It has become common practice to have a remote person in on group meetings, in fact many of our weekly meetings include a few people at our main office and one or two remote employees. Recently there have been several meetings with guests coming into our office to meet us and our remote employees for the first time.
In light of this, here are some observations based on bringing people into meetings who may not be accustomed to including a video-chat participant:
- Virtual handshakes don’t really exist – a simple verbal introduction will have to do. If the situation allows for a sense of humor you could stick your hand up to the webcam and give a little “air handshake.” The idea of not being able to shake hands might seem kind of silly but we are used to social norms and performing certain behaviors – the lack of handshake could be disconcerting, especially when conducting an interview or first meeting over video conference.
- From the perspective of the remote participant, it is challenging to jump into the conversation and add in comments or questions. Oftentimes we read each other’s body language, knowing when someone is getting ready to say something. It is more difficult for someone not used to video conferencing to remember and recognize those cues from the person on-screen.
- One of the biggest threats to these types of meetings is the technical difficulties. Skype is not perfect and video sometimes goes out. Recently I noticed when a remote participant’s video stopped displaying his presence quickly went unrecognized. It may become more important for the remote person to speak up in these situations, and it is equally important for those in the meeting to not forget the person is there and acknowledge them more often if video is not available.
- Going along with video outages, sometimes these calls get dropped. We try to pause and get the call back and running before moving too far along so the remote person is not left out of the conversation.
- It also seems size of the video makes a difference. This can be difficult as you may have other programs or documents open on your screen along with Skype, but the bigger you can make the picture of your remote participants the less likely they will be forgotten.
One of the difficult pieces of this puzzle is the “guests” to your meeting may not know the subtleties and considerations to take when participating in a video conference, therefore it is critical to be especially aware of managing the situation so as to keep virtual meeting participants as involved as possible.
Leave a comment if you have best practices for Skype meetings you would like to share!