Useful Tips for Your Next Conference Call
Used occasionally in companies and organizations around the world for years, virtual conference calls and virtual meetings have now made their way into our homes courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic that ravaged the world this year. While in the past these conference calls were set up but your helpful IT team, nowadays you will have to take over their jobs and get everything ready yourself. While this may sound daunting to the more technologically inept of us, it is actually quite simple, and in an effort to help make things easier for you, below we have provided a few useful tips for your next conference call.
Test your setup
If you have already attended a video conference call or a virtual meeting, chances are that the first few minutes were spent either getting your setup working or helping another member of the call to fix theirs. This not only causes the meeting to go over the scheduled time but is also likely that many of the attendees will be frustrated before the meeting has even really started. With a few quick checks, any embarrassment and delay caused by faulty setups can easily be avoided, so be sure to check the following to keep things moving smoothly. We also advise that you relay this information to anyone else who may be attending to ensure that everyone is as ready as you are.
First and foremost you will need to make sure that your internet connection is good enough to handle a virtual conference call. Perform speed tests around your home using either your laptop or your phone to find the best place to sit during the meeting. Ideally, you want to have a hardwired connection to your router or failing that, you want to at least aim for a direct line of sight with it. If you have a poorer internet connection that struggles even at the best of times, it is also a good idea to speak to anyone else living in your house and ask that they refrain from downloading anything or streaming videos for the duration of your meeting. It may also be worth mentioning that online games should be fine as they take up very little bandwidth, meaning they should not affect your overall connection at all.
Next up is your audio setup, and we say audio rather than simply your microphone because we highly recommend that you invest in a pair of headphones and ideally, an external mic. The external microphone will prevent sound like your computer fans being picked up, and the headphones will prevent any sounds coming from your speakers being picked up by your microphone and echoed back into the call for everyone else to hear. While a good pair of headphones and a decent microphone are preferred, even something as simple as a pair of phone headphones with an attached mic will be better than using nothing at all and relying on your laptop’s built-in microphone.
Unlike your microphone, if your computer has a built-in camera, it probably is good enough to be used in your meeting. However, there are other things you will need to think about when it comes to your camera. You will need to find a space in your home that not only has a good internet connection, but you also need good lighting if you will be on video. Natural light is the preferred option but failing that try to position a light behind your camera so that your face is not shrouded in shadow. Also remember not to have any light source visible on camera, as that will affect the overall quality of the image you are transmitting.
All of these tests can be done alone through your computer settings, but we still recommend that, if possible, you grab a friend or co-worker and jump in a test call in whichever application you will be using for the meeting. This will ensure that everything is working properly in a live environment and will allow you to familiarise yourself with the software at the same time.
Use the available tech to your advantage
People often see video conference calls as a step down from physical, face to face meetings, and while there are some aspects of an in-person meeting that you simply can’t recreate online, like body language, for example, there are plenty of tools available to make your virtual meeting experience smooth and efficient. For example, Hello Backgrounds virtual backgrounds image search allows you to find and set a virtual background so that you can keep your personal space away from prying eyes without the need to buy a physical barrier or green screen. These backgrounds also allow you to maintain a professional appearance regardless of what you have laying behind you, whether it be children or housemates walking around, or even just an untidy room you didn’t want to clean up.
Create an agenda
One of the most notable issues that comes with virtual conference calls is the fact that it is far easier to get distracted or derailed since everyone is working from home instead of all together in the same room. To prevent people from getting distracted and going off track, it is a good idea to create an agenda for any online meeting you host. This agenda can be time-sensitive if you like, but the important thing is that you at least include the purpose of the meeting, the topics you want to cover, and the overall goal you wish to achieve by the end of the call.
You can also add a list of ground rules that can function similarly to how a code of conduct works in an office, helping to ensure that people act professionally, something that can easily be forgotten when working from home.
Last but not least, we advise that you strongly consider recording your meetings. This is a feature that is not available in physical meetings and, while it may not be the best idea to record a meeting where privacy is particularly important, for general, everyday meetings, having a video record can be very helpful. They make for far easier and more accurate note-taking, and if anyone is unable to attend the call at the scheduled time, a recording allows them to quickly and effectively catch up to anything they missed.