NEWSLETTER
Agility
Zoom Meeting & video conferencing: How it works, alternatives, tips

Table of contents

Video conferencing and Zoom meetings – our everyday working life has changed dramatically due to coronavirus. Meetings and collaboration take place online. It’s not always easy, but it can also be a lot of fun – we’ll show you how. Everything you need to know to be productive online with your colleagues in a good mood.

 

 

Videoconference & Zoom Meeting:
The ultimate guide with tools, tricks and tutorials

How to organize online meetings that are fun for everyone!

 

Solutions for video conferencing and online meetings

“Hello? Can you hear me?”
“Can you turn off your microphone please? It’s really loud when you crackle the gummy bear bag!”
“Children! Kiiiinder – go outside – dad has a meeting.”
“Huh? I can’t see you all now – how do I switch…?”
“Hello?”
“Sorry, the picture was frozen – my network is really bad.”
“Somehow it’s also a bit exhausting.”
“Wow – is that a drum kit in the background?”
“Oh, you can adjust that?”

Does that sound familiar?

Let’s go!

We are all currently experiencing Zoom meetings and video conferences: Whether we are taking our first steps or have already spoken to half the world in online meetings – in times of coronavirus, social distancing and working from home, there is no way around video meetings. A lot is still going wrong and we stare intently at the many faces in the small box. Somehow it’s not flowing yet. In this article, we’ll show you how to turn tough meetings into varied events that your participants will look forward to:

  • What technology you need
  • Which platform is best for you
  • Which tools you can work with online
  • How to make online meetings human and personal
  • Which process serves your cause

 

Workplace

 

Video conference versus live meeting

Advantages and disadvantages

The live meeting

Life meetings can be really boring: we have to watch for hours as Meier tries to make a name for himself and then Schmidt repeats the whole thing again.
Due to Corona, meetings and conferences in person have been canceled for the time being – and probably for quite a while. And even though we have often complained to our colleagues about the endless meetings in the company, we would love nothing more than to listen to Meier together with all our colleagues with heavy eyelids and cold coffee. We miss the personal contact!

The online meeting

In the living room at the computer – that’s simply something else: no corridor radio, no short exchange at the coffee machine, even funny remarks in between are not so easy due to the technology. It is entertaining to know what it looks like in Meier and Schmidt’s living room – but that doesn’t outweigh the effort of the video conference. We feel like we’re being watched by the camera and keep squinting at our own video. We can barely hear one of them, but the other makes a thunderous noise every time he puts his teacup on the desk – the next one has the sound set so loud that it drowns everyone out, even if he only coughs, and two take part without any video at all because they haven’t combed their hair or tidied up the place. And we ourselves fiddle around for minutes before online meetings so that we only show the section of our home that we want to present.

Infographic: Germans prefer personal contact | Statista
You can find more infographics at Statista

So now for the good news

Do you remember how strange it felt to Skype for the first time, to see yourself on video? It was kind of funny and we didn’t miss a single rookie mistake. A matter of honor. But we can learn everything that we haven’t done so often. Also hold video conferences. – And that means we can even make our collaboration online really positive.

Some of our customers have even reported back that they found the virtual workshops so productive that they are considering holding certain meetings online only in future. People are suddenly punctual, shorter, get to the point… what a time saver.
We will continue to use online meetings for a long time to come – even after the coronavirus pandemic, as they ultimately give us many more opportunities to work, learn and communicate with each other. No matter where we are in the world. Now is the best time to start!

That’s why we should learn to organize online meetings in a way that makes them fun for everyone.
And when Meier starts making long speeches again, we can quickly go and make a cup of tea because of some ominous “Wi-Fi difficulties” that have suddenly appeared. Nobody sees…
– So there are also advantages.

 

Online meeting with fun

 

Why should you do video conferencing?

Video killed the radio star – Video online meeting or conference call?

How we communicate

Did you know that our conversation partners draw more information from our body language than from what we actually say? In 1971, the Iranian-American psychologist Albert Mehrabian investigated which communication channels we react to in particular:
55% of our communication takes place via body language, 38% via the expression of our voice and only 7% of the information that reaches the other person is the content of what is said. You can try it out for yourself: Say the word no in different physical postures. You will see that a completely different statement is made each time, depending on whether you are clenching your fists, keeping your head down or lying around comfortably.
Since more than half of our communication takes place via body language, it is of course a bitter loss if we can only hear each other.

The more information flows, the better the communication

If you see your colleagues every day, spend time with them and can see how they react to certain topics, then you can usually assess them quite well. But if you can’t see someone or haven’t seen them for a while, your mind automatically starts to interpret. And this can go very wrong, especially in conflict situations, because then we tend to look at the other person much more critically and interpret their words less favorably.

