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Business meetings and keeping in touch

Posted: Wednesday 25 March 2020

As more and more of us need to work from home and socially distance ourselves, face-to-face meetings are being cancelled. It is also more crucial than ever to keep teams working successfully when they are split in remote locations. Thankfully, there are plenty of digital solutions to this which will help keep your business running and also maintain your sanity in the coming weeks of isolation.

Seeing is Believing

Video conferencing and calls used to be expensive, unreliable and often complicated to set up, but times have changed. Many of us video call via Facebook messenger or Whatsapp, which are both great for keeping in touch with family members and friends. However, for business we need something a little more professional that isn’t linked to our personal accounts. The following offer free options, as well as paid upgrades and while these are the market leaders, there are other options too:

Zoom is probably the fastest growing video conferencing software and comes with a free option. The limits on the account are that the meeting is limited to 40 minutes and has a maximum of 100 participants. The company has also issued help for people during the Covid-19 outbreak including advice for working from home and how to hide a messy room when video conferencing. You can also share screens for presentations etc. All you need to do is send out a link to your fellow meeting guests.

GoToMeeting only has a free option for 14 days, after that you will need to pay, but its pricing is lower than some.

Skype has been around for many years and is now owned by Microsoft. It’s another easy to use video meeting tool. It has a maximum number of 50 for group calls, but that’s usually more than adequate and also allows for screen sharing. Skype can also be used for direct to telephone calls and its Meet Now product allows you to invite those who are and aren’t already on Skype. Microsoft Teams is one of the leading collaboration tools which goes hand in hand with Microsoft 365. Both worth consideration.

Hangouts is what was formerly known as Google Hangouts and is another tool used by many businesses. It is free, but isn’t always as adaptable and the connection not as clear as Zoom.

Cisco Webex is more of a big enterprise solution and at the time of writing this it has a message on its website saying it has an unprecedented increase in need and isn’t allowing us to view its plans and pricing.

Why use Video?

You may not feel you need video for your meeting, but it does help for several reasons:

  • It can help with communication to see the people you are talking to as we all react to body language.
  • It is a positive for the mental health of your team, they can still feel connected to colleagues and clients while self-isolating.
  • Video allows you to share screens, whether that’s presentations or workflows to clarify points.

What you need to think about:

  • Most of the providers work on various devices, not just desktop or laptop, so if someone doesn’t have a camera integrated into their computer, they can use a mobile.
  • Think about what is behind you before setting up your shot. If you have a serious business meeting and have gone to the trouble of suiting up and looking professional, it ruins the effect if you have a bunch of photographs behind of you in less than professional poses after a good night out with friends. While people are bound to be more lenient in the current climate, as we all appreciate that most people are having to work from home, it still pays to ensure you create the right image.
  • Think about the sound. Don’t sit too far away from the device you are using to film as the sound might not work, obviously try to reduce background noise. If you are concerned about being interrupted by the dog or feral children trapped in the house off school, then mute yourself unless you are actually talking. This also often makes for a better overall experience for people as sometimes sound can feedback or simply be too noisy.
  • Treat it like a proper business meeting. Have a clear agenda and someone who is leading the conversation.
  • If participants haven’t used the video conferencing software before, it might be worth investing in writing a brief step by step guide on how to sign up and use it. Send this to them ahead of time as it will reduce anxiety for them and make for an easier and more productive meeting.
  • For systems such as Zoom, you can have everybody appear on screen in a grid format, or simply highlight the speaker, and of course you can also have people attending who are not on video, but just join on text. It’s worth trying out the various options and see which one suits your needs best.
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