Have a script handy
For an experienced teacher, this may not seem necessary, but really it is. Even if you are presenting a lesson that you know well and have taught many times, it is important to have some notes already written. Teaching by video conference is not the same as teaching in the classroom. The thought that your image is being beamed to people in a remote location may make you more nervous than you'd imagine. Whether you take a lecture-style approach or involve your class a lot, you feed off of listener reaction and participation. This is true no matter what the reaction is-even looks of boredom. When you are presenting a video conference you do not get that same type of instant feedback.
Give a shorter presentation
If you thought a student's attention span was short in a typical classroom setting, wait until you see how they fare during a video conference. Some will be fine, but others will get fidgety fast. If possible, do not spend the entire class time talking. Just as you would in any other class, give students time to do a group activity. Or let them swap and grade each others' papers while you go over the answers. Find a way to break the time up, so students are not looking at the screen the entire time.
Today, twice as many companies are communicating via audio and video conferencing than five years ago. Between 2000 and 2006, a leading indicator of changes in the communications industry -- sales of conferencing equipment -- doubled from $2.84 billion to $4.33 billion. It seems more and more people are realizing how much they can benefit from conferencing. If you are one of these people, you should know that thorough organization and planning is required to ensure effective and productive communication. Here are some tips to ensure a smooth conference call:
- Ask participants to identify themselves when speaking.
- Provide participants with a conference agenda ahead of time and encourage discussion on weak agenda items.
- Watch the clock. Keep the conference within the expected time parameters.
- Allot time for questions. Designating a Q&A session at the end of the conference can help keep the meeting on track.
- Close the call with a summary of items discussed, decisions made, and future action agreed upon.
- Schedule a follow-up meeting if you run out of time, but still have points to cover. Be considerate of the fact that your colleagues have allotted a set number of minutes to the conference call.
- Follow-up the conference call with an email or letter reiterating major points, decisions made, and future assignments.
- Thank all participants for their time and input.
During the holiday season, some schools beamed Santa into classrooms all the way from the North Pole via video conference. Students were excited to have the opportunity to actually speak with Santa and discuss their Christmas gift lists.
Besides asking about gifts, they also had all kinds of logistical questions to ask. For example, one child asked if the reindeer get sick. The video conference also gave them time to debate that age old question: Does Santa really exist.
But it wasn't all fun and games. In addition to the fun of Santa's video visit, the children got to practice their interviewing and critical thinking skills. Thinking and asking critical questions is an important part of any child's education.
The holidays are over, but if you are a teacher or instructor, you too can use video conference technology to enhance the classroom experience. Just think about it: if you are studying literature or a particular story, why not bring the characters to life? Sure you could bring someone into the classroom, but a video conference will allow the character to be interviewed in their own habitat or milieu.
Your students will be thrilled with the experience of preparing for and participating in a video press conference with Tom Sawyer, Jo from Little Women, or Peter Cottontail.
Modern technology can make holding a conference call or video conference a breeze. But there's still a fair amount of work and organization involved in planning and holding an effective conference. Before you decide to invest your time (and money), you should examine your reasons for wanting to schedule a conference call or video conference. If your reason is listed below, you're on the right track.
- You need the interaction of ideas and opinions to create a plan, program or fully realized concept.
- You want to encourage a positive group dynamic or build team spirit.
- You have only a short time to build consensus or reach an agreement.
- You need to explain a complex subject or introduce a new concept or product.
You're wasting your time (and everyone else's) if your reason for holding a conference call or video conference is among the following:
- All necessary participants cannot be available at the same time.
- You or the other participants don't have time to properly prepare.
- Participants cannot be available for the time required to properly discuss and consider the issue.
- You have a simple message to deliver or question to answer.
- You are imparting information that does not require discussion or an immediate response.
If you and your staff are new to video conferencing, you might want to take a refresher course in the importance of proper body language. During a video conference, if your mouth is saying one thing but your body is saying something else, viewers are going to be confused about your message. The non-verbal cues we give and receive during a conversation can have a powerful impact on the message we take away from a meeting. It's important that your body language reinforces what you are saying during a video conference.
Here are a few tips for projecting good non-verbal cues and reading the body language of others:
- Eye contact holds the listener's attention and expresses interest, sincerity and confidence.
- Lack of eye contact implies dishonesty, furtiveness, discomfort or lack of confidence.
- Smiling when you speak focuses attention on you. People respond positively to smiling faces. Smiling also decreases tension and projects friendliness, acceptance and cooperation.
- A furrowed brow or frown indicates disagreement, tension, discomfort or confusion.
- Relaxed arms and open palms suggest honesty, acceptance and a desire to negotiate.
- Crossed arms or balled fists indicate disagreement, tension, refusal or anger.
- Leaning forward signals concentration, interest, concern, acceptance and approval.
- Leaning backward signals resistance, doubt, disinterest or dismissal.
In an interesting experiment, an American university professor divided students into two groups. Both listened to the same lecture by a native speaker of English. Each group was shown a photograph of the purported speaker. The group that was shown a photo of an obviously American speaker exhibited greater comprehension of the material than the group which believed it was listening to a non-native speaker. Both listened to exactly the same speech delivered by the same individual.
