We’ve had to adapt to many new changes during this time of coronavirus, both professionally and socially. Lockdown has bought with it several challenges that we have never had to deal with prior to this pandemic.
Working from home has become the new norm for many small and large-scaled companies, meaning that employees have had to get accustomed to completing their days work remotely and conducting meetings in a virtual environment.
The constant advances in today’s modern technology have made it even simpler to have professional meetings and conferences remotely, which have seen an exponential increase during this time of remote working.
Gone are the days of having to find an available conference or meeting room, and schedule in the best time to accommodate the high number of attendees. Now meetings can take place virtually with each member attending from various locations, locally or globally.
Although remote meetings and conferences are a much more convenient form of professionally gathering, there still needs to be a level of planning and organization going on to make sure they run smoothly and efficiently.
1. Transcribing and Captioning
With eConference calls and meetings in larger, global companies becoming more and more popular, precise planning is essential to make sure an international team is filled in on every detail of the meeting.
There is a high chance that many members of the international team will be multilingual and not all speak the same first language. This causes a risk of alienating some attendees or certain points getting lost in translation and ignored.
A great solution for this is transcribing online conferences through remote captioning services and tools. This is especially useful for the nomad employee who works in a cross-continental country and whose work in predominantly done in a foreign language.
However, if you don’t have any international attendees, that does not mean you shouldn’t transcribe the meeting. Transcription and captioning are a perfect way to document what was discussed in the meeting, so it can be looked over by those absent from the meeting, or even those in attendance if they want to revisit what was said.
2. Remote Conference Captioning
Remote conference captioning is a great tool for international teams to implement as it provides live subtitles and captioning of video conferences. This allows the entire team, no matter the difference in language or understanding to connect to and understand the presented content and gain full comprehension of what is being presented.
This is done by feeding the presented audio to a professional translator online, who translates and captions the provided information immediately in real-time. The translated content is then sent back and presented as captions, creating a smooth and informative online conference for all attendees.
3. Remote Transcribing
Another way to plan a seamless remote conference experience is by implementing effective remote transcribing techniques and tools.
There are a number of ways to transcribe a remote meeting or conference, choosing the best one depends on a number of factors, such as the level of details needed to be recorded and the number of attendees that are present in the conference.
Live video recording or captioning is a good option if every detail is needed to be remembered by every team member, and it gives the opportunity for conferences to be watched back for future reference.
Executing such practices in a business can prove invaluable as the professional world moves forward into a new age of working. Recording meetings could global companies in their “digital transformation” that has suddenly been shaken and potentially fast-forwarded due to COVID-19.
Effective minute taking is essential to record all the content that was shared and discussed in a remote meeting. This is important as it keeps a record of any plans and details that were spoken about to then be implemented in the future.
Depending on the volume of content, multiple minutes takes can be employed to make sure all content is recorded and noted effectively as to not rely on one singular person. This is a good way to cover potential connection problems that may occur for individuals in the meeting.
4. Set a Start and End Time
When a meeting is taking place in a physical office space it is very easy to grab an employee that is lagging behind from their office. This isn’t quite so simple when doing a remote conference meeting as messages can be missed or be ignored, so gathering everyone to start at the same start time can be a challenge.
There is also no physical queue for the meeting to come to an end, such as an employee knocking on the door or somebody initiating the leaving process by gathering their belongings and standing up.
This can turn remote conferences into unnecessarily long meetings and taking up huge chunks of the workday.
A solution around this is to automate meeting reminders beyond the calendar invite for each employee attending to receive a few minutes before the meeting is about to start. This can be done on online messaging tools such as Slack where you can set up automation as a reminder.
Such online messaging tools as Slack are also introducing new software that allows employees to get to know each other better and build a stronger virtual team, which can all help in the process of remote working and setting up online conference meetings with further ease.
5. Be Intentional About Your Communication
It is very simple to control a chatty audience and volume levels in a meeting room when gathering in person. The conversation also naturally flows more organically when communicating and discussing topics face to face as opposed to over a screen. There are several communication practices you can incorporate into your meeting to make sure it runs smoothly and intentionally.
Make sure to leave some room for silence. A common mistake made in virtual meetings is individuals speaking over each other due to delay and connectivity issues. This makes it harder to clearly hear different points made and can make it difficult for others to hear clearly. An effective way to avoid this is by leaving a bit of leeway after asking a question to give space for others to speak.
