As the need for remote work rises, it’s important to enable your team with the right tools and processes to communicate and collaborate easily, with teammates and with customers. Most companies know how important it is to choose the right solutions but reactionary decisions often lead them to make quick, one-off choices without careful consideration of how their new remote tools will integrate with pre-existing solutions. It’s important to provide tools that keep employees engaged, happy and healthy while continuing to be productive.
Meetings are a great example. The forced transition from face-to-face meetings to virtual video meetings has been a challenge for many businesses. And, we all know meetings can be challenging enough as it is! Typical pain points like lack of agenda, meeting overkill, and poor preparation are only amplified when technology is thrown into the mix and it doesn’t function like it should.
The biggest frustration with remote meetings is problems with connection / setup and overall audio experience.
With the move to remote work becoming a ‘normal’ part of how more and more businesses operate, it’s not just internal meetings that are relying on technology. Training, sales calls, webinars and even conferences are now being conducted remotely. With meetings being moved online, the ability to leverage technology easily is more important than ever. But, many remote workers are still struggling to connect online.
Expectation vs. reality of remote meeting tools
When we introduce technology into our life and our work, we expect a seamless experience; we expect that technology will solve a problem for us or make our task at hand simpler. Whether that’s faster, more efficient, or just more intuitive. But, we all know that’s not always the case.
Remote meeting expectations
You introduce a new tool to your team so they can share their desktops and demo capabilities with remote staff or clients. It easily integrates with everyone's calendars. On the day of the meeting, everyone easily accesses the meeting link and your clients are delighted by the seamless experience, saying “this is more efficient than an in-person meeting!”.
Remote meeting reality
You introduce a new tool to your team so they can share their desktops and demo capabilities with remote staff or clients. It doesn’t connect with the calendar tool you use to book meetings. You spend an hour trying to get it to work, before contacting IT. You seem to get it set up, but on the meeting day, some of the team is still missing the link in their calendars. You apologize for “technical difficulties”, and you finally get everyone on the call. Halfway through the meeting, the connection becomes inaudible. Then the screen share functionality stops working. You apologize to everyone again. Your team feels embarrassed. You feel embarrassed. Then you contact IT again after the meeting to solve the problem for the next time. They too are understandably annoyed.
Many companies are struggling to use remote meeting tools in a way that actually improves communication and collaboration, rather than takes away from it. Video calls can be more tiring than in-person meetings even when they’re functioning well. On a video call your brain must work harder to interpret things like body language and tone of voice. We need to pay more attention to get the same result, which means that you burn more energy. Add technology glitches into the mix, and your team may struggle to perform.
Voice conference calls might not be as draining as video calls, but they can still have their challenges. When you can’t see facial expressions, it’s easy to miss cues and speak over each other. Add in technology failures such as the inability to join the call or poor acoustics, and your meeting becomes unsuccessful. If you experience technical difficulties or dropped calls when you have virtual client meetings, you also risk a negative impact to your business reputation.
To create the “expected” experience and reap the benefits of a successful remote workplace, the key is choosing the right tools. There’s a simpler way for employees to use and access tools like voice, video, and conferencing and maximize productivity when, where, and how they want.
How to ensure you have the right remote meeting tools
As you probably know, there’s an abundance of tools and technology to choose from that claim to make the process of running a remote meeting easier, faster, and more collaborative.
There are vendors like Microsoft, Google, Cisco Webex, GoToMeetings and RingCentral, most of which are integrated with cloud phone systems. As well as consumer focused apps like WhatsApp, Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime.
With so many options, it’s no surprise that many businesses are experiencing confusion and tool choice fatigue—which leads to reactionary one-of decisions and the use of too many solutions. We’ve discovered that most companies use multiple video calling platforms, and yet almost all of their executives believe they would achieve greater cost savings and effectiveness if they consolidated them.
Here are some questions to help assess if you have the right remote meeting solution:
How many tools is your organization currently using for remote meetings?
One tool across your organization is ideal for basic remote meetings. Some teams might need an additional tool for specific requirements; a tool that provides IT with remote diagnostics, a tool with remote training features for learning and development teams, and a specific tool for the Marketing or Corporate Communications team to conduct webinars, all-hands, or town-hall type events.
How many people need to be involved in your remote meetings?
Some tools are designed for one-on-one virtual chats, while others are made to accommodate many people across multiple time zones. If you need to support events like webinars you may need a tool that scales to allow hundreds of attendees. Streaming services can be used for even larger events (with 50 thousand attendees) where less interactions between attendees can be anticipated.
What are the goals of your meetings?
If you’re holding virtual demo calls with your clients, you’ll want a tool that allows for screen sharing in real-time. If your goal is to solicit input, you’ll want built-in chat features and even the ability to poll users. Having the ability to annotate or do on-screen whiteboarding is also useful. If it’s an informative event (like a live webinar), you might need a tool that allows the meeting to be recorded for distribution later. If it’s for training purposes, you might want to segregate the trainees to break-out rooms to collaborate on problems, tasks, or projects.
How will people call in to listen to your meetings?
With many users now joining remotely, how you enable them to call in is critical. Attendees have their preferences and depending on where they are located or what they are doing (e.g. driving along a highway), you may choose to provide the option to allow them to join by their preferred method of call-back or to dial a local or toll-free number or even use computer audio calling. You’ll want a tool that provides this kind of calling flexibility and gives the meeting organizer some assurance that all the invitees have the ability to join the meetings. Also, when choosing a tool, ask providers how they ensure voice quality and reliability. Not all meeting services and networks are created equal.
How can the tool integrate with my existing business solutions?
To avoid choosing a tool that operates in a silo, look at how it can integrate with other important business tools, like your calendars, your productivity suite (e.g. Microsoft Office/Exchange, Microsoft 365, Google Calendar), and your phone system. To make it easier for employees to sign-on with the same corporate password they use for all of their corporate applications, look for single sign-on capability.
How secure is the tool and how does it protect the privacy of our employees?
Virtual meeting tools often connect to corporate networks, data centers, public cloud services and the public Internet. It’s important to look for a solution that offers a secure experience including end-to-end encryption of all voice, video, screen-share and file data sent and received — to avoid loss of important organizational data during meetings. The tool should have a strict registration process which will only allow the attendees with the correct credentials such as a password or a unique registration ID validated to an email address. Ensure data privacy is a priority and select providers that do not resell user data to other companies for advertising or other purposes.
Using Unified Communications for successful remote meetings
With many companies scrambling to keep up with the demands and changes that remote work has placed on their business, choosing the right solution is key to improving productivity, creating seamless team communications, and maintaining your brand reputation. A solution that makes meeting and collaborating easy will have a positive effect on your employees’ morale, health and their ability to produce valuable work.
With the lengthy list of tools to choose from, it can be challenging to know where to start, and how to ensure everything is integrated in the most effective way. For many years, the industry has used the term Unified Communications (UC) to group these types of services into a single all-in-one solution. It supports all tools — voice, video, collaboration, and team messaging — in a single platform, on your desktop or mobile devices, with one point of management.
When it comes to setting up the best remote work solution for your team so they can conduct video meetings and collaborate easily, and productively, there are a few things out of your control — neighbourhood construction noises or attention-loving pets who love screen time — but choosing the right solution isn’t. By choosing an integrated solution, you’re setting them up for successful meetings, no matter where they are.
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