Personal assumptions, cultural bias, gender, age or racial prejudices, education preconceptions, and power hierarchies – so many factors affect the way we perceive others. Even when we speak the same language, these biases can affect the way we hear and understand each other. In communicating with foreign customers or colleagues in a teleconference, the effort must be made to set aside our cultural differences to understand each other. Often cultural references and idioms get in the way of clear communication and repetitive efforts must be made to arrive at a shared understanding. Video conferencing can present additional challenges where body language and gestures common in one culture may give unanticipated offense in another.
Many companies that regularly do business in foreign countries have implemented cultural advisor services to assist their employees in putting the company's best foot forward. If your company does not offer such a service, you can find many country-specific websites that provide helpful advice on bridging the cultural gap by entering a search for foreign customs + business meeting. Proper advance preparation will ensure a smoother, more productive teleconference or video conference with your foreign counterparts.
Sometimes you need to get your team or group together for a meeting, but it is just impossible for everyone to get together in the same place at the same time. Because it is important to have everyone seeing the same thing at the same time, a teleconference just does not seem like the best vehicle for interaction. What do you do?
Well, pretty much, you have two choices: web conferencing or video conferencing. How do you know which one would be best? It can be confusing. There is overlap in capability because web conferencing can include video and you can share documents via video conferencing.
To decide, which one is best for you and your meeting, you have to ask two things: "What do I, and everyone else, need to see?" and "What is being emphasized, the content of a presentation or interactions between people?"
If the answer is "the presentation and its content", then you should be thinking "web conference". If you want, you could arrange a small pop-up window on the screen with a video of the speaker just to add a personal touch. If the answer is "personal interaction", then video conferencing is your communications vehicle of choice.
Web conferences are very good if you are making product demonstrations, analyzing reports/data or doing software training. Video conferences are better for board meetings, negotiations, interviews, or depositions.
Of the two, because video conferencing requires more technology and infrastructure, it is the more expensive option.
Have you ever been away at a conference and heard a really dynamic speaker? Or have you had the opportunity to consult with someone on a business trip who really changed the way you saw your organization?
When you returned to the office you were probably enthused and excited about what you learned and did your best to pass it on to your colleagues. It is likely that some of them got it and some of them wanted to get it, but couldn't quite understand your excitement.
You may have walked away from a speech or workshop with a great understanding of the speaker's core content, but you may not be the best person to convey that message.
This is where teleconferencing comes into the picture. By using video conferencing technology, you can see to it that the message gets through loud and clear.
No more do you have to say:
"I really wish you could have been there."
"I tried to take really good notes."
"I tape recorded some of the sessions so you could listen to them."
With video conferencing you can have that great speaker interact with your entire department. That way, even staff that does not usually get to travel can still be informed. Your vision will be clearer once everyone has had the opportunity to benefit from meeting with the speaker as you did. It is easier to implement new ideas when everyone is on the same page.
As we stated in the previous blog. Groups asked to use a new communications tool, like video conferencing, go through phases. We have already discussed the first two: forming and storming. It is at the "storming" stage that the most oversight has to be exerted to make video conferencing really work. This can be done by having the most experienced members, or some designated individual(s) intensively model the behavior for others. This might mean a lot of interaction with those using the system to see if they are having any problems and getting feedback on what is and what is not working for everyone to a more intensive schedule of video conferencing meetings to get people comfortable and make this style of communicating a familiar activity.
After a generally short, but intense "storming" phase, as people get used to the hardware and different style of interaction, as well as become more comfortable with their fellow desktop video-ers, the group enters the third "norming" stage. At this point, all webcams are on and the stuffed animals are gone and people are interacting, for the most part, normally.
Then comes the best phase. The performing stage, where groups and conversations begin to form spontaneously and ideas and the project and interactions really take off.
Keeping these four stages in mind, helps you understand that giving your people a new tool and then expecting them to run with it right away is unrealistic. Knowing the phases of how adoption of new communications technology goes and your role in making it happen, however, lets you know that the initial confusion and chaos and displeasure that comes in the initiation stages are all a natural part of how people react to change, especially one involving something as important as how they relate to each other.
Remember that, like any change, people need time to adjust and build familiarity. Just like getting a new project team up and running, companies or teams that go into heavy video conferencing mode go through the phases of "forming, storming, norming, and performing".
The first phase is where the team or group that is going to be using the technology decides that this is the technology they are going to use to do their communications. Sometimes people aren't given that decision, though, and it is made by higher levels and they just have to live with it. During this phase, you introduce all the participants to the technology, show them how to use it and try to eliminate some of the "fear factor" inherent when people use things by themselves for the first time.
The next phase, the "storming" phase, is one of discomfort and distrust. Not only with the technology where they might not know exactly how to work everything or what to do when things go wrong, but also of the people on the other side of the transmission line, especially if they haven't worked closely with them before. In this phase, sometimes people will not turn on the camera, saying they are having technical difficulties or will put a picture or stuffed animal in front of the camera instead of training it on them selves. This is due to the desire for some people to want to remain anonymous until they feel more comfortable with the process and people. This can last a week or so, until people get more comfortable with the new mode of interacting.