Online Conferencing Tips

Thanks to the recent movement control order, here are some of the tips I have found to be useful when working from home and most of your interaction with your colleagues are limited to calls and video conferences. I am not going to cover the environment or what you should wear but I am coming from the angle of after spending 3 weeks on conference calls, here are some key tips that I would like to personally share.

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Invest in a good set of comfortable headphones with a built-in mic

I am glad that I have a set of Kingston HyperX Cloud Flight wireless headset with a built-in mic at home. Its normally used for my gaming sessions online but during the day, it becomes my conference tool. It is super comfortable wearing it and I have no issues (I have large flappy ears) using them for more than 3 hours straight (my gaming sessions sometimes lasts longer than that!).

Having a good headset means that outside noise is reduced so that you are less distracted whilst having a call and having the built in mic is always better than the built-in mics on your laptop. More so if you are working in a small room and the mic on your laptop would pick up a huge bunch of echo.

The more expensive headsets offer noise cancelling for both the audio as well as for the mic. I would say get one that is within your budget but if you like working without any cables, there are wireless options available as well.

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Always aim to be early

Now that everyone is working from home, there is a higher chance that everyone would be at their desks and behind their laptop or desktop. This means as a host for web conference calls, you need to start your meeting sessions earlier, at least 5 mins or even better, 10 minutes.

Some online conference services requires the host to start the meeting before participants can even join in. This helps especially when participants are just dialling in using their phones and they don’t have a screen in front of them. Being 5 minutes late in an online meeting of 10 pax means you have technically wasted 50 minutes of people’s time.

I like the phrase which I read on Forbes a number of years back which had stuck with me all this while. Of course its always a guiding principle but strive to always be early.

5 Minutes Early Is On Time; On Time Is Late; Late Is Unacceptable

Brent Beshore – Forbes
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Have an agenda ready

All meetings should have an agenda, what are the expected outcomes and what do we aim to proceed with after the session. More so when it comes to online meetings as it is important to have an agenda which can be shared prior to the meeting to all participants so that they are aware of it.

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Learn how to use the conferencing facility and manage a meeting

For anyone looking to host a meeting you should at least know how to manage the following with your conferencing service, whether it may be an online service or just a phone conferencing service.

  1. Learn how to set up a meeting and have the service send an invite
  2. Learn the steps to join the meeting so that you can help give participants easy steps for them to join
  3. If it is an online conferencing service such as Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Amazon Chime, Google Hangouts or others, make sure you find out if there is a physical number for people who may not have data access to dial-in
  4. Learn how to share your desktop or screen or application via these online conferencing tool
  5. Find out ways to draw and sketch on a whiteboard on a separate app if the conferencing tool doesn’t have one.
  6. Whilst it is nice to have video, turning it off means also saving bandwidth
  7. Learn how to moderate a session, which includes muting the participants when there is only 1 speaker speaking and how to manage crowd control.
  8. Check-in with the audience or participants to increase engagement
  9. As a backup, if you have slides to present, send a copy to the participants in case there is an issue with screen sharing
  10. If it is a large meeting, always appoint 1 or 2 moderators to help manage the flow of the session and to keep participants engaged
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Keeping things simple

Sometimes we aren’t running an online stream of a huge event such as Apple’s Keynote. It could just be a daily meeting or a session to catch up with one another. Keeping things simple means that you don’t have to schedule an hour for a meeting, sometimes 15 minutes would do. The worse thing you would want is to waste even more of people’s time.

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