Online conferences are a practical alternative to traditional meetings, which is why they’re being used more and more frequently to bring people together — even when they can’t physically be in the same place. They can lead to massive savings on travel costs as well as providing significant time management advantages. Instead of nerve-racking, time-wasting travel back and forth, people’s energy can be used much more efficiently. In addition, the visual aspect of a videoconference can lead to much more personal discussions than a conference call allows. That means that videoconferencing offers a good opportunity to build relationships with business partners, who may be located in another country. In addition, videoconferencing is an effective team building measure, particularly when several employees of a business work out of different cities or even different countries – cohesiveness and a sense of common purpose are reinforced by the (almost) personal contact that it entails.
The right preparation
Videoconferencing nevertheless requires a certain amount of preparation and rules to be adhered to if it is to be a success. In any event, hardware is always an important factor and high-quality results are essential. While a camera with good picture quality is important, excellent sound quality makes an even bigger difference. As such, choose the best microphone you can, especially if videoconferences are likely to play a major role in your working environment. Omnidirectional microphones are the best type to use for videoconferencing, as they record sound from all directions within a given radius, ensuring that all participants can clearly be understood. Before the time slot scheduled for the meeting, the connection must be checked to ensure that there is no downtime before the meeting actually starts. A sensible seating plan should also be considered beforehand, so that all participants in the meeting are visible to the camera. If the space allows, a semi-circular position around the table is the best approach. Lighting is often overlooked, yet it is just as vital for the quality of the picture that is transmitted. Best results are obtained when the light source comes from behind the camera, so that there is no backlighting that causes unsightly shadows. Particularly if the location is poorly lit, the background should be as uncluttered as possible: wild patterns and garish colors are out of the question, as they only serve to distract the viewer or detract from the picture quality.
During the video conference
In order to ensure an efficient video conference that achieves its goals, a moderator should be appointed to set an agenda in advance and send it out beforehand. During the meeting, the moderator holds the reins and notifies participants how much time is remaining. First and foremost, the moderator should ensure that the participants are introduced to one another if they don’t already know one another from previous meetings. Large, clearly readable name badges are a good solution if there is a lot to discuss, so that all participants can be addressed by name. The moderator should additionally provide an introduction to the various topics under discussion, ensure that there is an appropriate transition between subjects, and allow everyone a turn to speak. As you may experience transmission delays during your videoconference, it is important for everyone to lead the conversation and bridge any gaps that might arise.
Another important aspect to consider during the video conference is the level of background noise. It should of course go without saying that attendees shouldn’t whisper to the person sitting next to them, but there are many other noises that can be just as disruptive during a videoconference even though they would barely be noticeable during a traditional meeting. For that reason, windows should be closed and cellphones placed in silent mode – even a vibrating alert can be disruptive. You even need to be careful around coffee cups and glasses of water, particularly if the microphone is placed on the table as even something as simple as placing a cup on a table can cause an audible disturbance. The same applies to people who nervously play with their pens.
Using Beamium for videoconferences
Videoconferences are often about more than a mutual discussion or sharing a quick update to a team. Instead the aim is to use the meeting to deliver specific content. The well-established PowerPoint presentation is the ideal tool for this purpose, conveying facts and displaying results that have been calculated in advance. As well-established as this method of presenting is in a “normal” setting, it is surprisingly difficult to present in this way during a videoconference as it images on projector screens or monitors are hard to capture using a video camera. Even if you do manage that, the quality is significantly reduced. Of course it is possible to send out the PowerPoint presentation before the meeting, but the constant reminders to scroll to the next slide are not just awkward: they can quickly lead to misunderstandings, particularly when they are combined with transmission delays.
Beamium provides the ideal solution to this problem: the web-based presentation solution provides the option of delivering presentations in real time across multiple devices, completely independent of physical location. The presenter receives an eight-digit ID that can be shared with other participants in the meeting, who can then easily download the presentation via the web-viewer at www.beamium.com, and follow the presentation on their own smartphone, tablet, or computer as it is being delivered. This allows all participants in the videoconference to follow the same speech at the same time and hold a conversation without the problems associated with being so far apart. As the presentation remains available to participants even after the meeting has finished, there’s not even any need to distribute any handouts or send any follow-up e-mails. This means that, if you’re planning a videoconference, Beamium can work wonders in making your meeting more structured and more productive.
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