What is the first thing that occurred to you when the government declared lockdown? You must have felt a slight pinch of tension with all the uncertainty. But there would be some mild happiness too. You could get to spend time at home and connect to your office mates only through Virtual meetings.
At the same time, you might have wondered who would finish those tasks and deal with the entire operation from home.
I mean, work from home culture was already prevalent and nothing new.
However, this time, it was imposed on us instead of being a choice. Global lockdown happened, and people had no other option but to resort to remote working. Studies say that people spent more than 5.5 billion minutes in virtual meetings.
Even the tiniest bit of work was shifted to home, but as they say, everything comes with its own share of pros and cons.
With the changing circumstances comes a change in working styles. Rahul’s stint as a remote worker 7 years back is no longer seen as outrageous and revolutionary.
Companies and employees have adapted to remote working or working from home to a great extent.
Online meetings are famous for creating problems in a seamless remote working experience. There is more than one problem, and it becomes difficult for employers to handle all of these problems at once.
What’s the way out? How do we solve these problems?
We believe that the key to finding an optimal solution is to understand the problem first.
There are countless examples of how people jump onto solutions without understanding the problem.
Common problems that hinder virtual meetings and their solutions
1. Technical Difficulties
Is your entire day packed up with meetings?
Presumably. When you are stuck at home, communication turns virtual.
Virtual meetings are smooth as long as you are well-equipped with their requirements. Even then, certain technical glitches can arise.
However, these problems come with their solutions.
If you are the one host, make sure that every attendee is well-resourced, and the discussions would hold without any trouble.
Virtual meetings call for a good internet connection along with a proper functioning system.
As a result, doing a proper assessment of the systems should be the first step. You need to check if the employee's system is workable or not. If not, the office's systems could come to the aid.
Using the office’s device serves the purpose of efficient machines. It saves the employees from distractions from notifications they are likely to stumble upon when working from their workstations.
With Wi-Fi connection being more affordable than ever, poor Wi-Fi is a bad excuse. The company may provide employees with assistance in reimbursement at the end of every month.
Fortunately, we can do a lot to solve technical problems.
2. Excessive meetings
In the current scenario, almost everyone is working remotely. The frequency of meetings has taken a high toll.
Since personal meetings are impossible at present, every bit of communication is taking place over FaceTime applications.
And, to share tasks and discuss the flow of work, meetings became necessary. However, trust issues also developed in managers as they cannot monitor their employees efficiently from a distant place.
All these factors have led to a rapid increase in virtual meetings.
Screenshot Source: Twitter
For teams who need to be interactive to carry on their work require a lot of meetings.
But when it happens virtually, connection and bonding are hard to sustain.
The meetings should be conducted in a way that ends with fulfilling results.
Before the meeting, every attendee should be done with their routine activities so that they are ready to attend it with total concentration.
The meeting moments should be straightforward and to the point. One shall not waste time on dull details.
The agendas should be circulated among the attendees one day before the meeting so that they can stick to them and prepare themselves accordingly.
If you are presenting something, use document sharing, as made available by these apps, so that people can follow along.
If needed, take breaks for 1-2 minutes.
3. Video conferencing etiquette
This is one of those gray areas where people usually don’t like to be too vocal. With the new age companies being cool in their workplace etiquette, it might get tricky to dictate any strict terms for the employees.
However, if the employees are munching on the toast in pajamas during the call, chances are that they are not taking the meeting seriously.
That encourages even the dedicated employees to slack off from time to time.
Eventually, there is a possibility of employees avoiding the meeting altogether.
This problem has a pretty easy fix, but it requires one to follow specific rules. The approach for a successful virtual meeting should be the same, which applies to face-to-face meetings.
Screenshot Source: Twitter
Dress code plays an essential role in this. All the teammates, even if not formal, should be dressed in a presentable manner.
Some more advisable qualities can be-
- Speaking courteously with others
- Keeping body movement minimum to avoid any motion blur
- Make eye contact with the attendees, i.e., with the camera
4. Lack of body language
What is one advantage of meetings in person?
You get to observe and acquire knowledge about what the other person is thinking or reacting, just from their body language and expressions.
But when you are conversing virtually, the situation is vaguer.
While in a typical meeting, body language helps our brain to attach emotions to them.
It is way different when the meeting is set in a virtual setting.
As here, we cannot obtain any information, for our brains cannot retain those virtual interactions.
Screenshot Source: Twitter
As a result, our brain fails to decode the intent or consolidate memories. It then leads to a wide communication gap.
The solution to the problem, as mentioned above, is relatively easy.
All you have to do is ensure every attendee uses a suitable HD video quality format whenever there is a meeting.
Apart from this, keep specific hours fixed for the meetings. Hours when the network speed is at its peak to avoid any video connection issues.
One should also have frequent video chats with teammates to prevent any kind of awkwardness.
Screenshot Source: Twitter
Have group chats, if necessary.
Once the employees are well-informed about one another, they will freely interact among themselves. And, you can just keep the communication going.
5. Engaging employees
One of the most challenging aspects of a virtual meeting is to keep tabs on who is paying attention and who is not.
With each attendee turning their camera off, it becomes challenging to figure out if they are fully engrossed in the discussion or not.
Although, it is pretty standard for people to divert their attention and check their notifications in between virtual meetings.
There is not much anyone can do about it, virtually.
It is always better to start a meeting with a general introduction. This acts as a great Zoom icebreaker and gets everyone involved before the actual session begins. This adds a social element to the otherwise dull real-time online meetings.
Besides, keeping the camera on can do some good, but employees should be willing to do that by choice.
