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Virtual Team Meetings

Video or Audio Conferencing?

Virtual Team Meetings

Video or Audio Conferencing?

Video Conferencing software is arguably the most important team tool for organisations trying to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The business world has changed significantly and perhaps permanently, since the arrival of this virus. This is especially true for those organisations which were previously reliant on fixed premises, physically occupied by numbers of employees. In order to cope with the demands of quarantines and social distancing, the primary solution for many businesses involved varying degrees of remote working.

Working from home or from physically separate locations meant that virtual team meetings became the norm for many organisations. This meant that video conferencing tools became an essential requirement, rather than one which was perhaps seen as optional before the pandemic.

The Benefits of Virtual Team Meetings

There are some clear advantages to virtual team meetings. For example:

  • Cost saving – It can be expensive to require teams to physically assemble. This includes the cost of the meeting room or space and staff travel costs, if these are reimbursed.
  • Time saving – Setting up a physical team meeting will take up organizational time in making arrangements. It will also result in lost opportunity cost due to non-productive time wasted when attendees are in travelling.
  • Better attendance – Virtual meetings are much easier to attend so it’s likely that more staff will be able to attend, more often.
  • Better productivity – Using the right virtual meeting platform will help ensure staff are better prepared and able to use productivity tools. Such tools can be used before, during and after the meeting to ensure staff have all adequate material needed to be able to engage in the meeting productively.
  • Well-being – Aside from the obvious benefit of keeping people safer from the threat of the Covid-19 virus, there are other clear benefits from enabling work from home. Greater flexibility in balancing work and home demands, and the easing of financial and physical stress from commuting are perhaps top of the list.
  • Better engagement – As a result of combining all of the above benefits. However, the best way to capitalize on this is encourage use of video rather than audio conferencing.
  • Environmental benefits – There is growing awareness of the impact of travel on an organisation’s carbon footprint. This will only lead to more use of video conferencing to enable virtual rather than physical team meetings.
Why Video Conferencing?

While a straightforward audio call may be fine for routine one-to-one communication, holding virtual team meetings is another matter. Many experienced managers would agree that video calls offer some clear advantages over one-dimensional, audio conversations. This is due to the often-overlooked importance of body language. When we refer to body language in the workplace we normally mean the messages we convey by: voice tone; eye contact/movement; facial expression; physical gestures; posture and body movement. For example, here are some things to think about in relation to each of these elements in a face-to-face meeting:

  • Voice tone – Is it measured? How do we convey interest? Is your speech too rushed? Do we vary pace and volume? Are we conveying confidence and assurance? Do we want to share a passion and enthusiasm for the topic?
  • Eye contact/movement – Do we engage with those with whom we are talking? Are we avoiding eye contact? Are we ensuring we share eye contact if there are several people in the meeting?
  • Facial expression – Think about what your facial expression might be giving away. Is it appropriate to the message you are conveying verbally?
  • Physical gestures – Are you conscious of your hand movements? Using appropriate hand gestures to place emphasis can be very powerful.
  • Posture and body movement – Your posture will also convey meaning. If you are presenting, does it seem that you are rooted to the spot, perhaps in fear and trepidation? Equally, smaller, repetitive movements can be distracting. Adopting a relaxed but appropriate stance means people will focus on the message, not the movement.

When considering virtual meetings, audio calls may enable us to hear words and voice tone, but they don’t help us to pick up on often critical messages transmitted by other aspects of body language. And as Peter Drucker once said:

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.

Effective team meetings require us to do more than hear spoken words. Team leaders need to be on the look-out for signs of engagement or disengagement, along with any other indicators of emotional response. Often verbal language and body language don’t match and this can be best gauged by via video rather than audio calls.

Of course it’s important not to overdo things. There is emerging evidence that too many meetings, especially those using video, can be counter-productive. There are worries about burn-out, de-motivation from lack of trust, and dis-empowerment from the use of tracking methods. If the use of video is being perceived in this light by your teams, try limiting the number and nature of video meetings. Or if this is not possible, experiment, for example only using video during the introductory/greetings phase of a meeting.

Choosing a Video Conferencing Platform

Video conferencing software makes remote communication with co-workers and teams easy, but which of the available options is best for you? There are numerous platforms on the market, making it difficult to choose the most appropriate in terms of cost, reliability, functionality, and so on.

Below is a list of some of the best video conferencing tools currently available. This includes some platforms which are as much for personal use as for business, but which could be worth considering for small or growing businesses. However, it may be necessary to purchase more advanced versions of the basic free platforms, to make full use of these for business purposes. Follow the links to each platform’s site or click here for Tech Radar’s detailed review of each:

Free Video Conferencing Platforms
Paid-For Video Conferencing Platforms

Even though we’re looking forward to the end of the current pandemic, there can be no doubting that it has changed the way many organisations will operate in the future. Given the overall cost benefits of remote working, it’s clear that it will be utilized much more frequently in years to come. Understanding how best to manage it, and which technology to utilize, will be a key management issue for all managers.

Regardless of whether you’re managing a real or a virtual team meeting, the basics should still apply! Take a take a look at two more of our pages to help you run better meetings:

Effective meetings

Effective meeting checklist

Tools to help your workshop facilitation skills

If you want to get better at leading team development, this article is a good place to start. But if you want to take your team leadership to the next level, here is a great set of tools to get you on your way.

For example, you might want to facilitate a meeting which encourages your team to build a shared understanding of what teamwork means in your specific context. That is, what it means to your team and more widely, to your organisation.

To do this though, words are often not enough. Building teamwork is also about what you do, starting with that shared understanding of teamwork, and agreeing together what you value.

That’s exactly what our “teamwork definition” tool is designed to do. You’ll find this tool, plus a wealth of other resources for team leaders in our colossal Team Building Bundle.

Containing 240 pages and 50 tools, these are the 8 key guides we recommend to help you do more than define teamwork, build it!

Why is Teamwork Important
Build a Better Team
The Problems with Teams
Team Health Check
Team Building Exercises
Leading with Style and Focus
What’s the Problem?
Making Better Decisions

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