12 things we've learned about video conferences
since the start of the pandemic

Whilst Australia is slowly but surely returning to normal most of us are still working from home in one capacity or another. Despite this we at Switch are still pressing forward, this has meant we have all had to acclimatise tothe 'new normal'.

We all love a face to face meeting the chance to really get into the detail of a project with the client and build up a new relationship or maintain an existing one. How do we ensure an effective, professional and engaging presentation when we are all dialling in from back bedrooms, kitchen tables and sofas?

I thought I'd share some of the things I've learned over the last few weeks and months......

  1. Understand your video conferencing software -

    There are a number of options out there including Zoom, WebEx, Teams, Google hang outs. If you have a big meeting coming up use the one you are most familiar with. Make sure you are testing any new software thoroughly with your team. Consider asking them to use their personal email rather than their corporate ones to make sure there are no hiccups on the day. All in all, make sure you and your co-presenter(s) are comfortable.

  2. Open the meeting early -

    If your meeting is due to start at 3pm why not open it up at 2:45pm to allow everyone to get in and set up ahead of time. This will allow everyone to check theirycamera and microphone are working properly. It also gives your participants time to make any last-minute software updates or installs before your scheduled start time.

  3. Include an intro slide -

    If there are a lot of people on the call you can easily lose 10 minutes of your meeting time with a halting virtual "round the room" as everyone introduces themselves. Instead, why not just list all participants on a single slide. The meeting chair can then provide an overview of attendees including the list of presenters so that the room knowswho will be leading the session.

  4. Consider housekeeping slide -

    We've found that adding a housekeeping slide can be helpful in big virtual meetings. Items covered have included:

    • Using mute: asking everyone to kindly mute their phones unless speaking helps to minimise call disruption. We appreciate that many of us have all manner of distractions around us.
    • Save questions for the end: Questions (whilst we love a conversation) can impact remote presentation flow and timings. Where possible, try and ask for questions to be kept until the end of the session.

  5. Ask questions via the chat function -

    We've found the chat function can be really useful in creating "question pools" as we've worked through our presentations. This allows participants to ask questions as they spring to mind whilst allowing us to group everything at the end and ensure we cover everything thoroughly. It also gives you early sight of any tricky questions that might need a little think-time!

  6. Mute announcements -

    Try to switch off the function that announces participants entering and leaving the call. Calls drop out, participants may need to quickly tend to something else, etc. That's life. But it can be very distracting to present with a constant thrum of attendance updates in the background.

  7. Have a side chat going on -

    For big presentations it's useful tobe able to have an off-stage dialogue with your co-presenting buddies. Even if it's just to time check or support the Chair with who wants to take a specific question. We find that a Slack groupworks well for us - just make sure that your phone/laptop is on silent.

  8. Chairing the questions -

    Much like at the end of a webinar, it's helpful if someone chairs all the questions, reads them out from the question pool and directs them to the team / offers them out.This helps to focus the session and ensures a fluid experience. Our housekeeping slide explained this approach and nominated the Chair.

  9. Number the slides -

    If you are screensharing a deck, number the slides and ask participants to reference the slide numbers when asking any questions. This helps everyone when referencing back to specific sections of the presentation.

  10. Accessing the deck -

    It's usual to share a presentation deck at the end of a session. When presenting remotely, we've found it better to share the deck in advance. This ensures that any participants who have issues viewing screenshare can still follow the meeting.

  11. Smile -

    An obvious point (you may think), but it's hard when you are sat in a room on your own. If you are on camera you could be full screen on anyone's laptop at any point during that meeting. Try and imagine that you are at the table with all the meeting participants.

  12. And final, REHEARSE -

    I'm sure that we all aim to do this anyway but we've certainly found it even more important for timings and practicing handing screenshares to one another now we are remote.

— Gavin Brownlie

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