Video conferencing is an inescapable part of our work lives now.
Without a doubt, it’s the oil that keeps the remote work engine running.
But it can also be a strain for both the participants and hosts. Sometimes you or your team members have back to back meetings. And that gets to be exhausting, contributing to lower participation and engagement.
However, there are certain features you can take advantage of to liven up your next meeting. Here’s how:
5 Video Conference Features to Improve Engagement:
- Virtual Backgrounds
- Chat Boxes
- Breakout Rooms
- Raised Hands
- Privacy Settings
1. Switch up your backgrounds
A plain white wall is as exciting as reading the company’s quarterly finance report on a rainy Saturday.
Don’t be afraid to switch things up. Downloading virtual backgrounds can be a great way to add more visual interest for everyone and break up the mundane look of a slew of blank walls behind heads.
These backgrounds aren’t just for Zoom anymore. Google Meet is catching up with its own downloadable backgrounds.
And it’s not just tech that’s getting in on the virtual background action.
In a recent Twitter post, the popular show Schitt’s Creek debuted its own virtual backgrounds. And Modsy, an interior design company, will be there for you with its downloadable Friends ones. It offers selections including Chandler and Monica’s apartment, Rachel’s apartment, and Joey Tribbiani’s bachelor pad.
And if you’re not a Friends fan, don’t worry. Modsy has plenty of other options inspired from iconic shows like Seinfeld, Golden Girls, and House of Cards.
No need to worry about Joey’s head in a turkey crashing your meeting. These backgrounds are as polished and professional as you are, created by experts in interior design.
The backgrounds provide an opportunity for some fun where everyone can showcase a little bit of their personality. With so many to choose from, you can have a different one each time.
2. Use the chat box
If you’re asking a question or want the team to brainstorm solutions to a specific problem, don’t just wait for verbal responses. The team may need time to digest what you’re asking.
And not everyone may get a chance to speak due to limited time. Or, you may have the opposite problem, where too many team members try to voice suggestions at once.
Chat features allow all participants the opportunity to ask questions or put forth ideas without worrying about time, accidentally talking over someone, or dealing with hiccups from those audio delays.
The chat feature creates a more streamlined process, especially for larger teams, and gives everyone a chance to be heard (or read). Give it a try in your next meeting or webinar.
3. Break it up in a breakout room
Another great Zoom feature is the breakout rooms. This feature is only available to the host or co-hosts of your Zoom meeting. This setting will sort people into smaller, more manageable groups.
Under settings, you can allow Zoom to sort team members into groups automatically, where it will randomly divide people into breakout groups, or you can do it manually.
This can be a great feature if for some reason you need to have a larger meeting. Participants in smaller groups can more easily talk with one another, brainstorm solutions to a problem, and then rejoin the larger group to offer suggestions and ideas.
This is much more effective than having 50 people work together to brainstorm ideas to increase customer satisfaction. In fact, a study by Harvard professor Dr. J. Richard Hackman, suggests smaller teams are more productive. It’s easier to collaborate and provides more opportunity for members to voice their suggestions than if they were in a much larger group.
4. Raise those hands
Remember that meeting where 50 different people were talking over each other? And then, there was the endless cycle of “no, you go ahead”? Or the one where someone’s Chihuahua barked the whole time?
To make sure everyone gets a chance to be heard (and to minimize chaos) consider asking participants to raise their hands (at least metaphorically).
You can find this feature in both Google and Zoom (in Google make sure to download the extension before the meeting begins). As the host, you’ll be able to see the “raised hand” from a participant. You can unmute them to allow them to ask a question or make a suggestion.
This can streamline your meetings for time and efficiency. With raised hands, it can prevent unintended interruptions that may happen. And it can limit unnecessary background noise (which is inevitable now with working from home) by muting all team members and then unmuting those with their hands raised.
5. Get cozy with the privacy settings
Two important words are the foundation of a painless, engaging Zoom meeting: privacy settings.
No one is exempt from getting Zoom-bombed. From places of worship, to grade school classes, or even game shows. The visuals and audio clips bombers use are often hateful and discriminatory in nature.
Make sure this doesn’t happen to you and your team.
To secure your video conferences, make sure you’re running the latest version of Zoom (or your virtual platform of choice). Set a password. And don’t share that password on Facebook or Twitter.
And if, despite your best efforts, it still happens, report it to both Zoom and the FBI. Zoom will let you report meeting participants (option can be found in your settings) and block them. And if you and your team receive a specific threat, call your state’s FBI office immediately.
With frequent back to back meetings, it’s understandable why employees might be checking their email or otherwise unengaged. But, by taking advantage of the various features these video conference platforms have to offer, you can facilitate a more engaging, smooth experience.
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