Online meetings are the new norm for many. From visiting friends and relatives to conducting meetings with business partners or clients. But meeting online can be anywhere from a fun novelty to an excruciating ordeal.
Many businesses today are working from home with a reliance on Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Zoom, or GoToMeeting. But even with these platforms offering voice or video capabilities, there can be tech problems. These tips can minimize the trouble and enhance business collaboration. If you're having trouble meeting online, try these tips to enjoy more successful and trouble-free meetings.
1. Go Wired
Most people like using devices over WiFi for the flexibility and mobility it affords. Yet when it comes to an online meeting, wired connections are a better bet. Online meetings tend to be very sensitive to fluctuations in bandwidth and network latency. WiFi tends to fall short in these areas, especially if your connection isn't the best.
If you're using a mobile device which can't connect via cable, try and reduce WiFi obstacles. Conduct your calls/meetings as a close to the wireless source as possible. At home this is usually your wireless router. In a business environment it might be the closest access point. WiFi signals are a form of radio wave, and are prone to interference. Try to avoid the following:
- Having large metal objects near your device or the router/AP;
- Thick walls between your device and the router/AP;
- Other electronics such as microwaves, cordless phones, baby monitors and any other wireless devices;
- Lots of fluorescent and/or LED lighting;
- Areas with heavy WiFi congestion (buildings/areas with lots of WiFi networks);
Of course, sometimes you just can't avoid using a WiFi network. If that's the case, use the points above to try and achieve the best possible environment.
2. Prioritize Your Meetings
As mentioned above, web meetings need consistent bandwidth and latency. While using a wired or strong wireless connection will help, you will also need to make sure you have enough internet capacity and you don't have any other services dragging your connection down. This is especially important for rural areas which don't have a lot of available bandwidth.
Having the kids watch Netflix or YouTube to keep them quiet during your meeting might sound like a good idea, but those video streams can bog down your connection and make your meeting experience less optimal. By the same token, if you have a spouse or roommate, ask them to avoid downloading any large files or new software while you conduct your meeting.
Program your devices to back up at times that won't compete with work or meeting hours. You will also want to ensure software updates are scheduled outside of those hours as well. Depending on your internet speed, trying to do too many things at once can cause trouble for everyone.
3. Join Early and Test
Try to join a meeting 10 or so minutes before the scheduled start. This will allow you to test and make sure your equipment is working well and your connection is good quality. It also allows you a few minutes to resolve any issues you do come across.
Now you're probably thinking: "All I do is meet online now. Why do I need to test everything each and every time?". The answer is because things can change between meetings. Microphone inputs can switch, connection quality can drop, even meeting software can update and throw things off. It's best to be a few punctual minutes early than scrambling to figure out why your microphone isn't working like it was an hour ago.
By checking things first, you also make sure you have the most up-to-date meeting software installed. This is especially important if you use multiple softwares for meeting. You don't want to be late to a call because your device has decided it needs to install a Skype update right then.
4. Use the Right Equipment (and manners)
Right now, most people are using equipment that "works" for online meetings. After all, webcams have cameras and a microphone so that should be good enough right? Thing is, while those devices serve in a pinch, they aren't necessarily the best tools for conducting regular meetings long-term.
The primary thing to look into is a decent microphone and/or headset. A headset will help cut down background noise allowing you to focus more on what people are saying while a good microphone will also help cut down on that noise and prevent others from hearing your background noise while you're speaking. We usually recommend Jabra headsets as they have very good quality sets available at a variety of price ranges for all budgets.
If you're doing a lot of presenting, don't be afraid to splurge a bit on a decent web cam either. Higher-end cameras can help improve picture definition as you're presenting and also make technologies such as custom backgrounds work better.
There's also a bit of etiquette that should be followed during meetings. The primary one is to mute your microphone if you are not actively (or regularly) speaking. One of the biggest complaints users have at online meetings is having to listen to someone's open mic pick up dogs or traffic or passing trains. Every meeting software has a self-mute function, do yourself, and your fellow meeting members a favor and use it frequently if you're not talking.
5. Pick the Best Setting
Still on the subject of meeting etiquette, if you are using your camera during the meeting, you'll want to make sure you're in a good setting. You'll want to avoid high-traffic areas as they can be distracting. Not just to you, but to other meeting members as well.
You'll want to select an area with a simple background, too. Avoid sitting in front of windows or brightly illuminated walls as these will play havoc with your camera. The less busy your background is, the better. If you don't have any suitable backgrounds available, most meeting apps like Microsoft Teams and Zoom have a custom background feature which will allow you to swap out what's behind you with a pre-selected or custom image.
Bonus: Take Full Advantage of Online Meeting Features
Video conferencing software is great. You call-in, everybody says their piece, end the call, done. But don't forget about some of the more advanced features that can help make meeting online even more effective.
- Use recording to save a copy of your meeting, or select parts of it for later review.
- Call transcripts give you an efficient way to capture all that happened in a meeting.
- Interactive white-boards can help take collaboration to the next level.
Online meetings are efficient and cost-effective. With the current health crisis forcing many of us connect and communicate virtually, implementing these ideas can help.
Need help choosing an online meeting platform or setting things up? We can help.