With so many people around the world now working, socializing, and learning (or teaching) from home, it may be time to think about your approach to teleconferencing. In the past, it may have been easy enough to log into an occasional video chat now and then when necessary, without any sort of strategic thinking. Now that teleconferencing is so much more regular for so many of us though, the process requires a bit more consideration.
With that said, we wanted to present 10 things to keep in mind while teleconferencing from home.
1. Check Your Internet Connection
This may sound like a very obvious suggestion. However, plenty of people these days don’t really concern themselves with internet connections at home. In all likelihood, you’re used to reliable Wi-Fi; if you occasionally experience a few moments of slowness, or your Wi-Fi goes out for five minutes once or twice a week, you probably think nothing of it. If this happens during a teleconference though, you may disrupt the conversation, and it can be tricky to get back into the meeting.
To avoid this, we simply recommend you be certain about where in your home you’re able to get the most reliable connection. However, we’d also point out that an old-fashioned wired connection can be a nice solution. Mashable wrote in favor of ethernet cables just last year, essentially arguing that they still provide the most reliable connections and should be used whenever possible. But the new craze for teleconferences has introduced a more specific incentive to break out that old ethernet cable, if you have one.
2. Show Up on Time
This is a good tip to keep in mind for meetings in general. But with teleconferencing, many are discovering that it’s especially important to stick to a schedule. Arriving late makes for a more conspicuous interruption than it might in person. It may also lead to a round of conversation (as people say hello one by one, ask how you’re doing, etc.) which can further delay the meeting. Showing up on time eliminates these issues and can make the whole meeting run more efficiently.
3. Dress for the Occasion
When you’re joining a teleconference from home, the temptation can be to show up casually. After all, with long hours at home, you’re likely to slip into some comfortable clothes that differ significantly from your business attire. But particularly if you’re joining a work call or something similar, you should consider dressing for the occasion to do your part to establish more of a professional atmosphere.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go all the way. If your colleagues are a more casual bunch, or if your ordinary place of work has a looser dress code, you can probably get away with something in the middle. We also like a tip from NY Post’s tips on video conference appearances. Regarding attire, the tips included a recommendation to dress one level down from your ordinary attire. That is, if you ordinarily wear a suit and tie, go for a button-down shirt; if you usually wear a button-down shirt, wear a nice t-shirt, and so on (within reason).
4. Mind Your Lighting
Amidst our ‘Tips for a Successful Video Interview’ in a recent series of videos, the subject of lighting during a call came up. This is a fairly basic consideration, but still one you may not have thought of if you’re not in the habit of teleconferencing. The problem is simple: Poor lighting makes you difficult to see, and this in turn makes you more difficult for others to fully engage with. To avoid this problem, try to make sure your room is well lit, but that the lights (or windows, if you’re conferencing during the day) are facing you — not behind you.
5. Discuss Talking Points in Advance
Particularly if you’re in a leadership role among those you’re teleconferencing with, it’s a good idea to set up a discussion about talking points in advance. We mentioned that casual conversation can interrupt meetings above when discussing why to show up on time, and this can happen if people aren’t sure of the direction of the meeting as well. So, to head off this problem, consider starting an email or messaging chain within which advance outlines can be shared or suggested. If everyone involved has a set of talking points on hand during the meeting, things are likely to move along more efficiently.
That doesn’t mean you have to churn through the meeting as quickly as possible. Each point should still be addressed thoroughly, and some socialization is likely for the best. But at the very least, having everyone on the same page is a good thing.
6. Know the Features of the Program You’re Using
Different teleconference programs have different features, and you should do your best to be familiar with them before you’re actually in a conference. Do you know how to rearrange windows to see as many participants as possible? Do you know how to mute yourself when necessary, or briefly turn off your camera without actually leaving the meeting? Are there in-program messaging features that can be used during the conference? These are questions worth asking yourself in advance.
7. Consider Alternatives
Depending on what you’re hoping to accomplish, or what kind of working environment you have, you may not actually need to tap into the teleconferencing fad. There are other options for group collaboration that work perfectly well, and it’s worthwhile to consider alternatives.
In some cases, these relate to specific industries or types of jobs. For example, you might consider electrical engineering and printed circuit board design — a job category that can involve a great deal of collaboration, even remotely. In this case, there are job-specific software options that specifically enable this remote collaboration. Altium describes the Gerber software viewer option as just this sort of program, specifying that it allows you to “design, view, and analyze your design within a unified environment.” This is a fairly specific application, but it’s a nice reminder that some types of jobs — whether in PCB design, project management, or even an artistic project — have their own programs that are meant to unite people across distance.
On a somewhat similar note, you might keep in mind that there are various professional chat and messaging services you can take advantage of also. For certain kinds of work, the face-to-face nature of teleconferencing is beneficial (or just adds a nice social component). However, programs like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Chanty, Ryver, and others have all served companies and groups of all kinds well.
8. Arrange Notes for the Group
One of the reasons that programs like the alternatives described above are preferable for certain tasks is that they preserve messages, and in some cases track progress. Most teleconference programs don’t necessarily include features that do these same things — which is why it’s a good idea to set up a way for the group to maintain notes. This might mean that someone is assigned to jot down key points and compile them in an email after the fact; it could mean that a shared group document is open and can be edited throughout the conference. Whatever the case though, if you do stick to standard teleconferences, some method of note taking should accompany your meetings.
9. Keep Things Brief
Lengthy talking points can cause people to tune out in any meeting. On a teleconference, when people are already on their computers and the interpersonal connection is just a little bit less real, the same thing can happen even more quickly. For this reason, it’s a good idea generally to keep talking points brief. Cover what needs to be covered, and try not to talk longer than necessary at any one time. The group is more likely to remain engaged this way.
10. Exclude Pets & Family
Pets and family are actually becoming common topics of conversation with regard to the current wave of teleconferences. The Balance’s list of things to avoid in video conferences, for instance, included “family issues” and “pet problems” as two of just five points. It follows, then, that you should do what you can to make sure that family and pets don’t interrupt your participation in the meeting.
Sometimes, you can’t quite pull this one off. If you have young children, you can’t always guarantee that they won’t wander in when they’re not supposed to, or call for you from another room. And if you have a cat or dog, you’re likely already familiar with its disregard for your teleconferencing preferences. Nevertheless, our final tip is to at least try to keep family and pets away — unless your colleagues just can’t wait for another look at pet, of course!
This Blog Post was guest written by Beacher Jules for Zekiah Technologies.