Chairing Productive Virtual Meetings

Virtual collaboration via online video conferencing is becoming the de facto standard in running enterprise projects and teams. As the project manager, team leader, or meeting chairperson, the keys to your success are in ensuring all participants consistently experience a rewarding and productive virtual meeting. Use the following six step guide to ensure your virtual team

is productive.

  1. Manage Expectations. Create a highly reliable virtual environment that your team can count on for each and every meeting. Let each participant know that it is his/her responsibility is to ensure they are using acceptable hardware and are in a location that has reliable broadband internet access with sufficient bandwidth. Generally speaking, coffee shops like Starbucks do not meet enterprise level requirements for a video conference.
  2. Insist on Preparation. Insist that each participant prepares for the virtual meeting 10 minutes prior to the start time. The "preparation routine" should include using appropriate hardware (see below), rebooting the participant's computer, checking bandwidth availability, and closing all non essential windows. If the participant is also a presenter, then a copy of his/her presentation should be emailed to the meeting Chairperson or uploaded and tested to the virtual meeting room (if this feature exists in your environment). It's a good idea to send each participant a "prep" check list to follow. Also insist that the participant does a two minute video conference with you prior to the participant's first virtual meeting. Each participant should also know how to select and adjust the parameters of all microphones, speakers, and webcams attached to his/her computer.
  3. Provide Adequate Hardware. Make sure each person is using adequate hardware for the meeting. This is essential, as hardware capabilities result in huge differences in the quality of the virtual meeting experience. Expect to spend at about $250 per endpoint/person for enterprise quality desktop/laptop video hardware. Here is what you'll need:
    1. Headset or Speakerphone. A high quality headset or USB attached speakerphone is essential. The microphone and speakers imbedded in laptops just do not cut it for enterprise level video communications. And remember most people do not want to be tethered to a computer via a headset. So a speakerphone is often mandatory.
    2. Camera. Also make sure the each person uses a high quality camera. Again, the cameras embedded in most laptops are not adequate. Look for external USB Cameras with the following specs:
      1. Stereo microphone
      2. High definition 720p or even better 1080p
      3. Minimum of 30 Frames Per Second (fps)
    3. Computer. Most of the recent models of Macs and PCs will adequately work. On the PC side use a laptop with a processor equivalent to Intel's i5 chip.
    4. Monitor. While not mandatory it's worth investing in a monitor that is at least 22". The larger screen is often needed to view participants and presentations side by side.
  4. Check Bandwidth. Make sure each endpoint has at least 256k of video compatible bandwidth. You need to make sure that latency, jitteriness, and speed remain within acceptable limits over the duration of your virtual meeting.
  5. Select an Enterprise SaaS Video Collaboration service provider that supports:
    1. High Definition (HD) Video
    2. Min 30 fps
    3. Meeting rooms where you can store presentations and meeting documents.
  6. Avoid The following:
    1. SaaS services that do not support a meeting room concept
    2. Allowing participants to present information by sharing their screen
    3. Allowing participants to attend from a location which has not previously been tested

Few enterprise video conferencing services truly offer a complete enterprise level virtual collaboration service which embed all the solutions needed for ensuring your virtual meetings will consistently provide a satisfying result. Make sure you choose a service that is easily implemented, has a clean user interface, and provides complete support. By having all participants prepare properly, managing projects and teams in a virtual environment can be a highly rewarding experience. Jell Networks is dedicated to providing fully supported enterprise video collaboration services and solutions. Feel free to contact us to discuss your company's specific requirements.

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