Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about dealing with change on this blog? Oh, how timely that topic is for the state we’re in now. So much has changed for our state, country and world. We’re in the midst of a stay-at-home order here in Michigan and have been encouraging people to practice physical distancing for weeks now. Staying connected can be a challenge.
During this time, we’ve worked to adapt to our new normal very quickly. Companies are searching for the best video conferencing platforms to keep projects moving. People of all ages are exploring new ways to stay connected with their family and friends. I’ve compiled some tips and ideas for communicating with clients, team members and personal connections from afar.
Video conference tools:
Video conferencing is quickly replacing what would be in-person meetings. It’s important to identify a platform that works best for your needs. Anecdotally, these are the most common tools for business video conferences with free or relatively inexpensive options:
- Zoom – Boasts an “easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, collaboration, chat, and webinars” across various devices. Sabo PR has used this quite successfully for the past week.
- Uber Conference – Allows for video conferencing, screen sharing with no pins or forced downloads.
- Microsoft Teams – Known as Office 365’s “hub for teamwork,” it allows for one-on-one chat messages, as well as phone and video conference calls.
- Google Hangouts – Enables text, voice or video chats, either one-on-one or in a group.
- GoToMeetings – Lets participants join, host or manage a video, audio or web meeting from a remote location via computer or mobile device.
A couple options for phone conferencing only include freeconferencecall.com and freeconference.com. Additionally, many cell phones have the option to “merge calls.” If you’ve got a small group of three to five participants, that’s a reliable option.
For connecting over video with friends and family, I might suggest more casual platforms such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. There’s also Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok for the more social media savvy folks out there.
Video conference tips:
On that note, there are a few steps you should take before you jump on a professional video conference call:
- Please be mindful of your background. If there’s a lot behind you or something that could be distracting, tidy up before you enter the chat.
- Avoid noisy interruptions. Turn off any notification sounds for both your computer and phone. If you have a particularly needy or loud pet, consider putting them in a different room for the duration of the call so you can stay focused. If you’ve got a kiddo at home with you, consider setting them up with an engaging activity. Coordinate another adult to supervise, if possible. Perhaps also consider locking the door to your home office.
- Test the system with a colleague, friend or family member first to make sure you know how to turn on video and audio or make other adjustments. If there are others in your home, you may need to ask them to not stream videos at the same time to reduce the chances of your video lagging or freezing mid-conversation.
If you’d like more video prep tips, I came across this list on PRsay. A final note for during the call: the mute button is your friend. It may be best to mute yourself while others are talking so there can be as little background noise disruption as possible. This can be especially helpful if there are many people on the call. Know that what may sound like quiet typing, clicking or ruffling to you can sound very loud to others.
Get creative with digital communications:
We’re all likely heavier users of our emails during this time. Tone and body language can be lost in text, which can result in a little tension and occasional miscommunication. A virtual happy hour or morning coffee with your team over video can be a nice way to reconnect at the beginning or end of the day and allow for some more relaxed face time. At SPR, we’re sending daily updates of what we all accomplished so we continue to feel connected and up-to-date on projects.
More for friends and family, give a virtual game night a go! There are numerous card and board games that have been converted for online, remote play with others with or without a video call. My family recently jumped on Facebook Messenger and played Cards Against Humanity on PlayingCards.io. With a few group snack breaks thrown in, it was a fun virtual gathering and a much-needed break from COVID-19 news.
Social media platforms are serving us well in times like this. It’s exactly what they were made for. I would encourage you to look for opportunities to keep things positive and light while interacting with family and friends via social media. We are all inundated with COVID-19 updates as it is, use your personal time to sprinkle in joyful posts, tasteful humor and cute pet photos. I’m seeing a lot of simple challenges circulate on my social feeds, such as “see a pup, send a pup.” Now there’s also “see 10, send 10,” which encourages people to do 10 push-ups on video and tag others to keep the challenge going. I’m also enjoying the “about you” and “this or that” templates where people are inserting interactive stickers to tell people about their interests.
Because these are challenging times, it’s especially nice seeing such innocent and friendly content make the rounds.
Back to basics:
Working from home can mean a whole lot more screen time than some of us are used to. For example, my husband, Erik, is normally on his feet all day in a classroom. Now, he’s making educational videos for students and recording e-training for other professionals in the field. Finding opportunities to work with pen and paper for a change can be grounding. Erik and his teaching team have done this by writing handwritten notes to students and their families. When was the last time you sent a written letter other than for a holiday via snail mail? Maybe now’s the perfect time to revisit that time-honored tradition.
What are you doing to stay positive and stay connected?