Experience shows: The closer people are, the better communication usually works and the easier it is to resolve conflicts.
That’s why it’s important to strengthen mutual trust when working in a remote team. It is much better for building trust if the team can also see each other’s faces. And if possible, the team should get together occasionally.

After the lockdown, we know: of course it’s nicer to meet other people live. No question about it. But Corona has shown us that there is another way, that we can save on travel costs, avoid absences and, last but not least, do a huge service to the environment. This means that there will continue to be online meetings, possibly far more than before the pandemic. Familiarize yourself with your options now, get yourself some good equipment and learn the tricks of the trade so that you can make the most of video conferencing.

Video conference equipment

The hardware: tools and technology for optimal video conferencing

Tip 1: What equipment do you need for video conferencing?

Equipment – why is that? Isn’t a computer and an Internet connection enough?
Yes and no. Of course, a computer and a connection to the network are the basic prerequisites for participating in a video conference; however, there are considerable differences in quality when it comes to audio-visual quality, which determine whether the online meeting is a success or a flop.

How much bandwidth do online conferences need?

Test your internet connection !

Jerks, outages or frozen faces with funny grimaces are problems caused by unstable or too weak Internet connections. So before a video conference, check whether the bandwidth of your internet connection is wide enough to ensure good video transmission throughout. You can do this using a DSL test, an online function that checks how much you can upload and download. Both the upload and download bandwidth are important, as you are both sending and receiving.
Here is a link to a DSL speed test.

How much bandwidth does your online meeting need?

Online meeting providers state that the minimum bandwidth required is 0.5 Mbit/s in each case, while for others it is 1 to 2 Mbit/s. We always recommend significantly more, because the higher the bandwidth, the better the experience for the participants.
Otherwise, the bandwidth requirement depends on many circumstances – for example, how high the resolution of your camera is set, how many cameras are activated in the meeting, whether other functions such as screen sharing are used.

Cell phone or computer – which is better for video conferencing?

A stable connection over 60 minutes cannot usually be guaranteed via cell phone hotspots, so it is better to choose a DSL hotspot for your video conference. However, if your DSL provider’s server is overloaded at certain peak times, it may well make sense to switch to a smartphone connection.

Use multiple screens when using other online tools

But regardless of the bandwidth issue, the computer is generally the better choice. Especially if you want to work with virtual collaboration tools such as Mural or Miro (see below), because it’s easier to get an overview with a larger screen. Two screens or a computer and a pad are even more convenient; you can see the people on one and use the virtual whiteboard with the other.

 

What to do if the Internet connection is poor?

If your connection cannot transmit stable videos, then you should definitely switch off the camera and only appear via audio yourself. This saves an enormous amount of bandwidth and you avoid the infamous frozen screen or total disconnection.

 

Background Video Conference

 

What is the ideal background for a video conference?

No question: the choice of location is limited. If you work from home, you will have to find a place in your home. Of course, you should be able to confer without being disturbed by children and pets. You can choose a neutral wall as a background, but a slightly designed room section is also nice. This could be the bookshelf or a corner in your home or office where you have draped a little decoration. A little perspective makes the picture more pleasant. Think about what you want to show. Think about what exactly will be in the picture and check the detail with your camera.

Digital video background

Some video conferencing tools also offer the option of using a digital background so that your colleagues can’t look into your room. Depending on the background you choose, this can look very good. You in front of your company logo, in a cool office, on the beach or in front of the Golden Gate Bridge – there are many possibilities. But remember: an artificial video background often results in significantly poorer image quality! And if you want to make sure that the artificial background doesn’t swallow parts of your body from time to time (sometimes an arm is suddenly gone and so on…), then you should sit in front of a monochrome wall so that the program can recognize which parts of the picture belong to you and which don’t.

Optimal image section

Be sure to pay attention to the image section! Your head and hair should not be cropped, because then you would be much too close to the camera. A neckline up to about the chest is ideal.

Avoid background light!

Oh yes – and if you want to show your colleagues the wonderful view from your window as a background, then we have to disappoint you: the backlighting in the camera means that you only appear as a shadowy silhouette. Then you would need a lamp that also clearly illuminates your face. However, this might be unpleasantly glaring in your eyes.
Speaking of light…

 

Lighting Zoom Meeting

 

The light: How do you properly illuminate your online meeting?

Red pear, shadow creature or lime bar?

