Short on time and resources - could you use video conferencing more

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We live in a large rural county. Travel between meetings can take a huge amount of precious time out of the day. All that driving is costly in terms of cash and carbon footprint. Also planning for how we deal with pandemics or bad weather might mean its not a good idea to travel or meet in person.

As a result we've tended to find that video conferencing is more and more a tool we are using day to day. Like everything else it’s a tool, we believe very much in meeting people face to face and building relations IRL (in real life). However, if you are planning a catch-up project meeting with people you already know, some information dissemination with questions and answers , a board meeting with a few non-contentious decisions-  Do you need to meet in person?

We've also found that seeing people (and who is speaking) we find is easier than a lot of similar voices on a conference call. Also the ability to share a screen can help with delivering presentations. Some software will record the discussion making it easy to share with people not able to attend.

Whilst we know online technology is not suitable or accessible for everyone, it is something you should be considering.  Its also usually free so why not give it a try. Here are a few pointers:

Software Tools

Some software tools for video conferencing

  • Microsoft Teams - if you have office 635 you have Teams, its easy to use and people can join who don't have office 365 - Link 
  • Zoom - another one that works well, there are free and paid packages - Link  
  • Skype - one of the originals, free version allows calls of up to 50 people but they need a skype account (which is free to create and download) - Link

Top tips around etiquette and making a call

  • If you are unsure about technology have a practice (we've made video calls between rooms in our office), check your equipment make sure you are happy with your settings
  • Give yourself plenty of time to log in ahead of call - new camera, never done it before don't try and join 1 min before
  • Many more places have good enough internet connection for video conferencing   (skype suggest 1.5 MB/s for a 1:1 call up to 8Mbps for 7+ people) but it is worth checking your connection
  • Most providers and software has lots of instruction and guidance  - read it!
  • Think about where you are going to be, somewhere quiet you are not going to be disturbed is best. Hard surfaces reflect sound and can make it more difficult to hear. 
  • Using a camera, check what might be on display in the background
  • If you are not speaking its often best to mute your microphone - Background noise can be an issue and the noise from typing, opening a draw etc can be picked up as very loud
  • Remember to unmute your microphone when speaking
  • Chairing a video conference is different, its harder to tell when people want to speak and easy to end up talking over each other. As a participant be aware of this. As a chair plan  this into agenda and often structure items so you invite people to speak