If anyone has issues showing their background, they can always use those background themes provided by the virtual meeting apps.
Screenshot Source: Twitter
Additionally, there should be a tone set for these meetings so that every attendee behaves according to standard meeting norms.
Making the meetings interactive is very important, which keeps every employee in the loop and engaged.
In the same setting, you can also organize some virtual team building activities for revitalizing their team spirit.
Specific questions and feedback can be asked to all the attendees, motivating them to participate actively.
6. Flow of distractions
The best part of remote meetings is that they can be conducted from anywhere.
And, the worst part of virtual meetings is that they can be conducted from anywhere.
While you have the luxury of conducting virtual meetings from anywhere, things often go haywire when run from the wrong places.
Virtual meetings are, most times, obstructed due to unpleasant background noise. Distractions from family members, pets, and the traffic near your house are prevalent in virtual meetings.
Screenshot Source: Twitter
Distractions often derail the tenacity and focus of the meeting. Sure some distractions can be pretty funny like your toddler walking into the room. It can bring in a few waves of laughter to take the edge off.
But more often than not, distractions often diminish the focus of the group.
Together with embarrassment, it breaks the momentum of the meeting.
Aiming to prevent such a distraction from occurring, it’s better to find a quiet place for the meeting.
Also, you should try and minimize the duration of your meeting. It is a good idea to finish the session within 30 minutes.
A short meeting helps your employees to find a quiet spot in their home without any distractions for a short period.
The longer the duration, the more opportunities for distractions to creep into the meeting.
There are several virtual meeting tools available, one of which is a mute button. The mute button helps to hold a diversion-free meeting.
Having a consensus on keeping the devices on mute when they are not speaking during conference calls is smart.
The voices of people cannot clash, and a proper discipline follows.
Therefore, everyone should be on mute until they are asked to contribute their ideas or feedback.
There are also chats and emoticon reactions that people can use when they want to participate without having to talk.
This way, you can reduce a lot of background noise and provide a seamless video conferencing experience.
A bit of planning and discipline is all you need.
In a general meeting, getting your point across is not that hard. You can just put it forward, and it is transparent.
But, in the case of virtual meetings, the situation is reversed. You can deliver one thing, and the attendees can receive it differently.
One more important thing to consider is that most video meetings lag about 2-3 seconds.
Your implications might get lost in the haphazard universe of video conferencing applications.
You may even miss a point or two.
It leads to a wide range of miscommunication.
Lay out the rules of the virtual meetings ahead of time to avoid interruptions. When and how can the participants ask doubts? Who will receive questions? Is there a time limit to the meeting?
In the face of confusion, another tool can come to the rescue: the share screen tool.
If you are conducting a meeting, you have to make sure it is fruitful and that you can make your point.
This is where screen sharing helps.
You make a presentation and explain the points in the meeting.
However, despite just speaking, make use of the visual aid tool.
You can directly turn the screen sharing feature on and show the points to attendees for them to note down.
By doing so, your stance would have more weight and clarity.
It would be interesting and understandable. If anybody wants a re-run, they can even screen record your presentation.
Because of the time lag, it also becomes necessary that the employees speak and approach the meetings slower for better clarity.
Furthermore, everyone can put their comments wherever required, since they would pen it all down and remember the key points.
What is the best video conferencing software?
With the new era being involved in virtual meetings daily, we hear about a brand-new software launched every other day.
Ever since lockdown happened, people could not help but connect to their colleagues through virtual meetings.
The office shifted to home, and the meeting rooms moved to computers and cellphones.
Every work is discussed virtually.
And that was the moment when the not-so-hyped video conferencing software became a sensation, and demand for them, heightened overnight.
However, all these applications have their pros and cons, and likewise, each one of them possesses some features which are better than the other.
Which video conferencing software do you use?
Now, let us talk about 5 of the most popular video conferencing software in use today.
The most convenient software in town, so as they say.
Zoom became one of the most trending virtual meeting tools for it possessed great features.
Pros: Access to 100 people in one free session; customizable backgrounds
Cons: Maximum duration of 40 minutes under the free plan
2. Google Hangouts
The most straightforward interface, from the look of it.
Google Hangouts does not talk a big game when it comes to features. But it usually comes in handy and can be used either in a web browser or via apps.
Pros: Free & easy to use
Cons: Maximum 10 people in one meeting
3. Google Meet
If you are not convinced enough with Google Hangouts and require more features, Google Meet is your go-to option.
Google Meet offers a lot of facilities one desires to organize video conferences.
Pros: Capacity of 100 attendees
Cons: Lack of advanced features
The online meeting software which goes way back to ancient times.
Skype is still considered to be one of the most powerful in the virtual meeting business. Not to mention everyone is familiar with it.
Pros: Unlimited meeting duration
Cons: Up to 50 people in a complimentary meeting session
A software for entirely business purposes.
As much as Skype and Zoom enable anyone to organize a meet, GoToMeeting strictly focuses on business.
Pros: Professional & business-oriented
Cons: No free version, only a free trial; Expensive
Many others and various new software are entering the market with each passing day.
You just got to do your research and go for the best.
Making virtual meetings click is a tough job. Often, it takes a toll on our physical and mental health too with constant sitting in front of the monitor. Zoom fatigue is for real.
However, even if you do take care of everything, there is a possibility of things going south.
E.g., what if some of your employees are operating from a different time zone? What if your new employees don’t have a good idea about your products and services?
Problems are bound to arise even if you keep track of everything.
But, when you keep on solving problems effectively, you get an idea of dealing with any new kind of problems.