Expert Tips For Remote Meetings
With recent stay at home and physical distancing orders, local government organizations across the US are making changes to hold Open Meetings remotely. While teleconferencing isn’t a new technology, many public sector organizations have not utilized these solutions open meetings due to state guidelines. If you’re looking to hold your meetings with a teleconference solution for the first time, we’ve put together a few resources to help you plan and ensure you and your citizens have a seamless online experience.
Choosing the right teleconference solution for your organization can be a daunting task. We’ve put together a list of the most popular options to help you choose which one is best for you.
Jump to the Best Practices section
WebEx (Paid & Free)
WebEx is a video conferencing and collaboration solution provided by CISCO. This popular solution integrates with Google products and Office 365. WebEx offers several plans, including a free plan that can host an unlimited number of meetings for an unlimited amount of time, utilize mobile devices, add layers of security, and allow up to 100 participants per meeting. Additional features like meeting recordings and transcripts are part of its paid plans. Learn more here.
Microsoft Teams (Paid)
Microsoft Teams is included with Office 365. In addition to business messaging and collaboration tools, you can also host meetings. Many organizations have already moved to Office 365, so there is no added cost for Microsoft Teams if you’re already using this platform. You can host audio, video, and web conferences with anyone. Teams allows you to invite external guests, share content, create a recording with automatic transcription, and utilize its messaging and collaboration features. Learn more here.
GoToMeeting (Paid & Free Trial)
GoToMeeting is another popular teleconferencing and collaboration solution by LogMeIn. Currently GoToMeeting is offering a 14-day free trial as well as lower rates to help reduce its fees. Features include dial in conference line, unlimited meetings and unlimited time, integration with Google and Office 365, custom link for meeting room, and added meeting security. Learn more here.
Google Hangouts (Free)
Google Hangouts is a free application available to all Gmail and Google Mail users. In addition to teleconferencing, Google Hangouts also offers free voice and messaging. Hangouts only supports video calls with up to 25 participants and does not include a way to join the meeting from a phone or record the meeting. Learn more here.
Google Meet (Paid)
Google Meet is a paid application provided by Google. In contrast to Google Hangouts, Meet allows up to 100 participants, offers integration with Google and Office 365 products, allows recording, and has dial in capability (especially for international calls). Learn more here.
*Due to recent security issues, Zoom is not included in this list.
8 Best Practices for Great Remote Meetings
Have a Communications Moderator
One of the biggest challenges of video conferencing is managing people talking over each other and whose turn it will be to speak. Having a moderator or point person to control communications for your meetings is a great way to run a smooth remote meeting. The communications moderator can handle the procedures for muting and unmuting of participants, help queue questions as they come in, and help people with connection issues.
Display Audio Connection Instructions
A great way to make sure everyone knows how to connect to the meeting’s audio is to have the connection instructions displayed on the host’s screen at the beginning of the meeting. As participants log on, they’ll have a reminder to connect their audio and the information they need without having to hunt it down.
Clear Out the Bandwidth Hogs
One of the downsides of video chats is the pixelated screens and choppy audio that comes with lackluster bandwidth. If you’re expecting a video call, make sure other computers and smart devices in your home aren’t hogging the Wi-Fi connection. This includes kids streaming video games and watching Netflix or another house member working remotely from home too.
Set Up a Wired Connection
If Wi-Fi is still giving you trouble, it’s time to dig out that old, reliable, Ethernet cable for a direct connection. A wired connection should cut down on any potential speed issues or sudden dropouts while video conferencing. If your laptop doesn’t have an Ethernet port, pick up a cheap USB to Ethernet adapter, or for us Mac user, a Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet adapter.
Use a Headset or Headphones
Don’t rely on your computer’s basic built-in microphone and speakers. Using a Bluetooth headset, gaming headphones, or even a pair of earbuds (with a mic) will provide a much better audio experience. They connect easily to your computer while also making sure you can hear and be heard clearly.
Set Up Your Space
If you can, find a private place to take the call. If not, make sure you’re using headphones or a headset to minimize any background noise. You may also want to work out a schedule with your household members to help minimize noise and interruptions.
Even though you are in your home, presentation is still important. If you plan to use video during your call, take some time to clean up the area directly behind you. Then open up your webcam to get an idea of what’s visible in your background to make sure you’re comfortable with what other participants will see.
If you’re using a separate camera, try to place it close to your main monitor/screen near eye level. That way when you’re looking at the screen, it appears as if you’re looking at the person you’re talking to.
Share Your Screen
If you need to share your screen during a video call, take a few seconds to prepare before you hit that share button. Clear your desktop of any extra tabs or programs you may have open and make sure any private or sensitive information is hidden.
Test Your Software
It’s a good idea to test your video conferencing software before the call, especially if you’ve never used it before. Give yourself a few extra minutes before the call to set up. If you can, log on a little early, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the software that your host is using. Once the call has started, check to see if everyone can hear and see each other. A good way to do this is by having everyone either check-in or introduce themselves.