Thursday, April 1, 2010
Successful Video Conferencing
1. Location, location, location! Your room layout is key. If hosting a meeting with an open seating arrangement, allow for maximum visibility of the screen by the in-room participants. Place the camera and speakers where they can be easily accessed by the technician and so the camera can pan the room when someone speaks. Nothing should obstruct the speaker, such as a water jug or laptop screen. These should be placed off to the side.
2. Be inclusive. Pay close attention to turn-taking. Make your remote sites feel welcome by including their voice in any question period. At the same time, it is important to check in regularly with your remote sites to ensure they are still connected to the conference.
3. When sites do comment, ask them to identify themselves by name and region, especially if you have more than one remote site participating.
4. When doing smaller breakaway groups, ensure that everyone around the table introduces themselves at the start and include your remote participants in this round of introductions.
5. If the speaker is giving a power point presentation, work it out in advance with the technician to have the speaker appear on one half of the screen while the presentation appears on the other. This is what the remote sites will see. No one wants to just stare at a power point presentation with a disembodied voice explaining the slides. Find that balance to make the power point presentation large enough for the in-person participants to see.
6. Silence is golden. It is important that remote sites know how to mute their sound so that any noises do not interfere with the presentation. Instruct remote participants to unmute their microphones when they wish to speak.
In my experience, it is much easier to coordinate a video conference with small groups and that involve only one or two remote sites. Keep in mind that video conferencing technology is still relatively new and not perfect. Your first few attempts are learning exercises. Practice will make your video conferences run smoothly.