Video Conferencing is Here to Stay: How to Have Better Virtual Meetings
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all parts of the business world. From social distancing to a fully remote workforce, companies are continuing to adapt to the "new normal," with varying degrees of success. One of those adaptations has been the use of video conferencing technology for virtual meetings.
The question for most companies now is how to effectively navigate the challenges associated with the use of video conferencing platforms so they can have better online meetings. To do that, you need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of its use, and to train employees in best practices.
The Advantages of Video Conferencing
There are several key benefits that business organizations have discovered from using video conferencing tools.
Video Conferencing Benefits Include:
1. Get Together Anytime, Anywhere
The beauty of video conferencing is that you can do it anywhere. Some companies have found that it’s much easier to coordinate schedules when setting up a virtual meeting. Your schedule frees up when you don't have to worry about drive-time.
This can also lead to a much quicker and more streamlined decision-making process since important meetings can be held sooner, and potentially more often if needed.
2. Easy Collaboration
Getting set up for a virtual meeting used to be a clunky, complicated process. Now you can seamlessly connect, share screens, deliver presentations, and video chat about whatever you're collaborating on, from wherever you may be.
3. Higher Employee Satisfaction and Retention
Video conferencing enables remote workers. Remote work was popular pre-COVID -- now, it's expected. When employees have been surveyed about their preference to work in the office or work from home, the majority of people said, "both."
People today want to flexibility to work from wherever is conducive to getting their best work done. Some days that might be in the office. Some days it's on their couch.
Happy, productive employees are less likely to search for a new job.
4. Reduced Travel Costs
Video conferencing capabilities can result in huge savings if you have typically had a mobile workforce. Moving meetings from onsite to virtual can save on vehicle-related expenses, and you won't be paying someone to sit in traffic.
The Disadvantages of Video Conferencing
Nothing is perfect, and video conferencing is no exception.
Video Conferencing Drawbacks Include:
1. Lack of In-Person Communication Cues
A large percentage of person-to-person communication is non-verbal. Think: stance, the impatient tapping of a foot, a yawn, the body position of a listener, etc.
It’s hard to pick up all of these non-verbal communication cues from a virtual meeting, which means that there is a greater chance for misunderstandings to arise.
2. Technical Issues
While most video conferencing platforms boast solid programming and a sound foundation, there’s always the potential for technical issues to come up. Some meeting participants may have slow Internet speed, which causes a distracting lag between video and sound.
And there's the possibility that a problem with the software will emerge unexpectedly, leaving attendees adrift until the company fixes the issue.
3. A Big Learning Curve for Some Employees
Some technologically savvy employees are adjusting to the world of virtual meetings with ease. It's been much harder for others.
There's a significant proportion of the workforce that has very limited experience with video conferencing platforms, if any at all. One study found that since the outbreak of COVID-19, 25% of American workers have started using collaboration tools (like video conferencing apps) for the first time.
The idea of video conferencing also makes some people uncomfortable. It can take some time to get used to it before it becomes normal.
4. No "Whiteboard Magic"
Ever noticed how going into a room with a whiteboard can suddenly take a crazy complicated idea and turn it into something actionable? Or how scribbling on a whiteboard can simplify even the most complex problems?
There's something magical about a whiteboard.
Many virtual meeting platforms have a whiteboard function built in, but it's just not the same as drawing sketches or tossing ideas on a board and staring at it for a while.
How to Make the Video Conferencing Experience Better
With these pros and cons of video conferencing in mind, how can employers help their team members successfully navigate through the challenges associated with video conferencing?
Here Are Some Suggestions for Improving Your Virtual Meeting Experience:
Make Sure Employees Are Familiar With the Video Conferencing Platform, Controls, and Procedures Used by Your Company
It's important to invest some time and thought into a training plan for employees as they acclimate to video conferencing technology.
People have different learning styles, so provide them with training manuals, how-to guides, and even video tutorials to ensure that all team members understand the basics of how the platform works.
Practice with them in no-pressure settings when needed to make sure they're comfortable and know what to do.
Encourage Employees to Treat Video Conferences as They Would In-Person Meetings
Even though virtual meeting participants may be at home, it's important to remember that they these meetings still need to be treated with professionalism and care.
For instance, employees should "arrive" early for scheduled virtual meetings in case there are any issues with accessibility. They should check their appearance to make sure they present a professional front to other attendees. It may also be wise for employers to institute a company policy that no distracting backgrounds should be used during virtual events. (Free virtual backgrounds are available these days).
Train Employees on Proper "Virtual Etiquette"
Video conferencing has its own set of customs and standards for politeness.
Employers should ensure that their team members understand the basic principles of conduct expected from them during virtual meetings.
For example, mute yourself when you're not talking. This eliminates all background noise and improves the meeting for everyone. Also, use the "Raise Hand" button (or its equivalent) when you would normally raise your hand in person.
Help Employees Understand How to Effectively Collaborate Over Video Conferencing Platforms
Companies should also make sure that their workers don't miss out on one of the major advantages of video conferencing technology: the ability to efficiently collaborate with team members, partners, and vendors. The "screen share" option that most video conferencing platforms offer is an important feature in this regard.
Employees should become familiar with screen sharing best practices, including the importance of closing out other tabs that could potentially expose private information to other participants.
Use Technology to Enable Remote Workers
Video conferencing is definitely here to stay, and most companies have already embraced this relatively new avenue of business communication and collaboration.
If you'd like to learn more about integrating video conferencing into your business, or which platform may be right for you, feel free to reach out to our team anytime.
About Courtney Casey
In an industry dominated by men, Courtney Casey, Director of Marketing for Accent Computer Solutions, Inc., is making her mark on the world of information technology. Courtney has been immersed in the IT field most of her life and has been molded into the tech savvy expert she is today. She began working for Accent while earning her Bachelor's degree from California State University, Long Beach. Known in the Inland Empire as the "Tech Girl," Courtney is a regular columnist for the region's newspaper of record, The Press-Enterprise. Her columns address topical news trends, new technology products, and offer advice on how to embrace technology or avoid common IT pitfalls.