– We’ve seen it all before… Even if you can see your actual surroundings well, that doesn’t mean that the camera can. Your goal: beautiful, warm light from the front. Of course you can use your ceiling lighting, but it will make your face appear flat and two-dimensional. The purchase of a small rechargeable LED light panel is worthwhile! The costs are low, but your recordings will be much better and you will come across as much more professional. You can adjust the light intensity and also the Kelvin value, i.e. the light temperature, on such a panel. For orientation: Daylight has a Kelvin value of 5600.

Use soft light!

Ideally, you should soften direct light so that pores and wrinkles are not illuminated too harshly. A so-called softbox, which is also used for photography, or simply a white cloth can help here. A very simple solution is indirect lighting via a white opposite wall.
By the way: Some video conferencing tools offer the option of using a filter to make you look better; you can even get a fresh vacation tan on your face with some of them!

 

Eye level

 

Which video camera for your online meeting?

Of course, there are profile solutions – and you should definitely use them if you frequently hold important online meetings. With newer computers, however, the computer’s internal camera is sufficient; the quality is now quite high. Just test how good their recordings are. The light often has a greater influence than the camera itself. If the camera in your computer or cell phone does not produce good pictures, get a small additional camera. This is not expensive and the investment is worthwhile. Because video conferences will continue to take place even after coronavirus. Make sure that the camera’s image quality settings allow a good image, but do not produce too large a volume of data.

Communicate at eye level!

Do you know that? During a video conference, do you have the impression that some people are looking down on you from above? – This is because the camera is not at eye level, but a little below it. Our tip: Position the camera so that it really looks you in the eye, if necessary place books under your laptop.
If you have a separate screen that is in a completely different place, you should perhaps look at the laptop with the camera for the duration of the video conference. People react subconsciously on a relationship level very strongly to a lack of eye contact. Why burden the conversation unnecessarily?

Handling the camera

Be careful not to make huge movements, as the camera will make your movements appear much larger. Even if you just look a little to the side or at your teacup, it makes the viewer feel absent. Of course, it’s not easy to look others in the eye when they are represented by a camera lens, so a little trick helps here: stick an arrow, a bird – whatever, right next to the camera so that you always know what your line of vision should be.

External microphone

 

The right microphone for the video conference

We strongly recommend the use of a headset or external microphone! Although the microphones in computers and smartphones are often of good quality, they are not directional and so your conversation partners pick up all the ambient noise, whether it’s birdsong or construction site noise. And not only that – the microphones hear differently, so that a quiet noise in the background that you hardly notice yourself is heard extremely loudly by the person opposite you. In addition, internal microphones often sound like they are speaking in a box, whereas external microphones deliver a rich, dry sound.

The conference participants

Of course, it’s wonderful when you are well lit in a Zoom meeting and can be understood crystal clear. But what use is that if a large proportion of the other conference participants hardly notice anything due to low bandwidth? – Or when the person you are talking to can only be seen as a silhouette?
Support the participants of your online meeting by providing them with a checklist or even more detailed preparation tips beforehand! This means that even participants who have had little experience with video conferencing can professionalize their skills in just a few steps and significantly improve your shared experience.

 

Statistics: Have you ever used the Zoom video conferencing tool? | Statista
You can find more statistics at Statista

 

Tip 2: A comparison of the best video conferencing tools and software

There are many tools for online meetings. We introduce you to the best-known ones: Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Skype, Webex, Go To Meeting.

Easy to use, inexpensive, many functions: the best online meeting tools

There are tools that you and all participants can simply log into online without having to install a program on your computer. This is often the simplest solution that anyone can access, regardless of their operating system.
You can use most tools and software solutions free of charge or at least try them out for free. If you then decide to use more functions than those offered in the free version or if you want to invite more participants to the video conference, then most video conferencing tools incur costs. However, these are usually quite clear. Good news: Many providers are expanding the options for free use in Corona times. It is worth checking the respective website.
Basically, the choice of tool depends on what you are used to and which functions you need.

Our favorite: Zoom

Why Zoom?

Zoom has all the important functions and is easily accessible online for everyone. It has the best transmission quality, both in picture and sound – and above all it has useful features that not all tools have; the most useful feature for us is the breakout sessions, a way to work in small groups. On top of that, Zoom is affordable. That’s why Zoom has been the most downloaded app in many countries since coronavirus and lockdown.
For a while, there was an uncertain situation regarding data security at Zoom. According to our information, this has been rectified and data security is guaranteed.

All about Zoom

What is Zoom for?

Zoom is an online tool with which you can hold video conferences, audio meetings and webinars.

How does Zoom work?

Log in online and off you go! You can start your conference or invite participants for a specific time. As a participant, you will receive a link by e-mail and can click directly into the video conference. It couldn’t be simpler.

What does Zoom cost?

