Tips for Managing Video Calls
John Howorth and Erin McDonald

Alumnus John Horworth (Class of 2008) is back with a few more tips to help us navigate the new world of video-conferencing. As an account professional for Slack Communications, John has years of experience in managing video conferencing. John knows firsthand that being prepared is often the best way to ensure you have a good virtual experience. Here are a few tips to help create a positive and professional experience while working virtually.

Top tips for managing video calls

Should they always be scheduled?
My answer would be no. It can be great to ask a colleague to quickly hop on a call to talk through something, as long as you know that they may be in the middle of something and not immediately available. In Slack, you can start a call directly, or prompt a call with another video conferencing solution like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Tips:

  • Test the video call software before the scheduled time. It is always good to make sure you'll be able to join the call promptly, rather than keeping everyone waiting while you download the necessary software or update.
  • Turn on your camera if you can. It's a great way to stay connected, add more value by including the visual layer of communication, as well as an easy way to stay accountable to paying attention to the meeting you are joining.
  • Mute yourself as needed. Depending on your laptop or headset, a lot of background noise can get picked up, so try to mute yourself if you'll just be listening for a portion, but remember to un-mute as you chime back in.
  • Share your screen. Get comfortable walking through content, as it is often easier to show and tell, rather than to just explain something in words. That said, be aware of what else is on your screen, so not to share unintended information with the wrong audience.

Top tips for managing a large video conference call

Personally, I still struggle with this. Managing a large group of people is hard because your guests will likely have different experience levels. Being on a call with more than 15 people requires the user to be extra mindful of virtual etiquette. 

Tips:

  • Number one for me would be creating a clear agenda, and having the organizer be accountable for sticking to it (preferably sharing it in advance).
  • Ideally, allocate time to each topic as well, and if something is going over-time, either schedule follow-up time specific to that, or decide if it should be the priority over the remainder of the items. Depending on the audience, I also find it super helpful to review the agenda at the start of the call as an opportunity to check-in with everyone to see if there are any new topics that should be added or anything that is no longer relevant and should be removed, or if there are any other changes that should be made. 
  • Determine roles on the call if necessary. In some cases, we'll dedicate someone to note taking, someone to take incoming questions over Slack, or someone to plan follow-up and next steps. It is difficult to host the call, run a presentation, and take notes, so look to others to help.
  • Governing many of the above tips from an individual perspective, I encourage you to coach the joiners to mute, be on camera, and show up on time which are all important in having a successful large video meeting.
  • It is often helpful to have someone be the leader in a large call to keep things on track.

Submitted by: 
John Howorth (Class of 2008) and Erin McDonald, Alumni Relations