This article was sent to me by the executive search firm we use. It is timely. I’m passing it along as it may be helpful to others.
Interesting, but I’m going to counter a couple of the author’s suggestions. I participate in, or chair half the time, about 15-20 hours of meetings per week using Microsoft Teams, with participation ranging from 2 or 3 folks, up to 40 or more. This has been going on for a few years – well before the current crises.
"Insist on Video"
This is absolutely the last thing my associates want. If someone has their camera on, another participant will inevitably point it out and ask them to turn off the camera. Now, the whole team numbers about 150, and we all know and have worked together a long time. The consensus is we get more done, and the conversation goes faster, if we’re not watching each other talk. Sure, we do screen shares, etc., but without anyone directing us, the team reached the no-video consensus.
"Don’t Hit Mute"
When I read this I figured the author of the Forbes article must not teleconference much. There is always someone calling in from a noisy place, and another person whose dog is barking, or someone who is a noisy typist, etc. Again, by consensus developed over years of practice, everyone on our calls joins muted if there is environmental noise, if they are merely auditing the call, or if they are not speaking at the time. Microsoft Teams enables the organizer to mute the meeting or mute individuals. As far as cases where someone is speaking and forgets to unmute – this only happens in less than 0.5% of the meetings we hold. Muting actually helps flow, not hinders it.
Anyway, the other advice I can take or leave. My own advice is that if a person doesn’t have the skills to lead a conversation in person, then they will not have the skills to do that online. Pick your presenters carefully, always start the meeting by saying “the purpose of this meeting is…” and announcing the agenda, and don’t let participants wander off topic. After the meeting, send an email recapping the results and action plan. Just good basic project management skills.
Exactly. For anything beyond a handful of people, I can only imagine that the annoyance level with everyone running their video and audio is far too high for everyone else to tolerate. I would set boundaries: one person talks with everyone on silent audio + video, chat text message input is taken during that period, and the floor is subsequently open for a controlled discourse that recognizes folks in the order that they had presented a chat message.
The other points in the “cardinal rules” are spot-on, even and especially for instructors doing on-line video lectures.
I don’t think video is practical for more than two or three people.
And a person does need to mute. A couple of times talking while muted will get a person in the habit of checking before speaking.
re: Video vs no-video.
It depends on the nature of the meeting. For information exchange among colleagues that know each other, audio-only might be most efficient. Especially if the leader/moderator can verbally handle the speaking order and draw out people who aren’t contributing. But I would suggest monthly or quarterly video-on periods to refresh the social bond.
I support graduate seminar-style classes with students from around the world. The social cues from the video are key to building relationships that will likely continue beyond graduate school. Video on (which the professor can see in gallery view) is important for the professor to get non-verbal feedback on comprehension and engagement.
I insist on full audio + video for on-line office hour visits. Otherwise, even in my class of three graduate students, I ask that they mute their video and audio until the designated time for Q&A. To counter this, my undergraduate class of 50+ students has great fun sending me quick chat messages as reminders about my lecture quirks and foibles.
I imagine this all also comes down to what you say at the outset. When you know the members of the group, “social queues” can be a distraction during on-line discourse. A compromise could be to schedule one-on-one video meetings with each student just to get to know them individually before being too far into the course, with one follow-up meeting where everyone does the social- “forming, storming, norming” processes of a physical class. Honestly, after that, I really need the A+V off during my lectures so that I can focus on keeping the content clear.
I usually appreciate video on since so much communication is nonverbal. Most of the meetings I find myself in are highly collaborative, and some can run an entire work day. I like being able to see people if I’m in one place that long.
My audio preference changes depending on the number of people and the amount of background noise someone has.
I prefer video-on for meetings of up to about 15 people and off beyond that. Muting the mic is really important for anything more than 3 or 4 people. It’s way easier to train yourself to unmute every time than it is to deal with all the background noises that are always a problem with a bunch of open mics.
I agree with the muting issue but I’ve learned over the years that if you don’t require video to be on, people try to multitask, not always giving their full attention. Video adds a degree of accountability.
I had a videoconference recently where I know one of the participants intentionally had “video difficulties” so he could get other things done while listening in.
My firm also recently did our first team videoconferencing meeting, and there were 10 of us present. I agree on mute – we decided early in the meeting to be on mute unless speaking. Video for that number of participants worked very well. I found that switching to the “Brady Bunch” grid felt not too different from looking around the table at everyone during a meeting.