If your video conference takes less than 40 minutes, then the free version of Zoom is sufficient. If you need longer or want to use a few more functions, then it’s worth taking out a subscription. Subscription prices start at €13.99 for conferences with up to 100 participants (March 2020). This allows you to hold conferences for up to 24 hours. – Not that we can recommend such long sessions, but it is technically possible. In other subscription variants, you can zoom for an unlimited time with several thousand participants.

What can Zoom do?

  1. Depending on the subscription variant, you can gather up to 1000 participants in Zoom.
  2. Breakout sessions, virtual rooms in which smaller groups can work together, are a special feature.
  3. You can split your screen or part of your screen in Zoom.
  4. Your participants can comment on the screen content.
  5. Zoom has a chat function.
  6. You can set a virtual background.
  7. You can edit your image in Zoom and, for example, give yourself a healthy, tanned skin color
  8. You can display up to 49 video windows on your screen or set a smaller number.
  9. You can use Zoom to record the meeting so that you can watch it again later or colleagues who couldn’t make it can take a look at it.
  10. Zoom has its own whiteboard function on which all participants can collaborate. Here is a tutorial video on how to use the Zoom Whiteboard in English.
  11. You can watch the conference on your computer and share content on your iPad at the same time, so that your online conference or webinar remains clearly organized. Want to know how it works? Here is a tutorial video in English.
  12. In the chat, participants can share all kinds of data formats with the others.
  13. Transcript function: an AI can translate what you say into writing so that you can continue working on it later.

 

Link to Zoom

 

Online meeting participants

 

All about Microsoft Teams

Why Microsoft Teams?

In addition to using the video conference and chat function, data can also be jointly processed online.
The Skype for Business successor Microsoft Teams is very popular. The sound and picture quality is okay, but cannot keep up with Zoom; sometimes the connection breaks down completely.

What does Microsoft Teams cost?

The basic version is free, users of the Office package can unlock more functions from €4.20 per month. Due to the lockdown and the resulting increase in home office use, Microsoft is offering the Premium package, which is normally subject to a charge, free of charge.

What can Microsoft Teams do?

  • Video or audio conferences
  • Chat
  • Working together online
  • Share screen
  • Integration of apps such as YouTube, Evernote or Trello. This makes it easier because you no longer have to leave teams and switch back and forth.
  • Up to 250 participants

Link to Microsoft Teams

 

Background

 

All about Google Hangouts & Hangouts Meet

Why Google Hangouts & Hangouts Meet?

Google Hangouts are also popular, the quality is good but does not come close to Zoom. Hangouts Meet is the tool for video conferences; Hangouts Chat is used for internal team communication.

What does Google Hangouts cost?

Hangouts can be used free of charge with up to 25 participants; a G-Suite account is required to use the professional Hangouts Meet solution. There are different packages from €5.20.

What can Google Hangouts & Hangouts Meet do?

  • up to 100 participants, up to 25 free of charge
  • Online service, can be used independently of the operating system; there is an app for mobile devices
  • Share screen
  • Participation via telephone is possible
  • Chat
  • Recording option

 

Link to Google Hangouts & Hangouts Meet

 

Participant Zoom Meeting

 

All about Skype

Why Skype?

Skype has been on the market for a long time and was one of the first providers of video telephony. You can hold conferences with up to 50 participants in Skype. Picture and audio quality are good. Skype connections are not always stable.

What does Skype cost?

Skype is free of charge.

What can Skype do?

  • Video or audio conference
  • up to 50 participants
  • Share screen
  • Recording function
  • Modern, beautiful design
  • The background of the image can be blurred. So your home furnishings can remain private.

Link to Skype

 

 

Virtual meeting child

 

All about Cisco Webex

Why Webex?

Webex from Cisco was one of the first providers of video conferencing. Webex has many satisfied users. The user interface is intuitive to use; the image quality is very good.

What does Webex cost?

With the free version, you can hold conferences of up to 50 minutes. From 12.85 euros a month, you can use more functions and hold conferences for up to 24 hours.

What can Webex do?

  • Up to 200 participants
  • Recording of the meeting
  • Transcription
  • Participation by telephone
  • Good support
  • Share screen
  • Whiteboards
  • Meetings can be streamed live on Facebook

Link to Webex

 

 

Lighting Video

 

All about Go To Meeting

Why GoToMeeting?

GoToMeeting is available as a web application and as software for download. It is very easy to use, the interface is clear and the picture and sound quality is very good.

What does GoToMeeting cost?

You can test it free of charge for 14 days, after that there are subscriptions from €19.00 per month, depending on the range of functions.

What can GoToMeeting do?

