Actively addressing your online audience will also help to create a personal connection and engage them in the call rather than leaving questions or ideas hanging in the air with a big silence. And when you want to get attention to yourself to say something, you may also try to lean in and get closer to the camera to signal the speaker and indicate you’d like to add something to the conversation.
5. Encourage turning on camera
For small to mid-size online meetings it is recommended to encourage participants to turn on their camera. Unless it is a plain live stream or webinar kind of conference, where the focus lies on the speakers and presentation only, having the videos of the audience turned on will help with interaction. You may even start with videos of attendees turned off during the first presentation part and then switch to video display for the Q&A or discussion afterwards.
Talking and interacting with each other works best face-to-face. And when stuck in the virtual world, what we can do to get as close as possible to this experience is at least turning on our cameras. First, to show that we are actually present, and second, to facilitate conversation and personal connections. Remember that the speaker is paying attention mainly to the ones who turned their cameras on because all other participants are kind of not present to him. In the end, we are human beings and always prefer human interaction.
Now, I hope with the above in mind your upcoming online meetings will run even smoother and efficient than before, while leading to more interaction and engagement of your audience at the same time.
If you prefer to focus on the content rather than the technicalities alongside the meeting, let us know and we’ll love to support your meeting by taking care of the suitable conferencing tool for you.
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Have a beautiful day!