Jaleh Bisharat, vice president of marketing at freelance recruiter oDesk, has shared a number of tips that could make your virtual conference much easier.
The industry guru, who writes for the Huffington Post business blog, wants to make more people aware of the benefits of using VoIP technology for meetings, but knows that mistakes can be costly in the medium.
Ms Bisharat, who has held a number of senior marketing positions across the US private sector since 1995, argues that it is important for businesses to fully embrace VoIP if they intend to start doing remote conferences.
A half-baked approach, the expert claims, will leave your firm high and dry, so investment in proper equipment – as well as the knowledge needed to run potentially complex software solutions – is absolutely key.
“Many great video conferencing technologies like Skype and Google Hangouts are free. Invest in the associated hardware -including computers, webcams and large screens. It will pay back in spades,” Ms Bisharat wrote.
While investing in all of this equipment is a great choice for larger businesses, many start-ups and smaller firms struggle to afford these kind of expenses, so using one of our VoIP-compatible meeting rooms is a great idea!
Think about time zones
Sure, this might seem obvious, but many companies – especially those in the UK – don’t really think about how far ahead or behind our clients might be, probably due to our position in the centre of the world (in terms of time that is).
While having a multinational business, or partner network, is great for your balance book – it can make it difficult to properly arrange a video conference.
To manage this situation and avoid any needless difficulties, Ms Bisharat recommends people take the time to install a Google Calendar app called World Clock, which allows proposed meeting times to be translated into each participant’s time zones – handy if you have employees in Asia or North America.
Make your agenda useful
Agendas have something of a bad reputation and some businesses have decided to stop using the centuries old functionality because they believe it holds up meetings and makes them more bureaucratic.
However, Ms Bisharat thinks this shouldn’t be the course of action taken by most companies, as there are a number of advantages associated with keeping this practice in place.
Record keeping is an important part of any business and as such it is vital firms know who took part in meetings and what the conclusions of these discussions were.
For example, unfortunately in the corporate world many people try to claim ideas were their own and that, as such, they should be given a monetary reward. Sorting out who actually came up with an innovation or new product idea is made a lot easier through the implementation of an agenda and minutes.
“If there are people for whom the agenda is not relevant, either the agenda needs to be adjusted, or the irrelevant people should depart promptly, saving the company time and money,” the blogger stated.
Time is everything
Ms Bisharat claims that one of the most important things to bear in mind about video conferencing is that schedules must be stuck to religiously.
There is, argues the expert, no excuse for being late to one of these meetings and any infraction on this rule should be taken seriously.
Similarly, discussions should be kept as brief as possible and there is no reason that any conversation should go beyond the expected running time.
While some contingency should be built in whenever a VoIP call is planned and people’s schedules changed appropriately, the presence of an agenda – as well as a secretary – should help things to flow more smoothly.
“No matter how successful your company is, wasting money is never part of any business plan. Tally up what it costs to get people together for the length of your meeting and you might be surprised. It is your job to be sure it produces a return.
“I take the ‘start on the dot’ rule seriously. It is not only smart business; it also shows respect for everyone, no matter what level they are at,” Ms Bisharat wrote.