  • Video and audio meetings
  • Up to 250 participants
  • GoToWebinar and GoToTraining are available as a supplement for webinars and training courses
  • Share screen
  • Online whiteboard
  • Possibility to record the online meeting
  • Keyboard and mouse control can be transferred
  • Participation by telephone is possible
  • There are drawing tools for working together

Link to GoToMeeting

 

 

Building Kit Online Workshop

 

 

Tip 3: Which tools are best for you to work with online

Talking to each other online is great, but how can you work together in practice when everyone is in a different location?
There are wonderful online tools that allow you to work together like on an analog whiteboard without anyone having to download software. We have tested four of them for you.

Tools for online collaboration

1. lucidspark from Lucid Software – the flexible

Lucidspark is known for its user-friendly interface and is particularly suitable for online brainstorming sessions. The software offers an unlimited virtual workspace and scores points with a diverse template library and various tools (e.g. colored post-its, text fields, lines, shapes…). Another advantage: Lucidspark can be seamlessly combined with other programs such as Lucidchart, Slack and Google Drive to turn ideas into actionable workflows.

 

2. mural – the creative

Mural is clearly our favorite. It is also frequently used by other companies. And not without reason:
With Mural, you also have an infinitely large whiteboard on which all participants can write, draw and attach sticky notes, photos or tables – just like on a flipchart in real life, only without limits. That makes the collaboration pleasant. It is self-explanatory and can be used intuitively and quickly. There are templates for feedback meetings, team warm-ups, planning meetings and also for the agile area, such as for the Scrum retrospective, empathy maps, storyboarding, cover story mock-up and much more. It also has nice little gadgets: You can always see who is currently inserting something by photo or name on the cursor. Or you can set up a voting system that calculates how often each sticky note was clicked on. We really enjoy working with Mural!

Mural Board Online Coworking

And here is an example of a mural board: we recently held an agile leadership training course here. You can see how group work is carried out in parallel or at the bottom right, where we played delegation poker and each participant could lay their cards – that was really fun!

3. miro – the serious one

You can already see it from the screenshot: Miro looks much more sober and serious than Lucidspark or Mural. Some may consider this more professional, others will feel less invited to be creative. That is a matter of taste. The advantage of Miro is that you can access more templates than with Mural; the disadvantage is that handling is somewhat more complicated.

Miro Online Conference Tool

 

4. deon – the safe

Especially with German companies we sometimes have problems with the acceptance of Miro or Mural, because both have their servers outside of Germany. One solution to this problem is Deon. The Berlin-based company has been offering a visual collaboration tool for some time now, which at first glance offers the most important features of Miro or Mural and at the same time meets the IT requirements of German companies.

Deon Online Design Sprint Tool

Here is an example of a design sprint that we carried out with DEON. It worked like a charm! We had to adjust a bit because the operation is slightly different from Mural, which we used a lot before. But once you get used to it, it works really well.
Here you can see: We set up our workshops from left to right and guide the participants through the board along a line. Screenshots of presentations can also be included. Videos and Powerpoints can also be integrated. This means that the participant really has everything in view.

 

You can find a detailed comparison between Miro and Deon here.

The ideal procedure for your video conference

Tip 4 : Planning – How to plan your video conference

How long should a video conference last?

What do you find more pleasant – a meeting live or online?
– For most people, it is much more strenuous to concentrate on the screen for a long time than to interact with people live. Therefore: make your meeting shorter rather than longer. And – if possible – don’t plan a whole day, as this could overwhelm the participants. For example, if you want to give a one-day workshop online, it’s better to spread it over two half days. If you are planning more than half a day, plan a long break over lunchtime and activate your participants with a few games or movement exercises in between.

When should online meetings take place?

Our experience shows that the participants are much fresher in the morning; by the afternoon, many are already exhausted. So it’s better to plan your online meeting in the morning. If this is not possible, then keep it as short as possible.

How many breaks does a video conference need?

By sitting still and staring at the screen, we tire much more quickly than in face-to-face contact. You should therefore plan more breaks for video conferences. Our experience: For an online meeting lasting four hours, we plan two breaks of 20 minutes each.

What should be included in the invitation to an online conference?

In addition to the content and any preparations that need to be made, you should definitely communicate the agenda with timescales. Also mention the breaks so that participants can use the breaks for phone calls, for example.

Online meeting preparation

 

Tip 3: Preparation – what you should prepare for your video conference

Do you want to get to work properly during your online meeting with colleagues? Wonderful! – You’ll make it a lot easier for everyone if you think your meeting through beforehand. In a live meeting, you can simply do a lot of things on the side; if you work online, you can’t do that.

What do you want to show in the online meeting?

