Perhaps you’re hosting a video conference for the first time. Or maybe you’re wondering why the last conference you led didn’t seem to accomplish anything. Either way, you’re in the right place.
Our list of eight video conference tips and best practices will help ensure your next online meeting goes smoothly and gets things done. Best of all, you won’t leave colleagues fuming that you just wasted 60 minutes of their lives.
These video conference best practices reflect the hard-won wisdom of thousands of GoTo customers who mastered the art of hosting productive online meetings. They know what to do before, during, and after a successful video conference.
Take a few minutes and learn from their experience.
1. Establish an objective and an agenda
Don’t try to navigate your video conference without a roadmap. You’ll just get lost and take everybody with you.
Write down what must happen by the time your video conference ends. Does your team need clear marching orders for the next phase of a project? Do you need all the relevant facts for a status report to the C-Suite? Make sure your objective is clear, specific, and attainable.
Next, start creating an agenda. Classic goal-setting strategy is to envision your desired outcome and work backward. Which steps must happen, in what order, to arrive at your destination? These stages are your agenda items.
2. Assign roles and share expectations
There’s nothing worse than getting stuck in a video conference where you feel like you shouldn’t even be there and the whole thing could’ve been done in a round of emails.
This won’t happen if everybody in the video conference has a job to do. Let’s say you’re meeting to make sure everybody on your team knows how to use a new feature in your productivity-software package. Somebody needs to demo the software live during the meeting. Don’t leave this assignment to chance. Make sure you assign it to somebody you trust (and have a backup person if your first choice can’t make the meeting).
In your meeting announcement, give everybody a clear expectation of your goals, your agenda, and the roles they’ll be expected to play. If you need them to study a policy statement before the meeting, make sure they have access to the statement.
3. Establish meeting protocols
A video conference requires well-defined structure. For instance, you’ll probably need an introduction that states your objectives, roles and expectations, followed by a time for discussion, a question-and-answer session, and a wrap-up.
Perhaps you’re interviewing a subject matter expert in your video conference. Your protocol would include collecting questions to ask and determining who asks them.
Somebody should be assigned to take notes or record the meeting for transcription later. You might decide here whether people will be allowed to check their phones and answer messages during the meeting.
4. Audition your video conference technology
Set time aside to figure out how your video conferencing software works. You’ll need to know how to bring people into the meeting and how to mute their microphones if needed. Are there live visualization features like drawing and highlighting? Get to know them so you can liven up the meeting.
5. Look the part of a leader
Live video is the heart of a video conference, so you need to look polished and professional for the meeting. Ensure you know what people see behind you when your webcam is turned on. Always be thinking about making a good impression.
You might prefer a digital background for security’s sake. Just make sure yours is not distracting. A conversation-piece background could stall your meeting’s progress.
Some people would rather call into the meeting with their cameras turned off — either for privacy or to reduce the bandwidth load on their connection. They should be accommodated.
6. Take charge of the meeting
Remain calm and project confidence. Speak carefully, at a measured pace. Try not to speed through your agenda items.
Confirm that everybody fulfills their assigned roles and you hit all the points on your agenda. If there’s a question-and-answer session, don’t leave anybody out.
Perhaps the toughest part of a meeting is preventing it from getting derailed by distractions or long-winded contributors. Always try to steer the conversation back to your goals and agenda.
7. Make a record and watch the clock
Yes, people still take notes in video conferences. But you might find it’s easier to record your meeting and create an automated, AI-generated transcript of your meeting. The transcript might not be 100 percent accurate from top to bottom, but the AI should be smart enough to capture the most important details.
Make sure to announce the meeting is being recorded (getting people’s permission to record them is required by law in some U.S. states).
Finally, keep your eye on the clock and make sure to wrap things up in your allotted time.
7. Follow up
Make a point of contacting your video conference attendees a few days later to confirm they’re making progress toward the goal that inspired the meeting. If the video conference included next steps, include those in your follow-up messages.
And don’t forget that some people won’t be able to make the meeting. Your follow-up will get them up to speed on everything the meeting accomplished.
If you’d like a downloadable list of video conference tips and best practices, check out the GoTo Meeting Organizer and Presenter Checklist.