Having a Meeting

Our industry tends to get caught up in the bells and whistles of the latest "Unified Communication" product thrown in front of us, but there's a problem: When we're so involved in the technology and how (if) it works, how can we have a simple meeting?

Video conferencing is supposed to be about having a meeting, only you're not in the same location as the other participants. Let's take a look at some limiters keeping us from having an effective meeting over video and what you can do to help that. Just because you can, doesn't mean that you should.

Trying to figure out how something works
I put this at the top for a reason. It's great to have new technology, but if you only have an hour to go over the latest set of drawings for your project it sucks to waste half that time trying to figure out how to share them or mark them up remotely. Technology isn't easy on the user by any nature and we're making it worse. People typically come to meetings unprepared. Well, they may be prepared for the content of the meeting, but they seem to be unprepared for the technological aspect of having the meeting, especially over video. "Can you hear me?" is how almost every video conference I've been in starts. It's replaced the "Hello".

Panning, Tilting, Zooming
Tell the guy with the remote in his hand to put it down. You cannot have an effective meeting if the camera is moving around seemingly at will. It's also not effective if it's zoomed in on someone who is not talking. What about the new "auto sensing" tracking cameras? If it's based on facial recognition, it's assuming that your local conversations aren't important. How often do you have a room to room video call where you decide to not look at another person in the same room and only face the camera? Set a view to capture all the participants and leave it at that.

If you find it's unacceptable and disrespectful to play with your smart phone in a normal meeting, why do it during a video conference? Turn it off and pay attention..

People talking over each other
In a normal meeting people talk over each other all the time, especially when things get heated. Due to latency we're talking over each other in a video conference, even when we don't want to. Slow it down.

Bring your own device and its horrible camera capture and poor bandwidth.
This one reminds of the video chat I had where I looked up a guy's nose on my 65" display while he was holding his phone and walking through an airport. Luckily (I guess) the camera had poor resolution and the data connection was poor so instead of a high definition view of his nose, it was macroblocked for the most part.

What can you do to not be "that guy" in a video conference?
  1. Be ready and be considerate. Understand and acknowledge how you look and sound on video. You could be a genius, but if I'm looking up your nose you don't look so smart. 
  2. Do not try a video chat from a bar, a coffee shop or a dog kennel.
  3. Focus
  4. Don't hog the conversation and force the audio on the other end to go all wonky because you won't shut up. Breathe.
  5. Understand the technology before your meeting. Know how to make a call and know how to use the tools at your disposal so you can stay on schedule when everyone joins the meeting.
Remember, video conferencing is nothing more than having a meeting.

Bryan Hellard
Follow me on Twitter @bryanhellard
Read more of fine works like this at http://hellarddesign.blogspot.com/

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