  • Do you have a presentation?
  • Do you want to share your screen?
  • Do you work with online whiteboards?
  • Which boards should you prepare?

Prepare your online whiteboards!

For example, if you want to start a brainstorming session in which the participants pin their ideas to the board with cards, divide the board up beforehand so that everyone knows where to put their cards. In this case, you could attach name tags, which would save you having to explain things. Even if you work with feedback charts or tables: prepare them!

Orientation for the participants

Preparation also includes knowing how to make it as easy as possible for participants to find their way around:

  • How does it work?
  • Who does what where?
  • What happens next?
  • Who is responsible for what?

In video conferences, participants need a lot more announcements than in a live meeting! Plan for this and think carefully about what information your fellow campaigners need. You can expect your preparation time for an online work session to be about twice as long as for an in-person meeting.

Create a moderation guide!

As confusion arises much more quickly online, it is important that you always know where you are. Create a well thought-out moderation guide. Plan how much time you need for what, write down the exact times in your plan – and most importantly: don’t overrun! You can’t do the math during your meeting. If you are planning specific breakout sessions, divide up who will work with whom in a small group beforehand. You don’t have the head to decide this during your session.
Prepare as much as possible and put your moderation plan on the table so that you always have it in view during the video conference!

Create documents!

So that you can document your online meeting, take screenshots of all the whiteboards; if everyone agrees and there are not too many of you, you can also take a group photo during the meeting.

 

Equipment Multiple monitors

 

Tip 4: What functions are available in the online meeting

If you like something in a live meeting, you can easily show your approval through your voice, body language or applause. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work quite so simply in a video conference; since technology is involved, there are a few things that need to be considered to ensure that it still works.

Explain the functions of the online meeting to your participants!

There may be old hands among you who don’t need any further explanation, but there may also be a few newbies and team members who are a little unsettled by the technology. So give a short briefing at the start of your video conference and explain the functions!

The audio function

Everyone can switch their own microphone on and off. As the host, you can also mute all participants or enable one or more to speak.
If you are not discussing something together, but one or two of you are speaking, then switch off the microphones of all other participants!
Why? The microphones of the others often pick up all ambient noises, including breathing noises. When one participant takes notes on the computer, the clacking of the keyboard can sound like a heavenly thunderstorm to the others.

Explain to everyone that you will only open the microphones of the speakers from your side. Ask your conference participants to leave their microphones switched on so that you can turn them up if necessary.
Alternatively, you can show everyone how to turn on their microphone, ask them to mute their microphone and join in when they want to say something. Make sure that they close the microphone themselves after speaking.
If the group is very large, the first version is recommended, for smaller groups the second version is more pleasant for everyone.

 

Home office

The chat function

Zoom, Microsoft Teams and many other tool providers offer a chat function.
You will see the chat next to the main screen. This is where participants can make comments during your presentation or collect questions for you to answer when you have the opportunity. You also have the option of starting a survey, for example: “Where are you right now?” or “Who has experience with x?”.
Of course, participants can also inform you briefly and without interjection – for example, that someone will be joining later.
Zoom and some other platforms offer the option of private chats: individual participants can chat with each other without everyone being able to see it. This can be useful if team members need to clarify something that is about to be discussed in the video conference.

Hand signals at the touch of a button

To avoid hectic waving on the screen when muted participants want to speak up, many tools have a function that allows you to display a request to speak: You see a hand signal on the participant’s video image.
The participants can also express other reactions, such as applause or a “thumbs up”. However, this function only works if you can see your entire audience. This means that it doesn’t help you much with higher numbers of participants.
The following applies to chat and hand signals: don’t let them distract you too much, as this could affect your presentation.

 

 

Online meeting participants

 

 

View: Who do you see?

You can hire who you see:

1. all

Each participant is represented with a small video window. If there are so many participants that not all of them fit on one screen, the video windows of the participants are distributed over several pages.

2. only the current speaker

The program automatically switches the person who is currently speaking to the front so that you always see the person who is currently saying something, even in a dialog.

3. or a certain number of participants

You can set how many video windows or participants you would like to see; the program changes from time to time who is visible to you in these windows.

In principle, you can set the view for everyone. If someone wants a different view, they can change it according to their own preference. Every time you change the general view, you change everyone’s settings, which means that the participants then have to readjust their personal preferences. Explain this at the beginning, then you’ll save yourself a lot of “Huh? Why can’t I suddenly see you all?”

Online meeting with fun

Share screen

You can share your presentation, images, texts, videos and the like with others by sharing your screen. The others do not see which participants you see or what is written in your chat.
Bear in mind that there may be difficulties with showing videos due to bandwidth capacities.

