Running an interactive videoconference has some struggles in common with running any meeting. However, it also has a few unique challenges.
Before the videoconference begins, decide which mode to use: voice-activated switching (VAS) or continuous presence (CP) mode. The main challenge with VAS mode is in reducing superfluous noise. When the videoconferencing application is triggered by a sound, the view is automatically switched to the location originating that sound. Coughs, sneezes, paper rustling, and the like can be a hazard. Strict microphone muting rules are most useful for a productive videoconference in VAS mode.
In CP mode, images from each location are presented on-screen simultaneously. While this allows participants to see all other participants and their presentation materials, it does reduce the size of the images. The reduced image size is really only an issue with presentations of detailed data. If you do have detailed data to share and you must use CP mode, be sure to share the data via e-mail or another method before the meeting.
If you start the meeting in CP mode, and then decide you really need to be in VAS mode, it’s best to disconnect and end the session all together. Begin a new session in VAS mode, and resume the meeting where you left off.
The flow of the interactive videoconference should follow this path:
- Arrive on location early and test the equipment and software. If you are able to see the other locations, create a map or location list and note the names of participants or groups at each location during role call.
- To open the meeting, welcome everyone, state your name and location, and then have everyone else state their names and locations in turn. If there are a large number of participants, you may want one speaker from each location to identify the group and location, rather than having each individual make an introduction. If you are using VAS mode, this is also a good time to remind the groups to employ the microphone mute when they are not speaking.
- Review the agenda and let participants know how the schedule will unfold and how interaction will be handled. Will you be calling on groups or individuals after bringing up a topic, or should people just jump in when they have a thought to share?
- Begin the meeting with agenda item number one. Move through agenda items, encouraging participation from all locations. This is where the location list comes in handy — call out groups or individuals by name for a response when necessary.
- To conclude the meeting, summarize decisions, key points, and action items.
- Thank everyone for participating, and tell them how to disconnect if there are special instructions.
By changing pace and types of activities and by building in breaks, you’ll keep videoconference participants refreshed and engaged. Create a scenario that feels like you’re all in the same room. Recruit groups and individuals specifically to participate, dissolving the geographic barriers for a productive and smooth interaction.
© Julie Pierce and Julie’s Portfolio, 2005-2013.