Do you have an upcoming meeting?
Do you phone in experts to share knowledge or facilitate discussions?
Do your senior managers or board of directors expect more results from meetings?
Problem with using phone-in with group meetings
You can only hear words, not see what the guest speaker is talking about. Examples include demonstrations of websites, calculations of spreadsheets, explaining processes.
Visual learners are impaired because they can’t see what the presenter is saying and must imagine concepts based on previous knowledge.
Interaction is limited because you cannot see body language to ensure the group fully understands key concepts.
As a result of reading this post your group will:
Make decisions faster having more details
Feel more confident in achieving expected outcomes
Avoid groupthink because every individual can ask questions and voice their own opinion.
Tips on Using Skype
There is usually one person on staff who has a Skype account and knows how to use it to communicate with another person however when setting up and executing an online group meeting, the dynamics change. Room setup, audio quality, webcam positioning, and screen viewing are extremely important in hosting this online meeting and one by itself could disrupt or hinder the communication process between the virtual guest and the group.
1. Webcam Positioning
Test the laptop camera ahead of time to see how much area it will cover. Chairs and tables might have to be adjusted to make sure that every person in the room can be seen. If you don’t have a webcam for your laptop check out the ones made by Logitech.
2. Room Setup
The projection screen or TV may not be able to be moved but the chairs and tables can. Position the tables in a V shape as close as possible surrounding the screen. This will help everyone see each other better with a focus on the guest.
Encourage attendees to sit as close as possible to make sure everyone is included in the view of the web cam. If the online guest cannot see every member then they won’t know who is talking when a question is being asked.
3. Audio Quality
There are two types of audio to consider: the voice of the guest and the voices of the group members. The best audio to hear the guest is when the room laptop is plugged into the house sound wall speakers. When that is not an option you may want buy extra speakers that can be plugged into the laptop. Most laptops don’t produce a high enough volume for a group which can strain members to listen to the guest. Tweakers are the size of a baseball (under $20) can be plugged into the headphone jack of the laptop to make the audio louder in the room.
The next audio to consider is the voices of the group members for the guest to hear. A dedicated microphone to capturing audio from the laptop will serve you better than relying on the microphone in the webcam. It doesn’t work well when people have to get up and walk over to the computer to speak their mind. The Blue Microphone produces much clearer sound quality and can be moved around a room where a computer cannot. Small groups (10 or less) will want to sit close together to avoid yelling across the room.
4. Screen Viewing
During a Skype video call be sure to zoom the screen to full screen. If you don’t a small video will show which is hard to see, especially if the Skype presenter is demonstrating a website.
5. Skype chat
Skype chat allows the group host and presenter to share website links, videos, and other online resources with one another during the discussion. This instant messaging feature will save each party time trying to recite links, questions, or other comments when they are saved in the chat electronically and shared by email after the call is over.
Is this worth all the extra effort?
I would say fanatically YES!
I’ve been on so many boring conference calls that I lose interest, multi-task, or just tune out. If I could see whom I was listening to I feel more comfortable. If I can see what they are talking about I’m interested more.
Ask guest speakers if they use Skype and can use it to share their expertise. There are call recorders which can save the discussion in a video format for playback and/or upload to YouTube. This tool is a $20 one time investment.
In my humble opinion you can’t afford to overlook this tool.
Imagine the savings on getting the speakers you want because they are easily accessible and save on travel expenses.
You create more impact in less time with the fewest amount of resources.
Not too shabby, eh?