How to improve videotelephony meetings
November 16, 2017 9:23 AM   Subscribe

How do you make video conference meetings with remote workers as useful as face to face meetings? How do you minimize setup time and efficiency and improve quality?

At my company, we must use BlueJeans for video conferencing with our remote teams. Some members are in the US, some in Asia, some in Europe (we have about 12 total attending these meetings with most sitting in a central conference room in the US).

We typically end up spending 5-10 minutes prior to starting these meetings fiddling around to get a whole room camera in the central conference room so remote users can view the rest of the team sitting around a conference table, and then we have the usual "can you hear/see me?" back and forth. Central users don't want to use their computer camera like the remote users. Sometimes we use the conference phone in the middle, with video from the camera. People appear tiny on the screen.

How do you manage this with your team? Do you have a good process established that makes this seamless so you can jump right into your meeting with minimal setup? What hardware are you using?
posted by GernBlandston to Work & Money (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Central users don't want to use their computer camera like the remote users.

This is the only way these meetings will work. They will continue to fail if half the people in the meeting are in the same room. They will talk amongst themselves and remote people will be unable to hear. The latency of in-person communication is lower so remote people will not be able to jump into gaps in the conversation the way people in the same room can.

Source: I have worked remotely for years and for several jobs now, sometimes at all-remote companies, sometimes at companies that mix local and remote. Each person using their own camera and mic is the only way I have seen remote meetings work.
posted by enn at 9:44 AM on November 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

1.) Designate one person on each end who is responsible for the meeting running smoothly. Have them meet 10-15 minutes in advance to make sure that it's working.

2.) Set a baseline expectation for cameras on and placement on both sides. Set the expectation and be clear with people (offline, don't publicly shame them) if they are habitual offenders of this rule. Make it as important as meeting attendance, participation and punctuality.

3.) Print out instructions for how to get everything working and post them in the room. Mark cables with the right inputs, so that it's easy for people to understand where everything goes.

4.) Have laptop chargers handy. Have wifi passwords, etc. written on the whiteboard.

5.) As with every meeting - having an agenda in advance that everybody has agreed to makes it much easier to run it smoothly and manage expectations/behaviors.
posted by pazazygeek at 9:53 AM on November 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Do you know that the other participants don't want to use individual cameras? They may not be aware that this is a problem, most people take the path of least resistance in meetings and will do whatever the default is. Or they may not have cameras enabled. If there a legitimate concerns (cultural norms, discomfort with expectation around individual contribution) you might be able to get your org to work on a more formal conferencing set up as company policy.

If none of the above is relevant just make it a requirement in the meeting invitation. Could you avoid using meeting rooms and instead ask that everyone calls in from their desk/laptop? If you don't insist on where they join in from it may be an easier sell.
posted by freya_lamb at 10:31 AM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Stop using a conference room if at all possible. I am part of a heavily remote team, with a cluster of people in one office, and it's always the conference room people who are the problem - audio's bad, they have side conversations with each other that don't translate well over the conference, people wander in and out. The rest of us, our biggest problem is the previous meeting running late, or the people who use rechargeable headsets (ugh) constantly fiddling with their damn dead and dying headsets.

My company actually avoids video - all our email/conference communication is branded with professionally-taken headshots so you have "someone" to look at and associate with the voice, and usually someone or -ones have presentation material to screenshare.

I have a couple of customers who have to go use a conference room together because they work in an open plan (ugh) office and it's an audio nightmare. In that case they are on one computer and one phone (with satellite microphones) and projecting their screen and that's just something we have to deal with, but if your users can call in individually they should.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:32 AM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Have a set order for how people go around and communicate information, as in a standup perhaps. Sometimes it is nice to have the remote people go first, as their link can break down.

Each conference room should have the same basic setup, and people should all be trained to use it.

Items should be digitally shared (no paper copies), so it is fluid and easy to collaborate whether they are in or out of the office.
posted by nickggully at 10:54 AM on November 16, 2017

Do you really have to have video conferences or can they be voice only? I am on conference calls without video all the time and it is not a big deal. I would hate having to be on a conference call with live video of me. I would be happy to participate at my desk if it was a still photo or no photo.
posted by soelo at 12:16 PM on November 16, 2017

We have a conference room that's permanently set up for video conferencing. It has a well placed wide-angle camera, huge screen at the front and microphones throughout the room so that no one is more than 1m away from one. The computer is set up to always be running the video conferencing software and nothing but that, and there's a locked down interface that only allows you to either click a button to join the currently scheduled call or to enter an ID number for a call that isn't already on the system. I've conferenced from it and to it and it's almost perfect in both directions.
posted by lollusc at 3:26 PM on November 16, 2017

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