We are living through strange and unnerving times, but for most of us, business must go on. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage across the world, many companies are responding by sending their workers home. (In a growing number of cities, business closures are becoming mandatory.) That means more workers than ever are setting up home offices, adapting to online technology, and learning to navigate virtual meeting software.
If your office team has recently become a remote team, you’ll need to adapt, too. To start, make sure you and your employees have all the tools you need to run successful virtual meetings. Strong communication is more important than ever. Your team needs to hear from you so you can all work together to keep your company ship sailing through these uncertain waters.
With that in mind, here are all the tools you need to make the most of your virtual meetings.
1. The right office space
It’s probably not a good idea to host your virtual meeting in the living room where your kids have decided to perform their favorite wrestling moves on each other. (Don’t worry, the schools will re-open… eventually.)
Carve out a quiet and private space for yourself. If possible, claim a room for yourself, whether that’s the spare bedroom, the basement, or a corner in your bedroom. You’ll want to be able to close your door and keep noise levels down during your meeting.
In her 10 Tips for Designing Your Home Office, writer Gretchen Roberts suggests at-home workers consider their workflow when designing their home office, invest in a great chair (more on that later), and position their desk so they have something interesting to look at. (A window is ideal, according to Gretchen.) Create an office space that is truly yours.
2. The hardware basics
You can’t have a virtual meeting without the right hardware setup. At a bare minimum, you’ll need an internet connection and a device with video and audio capabilities, such as a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop.
Consider your equipment. Sure, you can host virtual meetings on your phone, but this isn’t ideal, especially if you want to project a professional look. Additionally, think twice before using an older device. Old computers can be slow and glitchy. The last thing you want is for your video to freeze during your big presentation. If it’s time to upgrade, TechRadar released their list of the best business computers for 2020, which includes:
- Dell OptiPlex 3050
- Microsoft Surface Studio
- Apple iMac Pro
- HP Elite Slice
Finally, double-check the capabilities of your internet connection. If you want crisp, seamless video and audio for your online meetings, AllConnect.com recommends internet speeds above 10 Mbps (megabits per second), though Zoom suggests you can get away with speeds of just 3 Mbps to use its video conferencing services. You can check your internet speed for free on this speed test site.
If your video is laggy, there may be several possible causes. You may need to upgrade your internet connection or your computer. (Older computers may not have enough memory, known as RAM, to process the video.) Alternatively, if several people in your household are using the internet, for example to stream Netflix or play video games, they may be using up all your bandwidth. You may want to ask (or demand) that family members keep streaming and downloading to a minimum during your meeting time.
3. The software basics
Now that you’ve got the right equipment in your office, let’s talk about online meeting software. In this arena, you’ve got a lot of great options to choose from. The current online meeting darling is Zoom, which offers a ton of great features and provides a free version for group meetings under 40 minutes. Its paid plans are only $14.99 – $19.99 a month (as of this writing), so purchasing the service won’t set you back too much.
However, before you follow everyone to Zoom, make sure you check out all your options. Molly McLaughlin and Daniel Brame over at PC Mag provide a great list of their top 10 video conferencing software, which includes:
- Microsoft Teams
- Webex Meetings
- And more
Most of these programs offer similar capabilities, including:
- Screen sharing
- Chat features
- File sharing
- Integration with popular programs
- And more
You may want to work with your IT team to decide which virtual meeting software is the best option for your company’s needs.
4. Home office and virtual meeting accessories
If you’re sending your workers home, consider providing them with office tools that will help them stay focused during your virtual meetings and healthy during their time at home.
These tools include:
- The right office desk, including standing desk options. Take a look at this article from CNET that lists their five favorite standing desk converters.
- An ergonomic keyboard. Help your employees prevent hand and finger strain with one of these excellent ergonomic keyboards reviewed by Digital Trends.
- A comfy office mouse. Digital Trends also offers its take on the best ergonomic mouse for 2020.
- The right office chair. Help your employees alleviate back pain, maintain good posture, and stay comfy so they can put in a full day of work with one of these office chairs recommended by The Strategist.
- A meeting headset. Not every one of your workers is going to be able to find a quiet place in their home for meetings. Help them cut out background noise and provide crisp audio with one of these wireless headsets reviewed by Wirecutter.
5. Don’t forget about meeting feedback
Working from home and hosting virtual meetings will require you and your team to adapt quickly. Be prepared to change long-standing traditions and to show more patience as your team members learn new software and grow comfortable with meeting software capabilities. After your first meeting, solicit feedback from your team.
You can ask questions like:
- Was the software easy to use?
- Were you able to see and hear the presenters?
- Were you able to participate in the way you wanted?
- Was there anything you didn’t know how to do (like share your screen or use the chat feature)?
- What do you think we did right in this meeting?
- What do you think we can do to improve virtual meetings in the future?
This feedback will help you improve your virtual meetings moving forward so that your team can get the most out of your precious meeting time. Poll Everywhere offers a simple solution to gather actionable feedback from your team. You can customize questions, provide anonymous polls for honest feedback, and receive responses in real-time.
For even more information on how to crush the remote work life, download our online meeting toolkit.