Before I decided to do a blog on video conferencing, a Western Region member sent me this link:

A Conference Call in Real Life

Her comment on the link: “You have got to watch this as the chief conference call organizer. Seriously laugh out loud funny!” I absolutely agree on the laugh out loud funny portion. Not so sure on the chief conference call organizer, although I have now added those words to my job responsibilities list. The raise is sure to arrive shortly.

We need to find as many ways as possible to lighten the mood lately, am I right?

As I began researching the topic of this piece, I realized it could go on for days! There are many, many video conferencing choices, even choices within choices as most companies offer a free version, along with multiple pay versions of their platforms: Basic, Pro, Business Essential, Business Premium, Star Ship Enterprise (threw that one in there to see if you were paying attention…).

Some very popular video conferencing software has been utilized by companies for quite a while: Go-To-Meeting, Microsoft Teams, Skype (will the Teams/Skype integration every REALLY happen!?), Cisco Webex, Zoom, Google Meet. And then others that are not so well known: Ring, Intermedia Anymeeting, Zoho Meeting, ClickMeeting, BlueJeans Meetings, Join.me. If you are in the market for a video conference software – check these out. Some are rated higher than the more popular ones.

Zoom, Facebook Video (now Messenger Rooms), Google Hangouts, Signal, Jitsi, and FaceTime have all been used for personal interaction by millions of people around the world. But never quite as much as in the last several weeks.

There is a need for companies to have virtual meetings MUCH more frequently, for teachers to be able to instruct their students, for children and grandchildren to “see” their loved ones in the nursing home, for grandparents to be able to interact with the littles: all these changes that were brought to us by the COVID-19 restrictions made the perfect void for a company to fill. For a multitude of us, that company was Zoom.

Companies, individuals, families, and schools began using Zoom to meet, sing, learn, socialize, and all those other lost items we did face-to-face before “social distancing” became so prevalent a phrase. In December 2019, Zoom had an average of 10 million daily meeting participants. By mid-April 2020, that number skyrocketed to 300 million.

The free version of Zoom has some excellent features, and many people swear by it. One of the cons is that with the free version a call cannot go past 40 minutes. Although by some accounts, that may also be a pro.

Zoom was in the news recently because some meetings were hacked and inappropriate subject matter was broadcasted into the meeting content. The company was candid and quick with the response to these issues and continues to ramp up on security on the app. There are also a few things you can do when facilitating a meeting to increase security; I will cover those in my bulleted suggestions below.

Below are a few suggestions as you attend your first (or eighty-first) Zoom meeting. I have listed recommendations for the facilitator and participants.

Facilitator recommendations:

  • Ensure you are comfortable with the software.
  • Research the type of call you need: webinar or meeting? Meeting allows for more interaction among participants; webinar is more for information sharing (but does allow question and answer, etc.).
  • Communicate with enough notice so that people will be able to add the app to their phone, tablet, or computer.
  • Make clear whether the expectation is for all to be using video, or if audio only is an option.
  • Give clear expectations on the level of participation. For example, if there are going to be eight people, there will probably be a chance for everyone to speak. If there are going to be a hundred, not so much.
  • Use the “chat” feature and explain to participants how it works. Attendees can type a comment or question to all attendees, or to someone privately using the chat icon on the screen. (Note, as meeting facilitator you can control who is able to chat with whom, and whether the chat history can be saved.)
  • If you are using the “share screen” feature make sure you and any other attendees who will be showing their screen have tested it. Ensure this feature has been chosen for the meeting.
  • Schedule one or more feedback breaks to ensure participants are engaged.
  • Some security features to consider:
    • Require meeting password (highly recommended!).
    • Generate meeting ID for each meeting (moderate security).
    • Do not post meeting detail on social media or on a website. Ask all invited participants not to share details with others.
    • Require registration (high security).
    • Mute participants on entry (make sure to unmute them when necessary).
    • Enable Waiting Room – this feature allows you to admit each attendee to ensure everyone in the meeting was invited. This could get cumbersome if there are many attendees, but if you are worried about security, I recommend using it.
    • Lock the Meeting – you can lock the meeting once it starts to prevent anyone else from joining, even if they have the meeting details. Obviously, if you have some folks who tend to join late, this may not be a good one to put in practice.

Participant recommendations:

  • Mute yourself! (But remember to unmute yourself when you have something to say.)
  • When you have your microphone on, be mindful of background noise (shuffling papers, pets) that can be distracting to other participants.
  • Position your camera correctly: it is best to have the camera at eye level, and any light should be behind the camera, NOT behind you.
  • Limit distractions and multi-tasking as much as possible.
  • Use the chat feature to ask the presenter, group, or another participant a question. This can be useful if you would rather not interrupt someone, or if you are afraid you may forget your question or comment by the time it is “your turn.”
These lists are certainly not exhaustive, and I would welcome any counsel you may have from your experiences. Let me hear from you! In fact, how about a Zoom Meeting? Are you available next week, Tuesday? Should we shoot for 2:00 pm?
Wednesday, 06 May 2020 09:41
Vickie Swanton | Western Region Manager

Vickie serves as the region manager for the Pacific Northwest