Breakout Session

The Breakout Session is a wonderful tool!
If you throw a question around in a workshop, many people feel compelled to answer. In an online meeting, on the other hand, the inhibition threshold for speaking up is relatively high. You should definitely take this into account. This is where breakout sessions do a great service: if you turn a group of 30 people into 10 small groups of three people each, people can easily get into conversation with each other and the ice melts. The breakout small groups only see and hear each other. You can join in visibly, ask about the current status and bring the groups back to the plenary at the end. We will show you later on what you should bear in mind during the breakout sessions.
Unfortunately, not every video conferencing provider offers this tool.

Video meeting fun

 

Tip 5: Atmosphere and relationship

It’s actually a truism: we all prefer to do things that we enjoy and that make us feel good. Unfortunately, this is often neglected.
In a face-to-face meeting, it is extremely important that there is a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere; in a video conference, even more so. It is therefore essential that you build up a good relationship with the participants and give them the chance to feel comfortable with each other so that they feel confident to make a contribution in the face of distance and technology.

You can do a lot to ensure that everyone is relaxed with each other:

At the beginning of the meeting

Pose a question to the group and let the participants answer it in a flash! Here are a few examples

  • Who are you and how are you?
  • What are your expectations?
  • What did you do at the weekend?
  • How is the home office working for you?
  • What was your most creative phase?

Do flashlight rounds even if the participants already know each other. Simply adapt the questions to the participants.
If the number of participants is so high that it would go beyond the time frame for everyone to speak, then ask for a reply in the chat function, skim the replies and briefly summarize the messages and/or the most concise entries for the others.

During the video meeting

The relationship level is crucial for good participation. Always make sure that it remains emotionally pleasant!
Involve the participants, take time for some small talk, make jokes, show funny pictures. Anything that loosens things up is welcome.
Also tell them a little about yourself, because the more open you are, the more open the participants will be.

Remote Kl

 

Tip 6: Rules of the game for a good online meeting

Your video conference works best if everyone sticks to a few rules.
If your group or individuals are not yet so experienced in online collaboration, then you should address these rules at the start of your meeting:

  1. Keep to the times in the agenda! Starts and ends on time!
  2. Speak as briefly as possible and as extensively as necessary!
  3. Listen to the others and let them finish!
  4. Please post questions and comments in the chat!
  5. Even if it’s exhausting at the computer – try to be present!
  6. And very important: Please switch off your cell phone, emails and other programs!

 

Game Online Video

 

Tip 7: Activate your participants!

We’ve mentioned it before: help your participants overcome their inhibitions and make sure they have fun!

Let everyone have their say!

Don’t just ask the group “Who would like to say something?”, but ask everyone to say two or three sentences about the question. Let everyone have their say.

Let the participants answer in writing!

Of course, you can also use virtual whiteboards: “You now have two 3 minutes to think about this. – Put a few cards with keywords on the wall and then everyone says something about it.”

This way you can ensure that not only the extroverts but also the more reserved ones express their ideas and you can represent the full diversity of the participants.

Breakout Session Video Call

 

Use breakout sessions!

We really enjoy using the breakout sessions in Zoom Meetings! How can you best work with it?

Keep the breakout group small!

In a virtual conference with ten people, a relaxed conversation that develops on its own is hardly possible; live, that would be no problem at all. Our experience shows that four is a group size where the participants are relaxed online. Five people in a virtual conversation is already borderline. This means that you should pack up to four, at most five people together in a breakout session.

Give clear tasks!

Give the breakout teams a concrete question and precise instructions on how to document the answer to the question in the session! While you can briefly communicate an addition to everyone in the live workshop, you cannot make adjustments during the breakout session. You can visit the teams individually, but experience has shown that no more questions will be asked – and of course you can’t visit all the teams at the same time.

Prepare how the answers will be given!

Ideally, the breakout group will find the question or task again on their virtual board. Prepare everything on the board so that the group knows immediately what to do! Maybe it needs a few more sub-questions that you have already noted there, maybe it needs the names of the participants so that the answers end up where they should. Otherwise, experience has shown that groups organize themselves quite well – if they are not too big…

Give clear time indications!

Announce at the beginning in plenary how much time is available for the breakout session! If you visit the individual sessions, then give them the current remaining time again.

The conclusion of the breakout sessions

If you want to get your colleagues back, press Stop. From this moment on, if you have set this up, the groups have 60 seconds to complete their work. There is a clock with a countdown visible to everyone. This clear time management means that discipline is usually very good in virtual meetings.

 

 

Use warm ups and games!

