In most areas of the country, real estate is at a premium. That also translates to high costs for office space. Employers are looking to get the most productivity per square foot within their facilities. Additionally, people may be most productive when they can be away from the office to concentrate on a detailed, specific project.
These objectives trigger the popular model of mobile team members. However, it is important not to diminish their input just because they are not filling a seat at the conference table. The best way to have them virtually join the discussion is by utilizing the tools they already have – a laptop or tablet. These tools already have a camera and microphone so all you need is a reliable internet signal and they will be able to participate. Now, web collaboration and video conferencing have expanded beyond the Boardroom. Does anyone use FaceTime?
It all sounds simple, right? Well, not quite.
Three things you must have to make web collaboration work:
1. The organizational mindset which promotes the total collaboration for remote team members
Remote participants need to be as engaged as the rest of the team. Interacting with the whole group is a concept which organizers may overlook when collaborating. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, seeing the facial expressions or body language of your team members and sharing dynamic content leads to more precise and expedient decision-making.
My wife is the Marketing Manager at a major university. She recently instituted a remote work program for an employee. Someone who previously worked in the next-door office is now physically 3 hours away. At first, their normal communication mirrored what they had in the office which had been informal knocks on the door to discuss what was hot at the time. Simple face-to-face collaboration but without the “face.” Phone calls started supplanting real communication, and they seldom found themselves on the same page. Being the Pro AV guy, I asked her about a visual presence. Soon, she realized it was the missing component to their fluid discussions. They just needed a virtual “knock on the door” to start their face-to-video collaboration.
2. Collaboration environment at all ends of the call
As services from Zoom, BlueJeans, Cisco, and the like have illustrated, combining the power of room-based Video Conferencing Systems with the embedded features of today’s laptops and tablets, give an organization many avenues to conduct professional meetings no matter where the attendees are located! USB-based room systems using Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ) cameras and table or ceiling mics can turn any space into a visual collaboration hub.
Another benefit of having these hubs is to be able to invite others to your meeting on the fly. Customers, vendors, and contractors may have valuable information to contribute as you discuss specific topics. A study at the Wharton School of Business found we remember 10% of what we hear, 20% of what we read BUT 80% of what we see and hear! So, visual collaboration allows you to, more accurately, capture the presentation in this environment. At the same time, team members are likely to be more alert, engaged and responsive when they are seen and heard.
3. Proper meeting protocol
Make sure you test connections and your setup (like screen sharing) before the meeting starts. Nothing will say “unprofessional” to the participants more than if you are not early to the call with everything working. Using web collaboration is supposed to save time, not make people wait. Start meetings on time. Attendees will soon prepare to be a few minutes early so not to miss a single word.
You have the tools in place, and everyone has joined the call, now what?
The meeting moderator will need to ensure people do not talk over each other. There may be a slight delay from when a team member speaks to when their voice is audible on the far end of the call. The different cadence means a meeting with remote participants may employ a different rhythm. Build in breaks during a presentation for questions and comments. Participants need to mute their audio if they are not contributing to the conversation or they add too much background noise to the call. Be prepared to allow a few extra moments of silence as members unmute to ask questions or add comments.
In other words, be mindful of others by making this web environment as conducive to meeting success as if you were all in the same room.
With these three pillars in place, your Web-based collaboration meeting will have all your team members anxiously waiting the next time you electronically gather around the conference room table!