Conference Call Do’s and Don’ts

Steve Allen, Sales Engineer, Lifesize
Date: February 20, 2018

Hi, everybody, welcome to this week’s edition of Lifesize Live! This is a live webcast hosted entirely on the Lifesize platform.

My name's Nikhil. I'm a sales rep here at Lifesize, and I have the pleasure of introducing everybody to Mr. Steve Allen, one of our awesome sales engineers. Today we're going to be talking about conferencing do’s and don'ts. So Steve, in your day-to-day activity, you're probably on video calls all the time.

Every day, all day.

So, talk to us a little bit about some of the things that people can do to prepare for a successful meeting.

A lot of issues arise from people just not really preparing, and so a ritual to test your equipment helps a lot. Most video conferencing solutions and platforms that you're going to join, like Lifesize, are going to have kind of a test call flow. You can go in, they have tools to test your speakers, test your microphone — you see that little bar bouncing indicating that it's hearing you. You can use those tools to make sure your equipment is being recognized by your computer and that it's set to the right inputs and outputs so you don’t have to do it during the call. Also, if you have a chance, get on a quick call and verify that stuff before the big meeting starts so you don't look like that person who's delaying things while you’re figuring everything out.

It's amazing what a little five-minute prep can do for the rest of the meeting.

Exactly, especially if you've never used this platform before. And even if you have used it, things change on your computer as you plug devices in and out. Make sure that the configuration you used before is still set properly before you join a call. And just making sure you have the right equipment is so important. Most webcams on a computer these days are pretty high quality, but the audio still isn't quite there, so getting something like a 50-dollar headset like this can make a huge difference. One thing it's going to do is isolate your audio to just your voice. That can help cut out a lot of background noise because the microphone on your laptop is going to pick up your speakers since it just picks up any noise around you.

They're not really designed for video conferences.

Exactly, so even the best echo cancellation software can struggle if my speakers are turned up really loud. And prepare for lighting, too. A lot of people think, “I have a window behind me. It's lighting up the room —”

You get that witness protection look.

You get that ghost silhouette; so make sure that the light source is mostly in front of you so they can see your face. Most things have a little picture-in-picture preview that's going to show you what everybody else is seeing. Use that to make sure that you're not just a ghost in the background and that your light is coming from the front.

That makes sense. Prepping for the meeting is really important, but what about some of the things during the meeting? You want to make sure your kids aren’t in the background running around.

Yeah, there's conference call etiquette that people kind of forget when they're just staring at a screen. There are a lot of things that you wouldn't do if I was sitting here in a meeting with you or if you were in a boardroom with a bunch of employees. There's certain etiquette you have when you're physically around people, and people start to lose that when they're behind a computer and don't really —

They forget, especially folks working at home, working remotely —

Yeah, you get comfortable in your office. The big one is muting your call. Always make sure you're on mute, and don't trust that mute button, you know? You hear those horror stories about people saying things that they shouldn't have when they thought they were muted. But it’s also just distracting, right? If you're not talking, it's always a good idea to mute. Use that button; make sure you know where it is. Again, in that planning, be familiarized with the interface, and keep your audio muted unless you're talking. If you're at home or if you're on the road, minimize your distractions. People are always typing out emails, answering other phone calls, and you see that they mute their audio and then they answer another phone call. If it's a really important phone call, mute your video too just because, even if they're not hearing you, people see you as a participant and they don’t want to see you on another phone call. You don't want to be that person who's sidetracking the call or being distracting. And again, use etiquette as if you were in the room. I'm not going to take a phone call when we're in a face-to-face meeting. I'm not going to be typing out my email while you're talking to me. Use that same etiquette that you would in an in-person call, and treat video like you would face-to-face. That's the idea with video — it's powerful because we're seeing each other, we're interacting face to face, so treat it like that.

Okay, so what about actually prepping and organizing the meeting as the organizer? Like today, for example, I'm the host, so I did a couple of things before this meeting to actually set myself up for success as an organizer. Talk to us a little bit about some tips and tricks or any recommendations you have for actually organizing a meeting.

All of us want to host our own meetings, or we sometimes get tasked with, “Okay, I need you to run the big company board meeting or all-hands meeting.” So, just prepare for it in the same way you would in an in-person meeting. I need to do things like making sure that that room is booked.

You have a meeting, it's scheduled beforehand, and things look like they're going to go well, and then all of a sudden, it's like, “Oh man, my conference room is booked for something else.”

So make sure we know where this is taking place, and we can then go into some of that setup stuff. What is the audio like in that room? What is the lighting like in that room? What kind of angles do I have for setting up a camera? Is there a video conferencing system set up in this room? Am I going to need to bring that equipment? Kind of plan that, and also think about who is going to be talking. Is everybody going to be present in this room? And are we teaching out to a larger remote audience over a video, or are we going to have multiple people speaking from different locations over video that I need to take into account? Is it just a free-flowing meeting as if everybody's going to be going back and forth and have a more free-flow conversation? And who's your audience? Do I need to set this up as a lecture-type meeting where I'm going to have one person presenting to many people and they don't really need to be heard, other than maybe for questions and stuff? And does your audience consist of people who maybe don't use video often? So maybe I need to help them, give them some pointers, like, “Hey, this is a call, but also here are some things to test before the call so you can make them look good and set them up for success.”

Take those things into account, and then use the tools for the platform you're using. With Lifesize, we have moderator features and lecture features that you can use to make sure that this goes smoothly, but most conferencing call platforms are going to have something similar. Go in, assign a moderator, and assign a leader. If I'm talking and I'm going to be the one presenting to everybody, I probably don't have time to worry about who's muted, and is this person distracting, do they need to be removed from the conference, is the slideshow set up. If this is a more formal large meeting, assign a point person to run the meeting so that when you're up there talking, you don't have to be the person running it all. For Lifesize Live!, we've got Kenny here running everything in the background that nobody sees, right?

Visual cues, change of slides—

Because you and I can't be running this meeting while we're here talking to everybody. Assign that to someone so that they can control things, they can kick things off, and they can help people who are struggling get into the meeting—

Give you the visual cues, all that good stuff.

Exactly. Most of those moderator tools are going to give you the option to mute people, so if somebody has that dog that won't shut up, I can go mute them and keep them quiet and it doesn't have to derail or stop the meeting and it can help it go smoothly.

Awesome, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. We really appreciate you coming out today and explaining a few tips and tricks. Sometimes it can seem a little overwhelming, but I think it's really important to spend that extra five minutes, ten minutes, right before the meeting to just make sure you have everything in place, so you're not going be surprised with a little hiccup in the middle of the meeting or something like that.

Exactly. You want these meetings to go smoothly, and if you're the person tasked with deploying video across to your company, utilize the tools that the platform you're using gives you. For Lifesize, we have training and a great customer success team that does onboarding and training for your admins and end users, and utilize that stuff. Video is a very powerful tool, but a lot of times you get one shot to deploy that. And if people have problems with these meetings, if they were embarrassed because they were the person that couldn't get their audio working and the meeting was five minutes late because they couldn't figure out their computer, they're going to shy away from video.


Or if people have a bad experience because that one person had the dog barking and walked away to take a phone call, now we have to wait five minutes for that person to get back because we can't get rid of them, the meeting is getting derailed. They're not going use video again next time because they had a poor experience. Use your tools, prepare, make sure your video calls go smoothly, and people will get that “wow” experience and see the power of video, and they’ll start to really use it and adopt it.

Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Steve. Join us next week for another edition of Lifesize Live!, and we'll see you next time.

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