Video conferencing is a remarkably useful technology that allows team members to meet and discuss projects, no matter where they live or work. However, these meetings can run into some snags – not all of them are technical. Because attendees are in different locations, it's easy to accidentally start talking over each other, getting into the loop of saying "no, you go ahead." Meeting agendas can get off track easily, and keeping notes can be a challenge if you're spending extra time to keep things on track and running smoothly.
Despite the challenges, video conferencing is a convenient tool, especially as more people are working remotely – whether as full-time employees spending the day out of the office or as freelancers meeting with team members to discuss current projects and goals. To find out how to make online meetings run smoother, we asked 10 entrepreneurs from YEC to share their own methods for effective video conferencing. Here's what they suggest you try.
1. Create an agenda and stick to it.
"One of the easiest ways to ensure everyone stays on the same page and any meeting is productive is to have an agenda reiterated at the outset of every meeting. 'In today's meeting, we hope to accomplish X, Y and Z. Sound good?' It's your job to facilitate from here and ensure you accomplish what you set out to do." – Zachary Burkes, Predictable Profits
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2. Have a moderator.
"Video conferences with more than a few participants can quickly get out of hand. At our company, every meeting must have an 'owner' who is responsible for a form of moderation. This includes owning an agenda, ensuring the conversation stays on topic, and moderating individuals to ensure people are heard while also not monopolizing the conversation." – Ryan D. Matzner, Fueled
3. Ask for opinions.
"First, have an agenda to tackle the main purpose of the video conference call. Once all items are checked in the agenda, simply ask around the table and the participants if they have anything they wanted to voice up. By doing so, it allows everyone in the video conference call to participate and share their thoughts. The biggest breakthrough always come when each person is allowed to share." – Fred Lam, iPro Management Group Corp.
4. Align the objectives.
"There have been many times where I am left wondering why I attended a specific meeting in the first place. Most meetings are usually not productive. However, I noticed that when everyone's goals are aligned, then the meeting is productive. We have timed meetings for approval processes. Anything else besides approvals is done outside of the meeting via chat." – Sweta Patel, Silicon Valley Startup Marketing
5. Use PowerPoint presentations.
"While bad PowerPoints can happen to good people, a well-done PowerPoint can help organize unruly conference calls without muting anyone. The key is to keep PowerPoints simple and engaging. Specifically, avoid using small text, avoid clutter, and keep the slides visually engaging. A well-done PowerPoint can streamline calls, encourage questions, and keep everyone engaged and on task." – Shu Saito, Fact Retriever
6. Have a system for notification.
"Most video conferencing channels will have some form of interaction in the main forum, and even a 'hand raise' that signals someone wants to ask a question. Rather than blurting questions out and talking over one another, make it a practice to use these notifications when someone wants to speak. That way, time can be found to halt the conversation and address the concern, question or comment." – Brandon Stapper, Nonstop Signs
7. Go 'around the horn.'
"The majority of our team works remotely, so we conduct a video meeting every week. The one thing I do every meeting is 'go around the horn.' I have each person answer three questions: what they accomplished the past week, what has them stuck and what is the plan for the coming week. I also ask a weekly question, like 'What is an important fundamental of the job that you sometimes forget?'" – Brian Greenberg, Medicare Supplement Insurance
8. Encourage participants to use the chat window.
"One way to keep the meetings organized is to have participants make comments and ask questions in the chat window. Then the meeting organizer can call on people based off of the order that they made the comment. That way, everyone that wants to talk gets a turn to speak." – Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights
9. Leverage system features.
"I've never been a fan of micromanaging conferences, where you're so busy muting feeds and organizing windows that you miss the content. Fortunately, VoIP software has come a long way. You can customize your platform to detect audio to minimize background noise and use round-robin options that give everyone a chance to speak. This reduces the effort of video calls and lets you focus on the details." – Raad Ahmed, LawTrades
10. Have someone take notes.
"Having a note-taker while performing a call is really helpful, as you can just focus on keeping the conversation flowing, and it is more relaxing knowing that there is someone keeping track of the call. What I personally like to do is to have questions ready, and then more questions following with any kind of answer they may have. It makes the call way more natural than thinking on the spot." – Brian Condenanza, Fluo Shoes