Because it is so tiring to stare at the screen for long periods of time, participants in virtual meetings really enjoy it when you get a bit active at the beginning and in between. Come up with a few activities that suit your participants!
This can be a small exercise, a game to warm up the mind or a small task.

For example, we had the participants photograph their desks and everyone had to guess whose desk they were looking at.
One game we all really like is Online Schnick Schnack Schnuck. You probably remember it: paper, scissors, rock and a well. In the live version, one person wins, whereas in the online version the aim is for everyone to make the same sign together. Yes – you read that right: We play until all of us show the same symbol – without any agreements, of course.

 

Video conference screen

 

Tip 8: Manage the group flows!

We can’t say it often enough: online orientation is everything! For a virtual meeting or online workshop, you should think through every single step beforehand and draw up clear instructions for the participants.

Who does what where and when?

If you work with online whiteboards, prepare them in such a way that everyone immediately recognizes what needs to be done:

  • The question or task should be visible.
  • Make sure that it is clear where sticky notes, photos and posts are to be pinned.
  • If you divide the participants into small groups, you should have marked a workspace on the whiteboard for each group.
  • Decide beforehand whether posts should be clustered by topic or person.

What can virtual collaboration look like?

We created an entire design sprint virtually during the lockdown: Participants were sent packets of craft materials so that they could create their ideas at home. They took photos of their ideas and shared them online. On this basis, the participants were able to further develop their ideas together. It was a lot of fun and came pretty close to a creative workshop in a face-to-face meeting.

Tip 9: Closing the online meeting

Use a feedback chart to round off your meeting and gather feedback.
A quick question for everyone:

  • How was it?
  • What did they like?
  • What should be improved?

Participants can pin a piece of paper to the whiteboard. If you have worked without a whiteboard, use the chat function and ask the participants to share their feedback there.

Feedback Chart

Tip 10: Documentation of the video conference

As with every meeting, documentation is a must!
You have two options here:

  1. The simplest – record the recording, then everyone can watch the meeting again.
  2. The clearest one – take a screenshot of each whiteboard you make together and add them to your presentation and / or notes.

 

 

Tip 11: For which online meetings you need professional moderation

As you can see, you can easily organize most video conferences on your own. Of course, there are also online meetings that require professional moderation.

On what occasions should you seek support from an external moderator?

  • Sometimes your team deals with complicated topics. If you simply want to take care of the content and achieve a result quickly and in a structured manner, then a professional at your side will ensure that you achieve the results in the allotted time. This is ideal for strategic workshops or when you need to solve a problem.
  • If the atmosphere in the team is currently tense and emotions are fermenting in the group that are influencing the way people interact with each other, it is advisable to have someone neutral from outside moderate the discussion. Of course, this also applies to live meetings.
  • If you want to co-create online, i.e. work on something together, and if the temperaments and hierarchical positions in the team are unevenly distributed, a moderator can ensure that even the less vocal or influential get enough space to make a contribution.
  • Sometimes an atmosphere has become established in which people do not speak openly, in which they lack the courage to say something – here, too, professional moderation live and especially online provides a great service, so that the topics are put on the table.
  • Do you want to use methods such as design thinking? – Or similar agile methods that require a well-managed process to produce the solution you are hoping for? You should also seek professional support for this.

Give us a call! We can do that.

Creative work

 

Further reading on video conferencing and online meetings

Want to read on? – Then we have a few articles and posts here that might interest you.

Here are some finds from the net:

Do you want a super detailed technical guide? Then take a look at this YouTube video:

 

Computerwoche presents video conferencing tools

 

Source: Statistics Statista

 

 

Here are some posts from our blog:

Hybrid working – teamwork between home office & office: is it possible?

Corona, lockdown, uncertainty: what companies should definitely do now

Become agile? Oh no. 13 tips on how to successfully prevent agility

Agile transformation in 22 steps: Definition, basics & tutorial

Agile leadership: What is agile leadership? The 10 principles

Change Manager Definition & Tips: How to lead change successfully!

The Scrum Guide: What is Scrum and how does it work?

Digital leadership – new times, new leadership!

 

 

The authors

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Oliver Grätsch
Michelle 550
Michelle Templin
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Christian Grätsch
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Matthias Beikert
Susanne_Grätsch_1_550x550px
Susanne Grätsch
Monika Bt 550x550
Monika Steininger
Kai_Hübner_550x550px
Kai Hübner
Philipp Andresen 500x550
Philipp Andresen
berliner_team_Isabell_1
Anna Isabell Arendt
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Dr. Claudia Schmidt
Inga_Kühn_550x550px
Inga Kühn
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Kassandra Knebel
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Claudia Lehmann
Komplettes Team

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