Keep an eye out for nonverbal responses from employees during a remote call. You might get head nods, confused faces, or other facial expressions that can help indicate how people are responding to what you are saying. You can use these responses as a way to read the virtual room and narrate what you’re seeing. Don’t just wait and rely on these nonverbal cues though, make sure to ask for verbal feedback in chat too.
Call employees by their names to respond or contribute to a certain point as you are unable to catch someone’s attention with simple eye contact as you usually would in a non-virtual meeting room. This is especially important if you are doing a round-robin sharing session in the call – remember there is no set seating plan in a virtual conference!
Another effective communication tool is having an exit phase put in place for when remote disagreements come into the light and an agreed conclusion can’t be met by two employees or more. Instead of taking time out of the meeting to hash it out, and making it awkward for everyone, use an exit phase such as “let’s continue this discussion elsewhere” so that the rest of your employees can move on and you can continue the conversation in private.
6. Plan Discussion Points Ahead of Time
One thing that can really drag out a meeting is by not having an itemized or planned agenda as to what exactly needs to be discussed in the meeting. This gives room for unnecessary discussion to take place and waste a big chunk of time.
By entering a meeting and knowing exactly what needs to be discussed, you can start the meeting as soon as everyone joins without dilly-dallying around and waiting for someone to initiate the important points that need to be raised.
It also helps to have an employee who is in charge of leading the remote meeting and stirring the conversation in the correct direction so things don’t go off track and irrelevant chit-chat comes into play between different employees, leaving others feeling annoyed and frustrated.
All the employees that are present in a virtual meeting should be kept engaged and included in the discussion to keep the morale of individuals high and make sure everyone leaves the meeting feeling valued and productive to get on with their tasks for the rest of the day.
7. Agree on the Meeting Protocol Beforehand
Video conferencing tools give many options as to how you want to be present in a virtual meeting. There is a mute/unmute function as well as switching your webcam on or off to be visibility present in front of everyone else.
It is a good idea to decide on an agreed and mutual presence for everyone attending to follow the same protocol throughout the virtual conference.
Everyone defaulting to video is usually the best way to avoid interruptions as you can visibly see if someone is about to talk or wants to make a specific point at a certain time of the call.
Mute your mic depending on the situation and the number of people on the call.
According to a scientific report by Zapier, if there are fewer than five people on the call then there is no need to mute yourself. However, if there are more than six people than it is the protocol to stay mute on the call unless it is your turn to speak.
There are several tools you can use to mute your surroundings when in a virtual meeting. This is especially useful when working from home with uncontrollable background noise such as loud pets, crying babies, or doorbells. Life happens, and that’s ok. Tools such as Krisp help in canceling the outside noise you can’t control and being able to stay focused in a remote meeting.
8. Ask for Feedback
As remote meetings become the new norm in working environments, it is important to gauge how well and productive your employees are finding them and what may need to be improved in order for them to keep running in an effective and sustainable manner.
Employees that are new to virtual conferencing can end up getting very frustrating with this new format of communication and can end up feeling frustrated if their concerns aren’t being heard or addressed, that’s why it is important to always ask for feedback.
You can easily attain this meeting feedback by setting up a poll in your work chat app for employees to fill out at their own discretion. Keep all responses anonymous so that employees feel safe and comfortable enough to respond honestly without any limitations or judgments.
Lastly, make sure to act on the feedback that you receive back! Any critical feedback isn’t a shun against you personally, remote conference meetings just require more thoughtful communication in order for them to run smoothly and comfortably.
9. Decide If a Meeting Is Even Needed
Before going through all these steps to set up a well thought out meeting and productive session make sure it is even worth having a meeting in the first place.
A lot of valuable time can be wasted in an unnecessary discussion that can take place over work messaging apps such as Slack or over a simple chain of emails throughout the working day and at employees’ own pace. Make sure to make an appropriate judgment call as to whether something needs to be discussed virtually on video or if it can be over another form of messaging.
It’s natural to crave social interaction when working remotely but make sure not to waste beneficial work time in endless meetings that can hinder productivity and performance in tasks. Set apart some time for social team building instead!