How IT Leaders Can Make Video Conferences Work For Them, Not Against Them

Videoconferencing can be a powerful tool if you know how to use it
Videoconferencing can be a powerful tool if you know how to use it
Image Credit: Michael Porter

Once upon a time, we used to have to travel to go to meetings. No matter if the meeting was just down the hall, across town, or in another city / country. We needed to leave where we were and go there in order to work things out with other people. The good news is that this is no longer necessary. First there was audio conferencing that allowed multiple people to remotely participate in a discussion and now we’ve added video conferencing to our IT manager skills which allows us to see the other people that we’re meeting with. However, as with all such things, videoconferencing comes with its own set of rules, not covered in any IT manager training, that we need to know about in order to use this new tool successfully.

It’s All About Paying Attention

I am more than willing to admit that during any meeting that I am participating in, my attention can start to wander if I’m not the person doing the speaking. I used to love audio conference calls because all that I really had to do was to let everyone know that I was on the call at the start of the call and then I could hit the “mute” button. Unless I was directly asked a question, I was getting full credit for attending the meeting and I could busy myself doing just about anything else – and I did! However, this kind of behavior can easily work against you during a video conference.

What we need to keep in mind during a video conference is that our video image is being displayed on the screens of everyone else who is participating in the video conference. What this means is that if your eyes start to drift to something besides the video conference (like your email that is on the same screen) or they can see your fingers working the keyboard, then they’ll know that you are not paying attention to what is going on. What you need to do is to stay focused. This means that you need to keep your eyes on the screen otherwise people in the video conference call will know that you are distracted.

Don’t Forget Anyone

The power of a video conference is that you now have the ability to bring together a large collection of people who may be spread over a number of different locations. Generally, there will be a group of people who are all in the same place and you’ll include one or more people who are at remote locations. This can create a real challenge. It can be too easy for the people who are all in the same room to focus on what each other are saying and ignore the people who are at remote locations.

What this means for you as an IT manager is that you need to keep in mind that you have people at remote locations participating in this meeting. You have to make an effort to ensure that those people are included in the meeting. If you don’t do this then the people who are in the room will get wrapped up in their discussions and will probably forget to include the people at the remote sites. One way to make sure that everyone is included is to require anyone who wants to speak to have to raise their hand first. If you are the one who is running the meeting, make sure that you proactively ask for input from the remote parties.

Take Charge Of Your Background

There are a number of advantages to participating in video conferences. In my case, I can often jump into a video conference from my home office and that saves me a trip into the main office. However, there is a downside to this advantage and it’s that the background of your video may turn out to be distracting for everyone else who is involved in the call.

These distractions can come in many different forms. If you have heaps and heaps of junk around you as your video image is broadcast to everyone else on the call, there is good chance that they are going to be spending their time focused on your background clutter instead of your words. Likewise, sound pollution could be just as big of deal as visual pollution. If there is construction going on around you or there are other conversations, then those are going to cause everyone to have problems understanding what you are saying.

What All Of This Means For You

I think that we can all agree that our lives have gotten better as more technology has become available to help us accomplish our work. One tool that has a major impact on our workplace is the arrival of video conferencing. This new technology has eliminated the need for us to travel to participate in a number of meetings and allows us to spend more time working on things like IT team building. However, as with all new technologies there are also some new rules for how we need to go about using video conferencing in order to maximize its effectiveness.

In the old days when we would just jump on a phone call with other people, during the call we could busy ourselves doing other things and the people on the call would never know. However, in the world of video conferences this is no longer possible. While we are on a video conference, we need to pay attention to what is going on. If our attention starts to drift or we start doing something else, the other people on the call will notice it. Video conference calls can involve a number of people who are at one location along with others who are at remote locations. When the call is in progress, we need to remember to keep the people at the remote locations involved in the call. Additionally, we need to realize that the background to our video or any extra sounds in our environment may be distracting to everyone else on the call and we need to make them go away.

Video conferencing is a great tool that can free up a lot of our time by no longer requiring us to have to travel to meetings that are far away. However, we also need to understand that there are things that we need to do that will help make any video conference that we participate in more successful. If we do these things, then the real power of video conferencing will be made available to us.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How important do you think proper lighting is during a video conference?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental IT Leader Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental IT Leader Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As an IT manager one of the most critical tasks that has been assigned to you is to use your IT manager skills to build a world-class IT team that will be able to provide your company with the tools that they will need in order to be successful. However, if you find yourself working for an “old school” firm, you know like one that does manufacturing, just exactly how are you going to get the best and the brightest to join your team? You’ve got to keep in mind that you are competing with the Google and Amazon’s of the world who have shiny buildings filled with sleek computers and no manufacturing artifacts lying around. None of us have any IT manager training to deal with a situation like this, what’s an IT manager to do?