The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus has, and is still changing the world as we once knew it. While we are learning more about how to live with the virus in our day to day lives, we are still far from out of the woods, and there will be permanent changes in both business and society as a result. As far as business goes, one of the top trends amid the pandemic has been the transition from offices to a work from home environment, and the transition from in person meetings to utilizing tele and video communication.
More people are working from home, thus, in order to effectively communicate within a company, video calls via Skype (Microsoft) and the rapidly growing Zoom platforms have become the new industry standard. Zoom’s stock price has increased over 300% since February just to give you an idea on how much the company is growing.
Additionally, business travel is on a downward trend as is travel in general. So, to maintain relationships with clients and meet with prospective clients, the use of platforms like Skype and Zoom have become far more essential for businesses to keep operating.
This probably isn’t anything you don’t already know. If you are a broker, a brand, a salesman, a consultant or a distributor, you probably had already been using these communication mediums prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, and even more so since. The idea behind this blog post is to help provide you with some tips and strategies to best use these services to your benefit, while identifying the pro’s and con’s of a more virtual work environment.
Products That Can Help Improve Your Meetings
Before you even begin your meeting, you’ll want to make sure you’ve already set yourself up for success. We’ll talk about work related preparation later on. In this section, we take a look at some products that will improve your meeting presentation and ability to communicate efficiently to improve overall meeting quality and results.
An external camera can help eliminate pixelation and camera lag giving the meeting a more “in person” and professional feel. If you find you are now doing most of your work communication virtually, the short term investment could pay dividends in the long run. There are several quality options in the $75 – $150 range. Here are a few examples.
Dedicated external mics are another way to quickly give your setup a big boost for relatively low cost. Clearing up any feedback or microphone lag will increase meeting efficiency and help eliminate those “can you repeat that” moments. Some of the aforementioned cameras can be packaged with external microphones for a good value buy, there are a few other individual options here as well.
Same concept as a microphone applies to headphones. The message is critical. You want to be able to communicate it and receive it well. Things we take for granted in face to face meetings are slightly more complicated in a teleconference setting. Someone may be outside cutting the lawn next door, or kids may be running around the house. Quality headphones ensure you receive the message clearly, and limit noise distractions around the home office. You don’t have to go crazy spending on them either. Here’s a few cost efficient products that can also double as a headphone & microphone combination.
Getting a couple of lights that you can move to where you need them most is good. You are a professional and you need to look like a professional. Amazon offers a wide range of lighting kits that fit the bill, or you can even do pretty well with just a couple of Philips Hue lights in gooseneck lamps positioned correctly and adjusted to the right temperature and brightness.
Teleconferencing Like A Professional
Now that we have improved our resources to hold higher quality video conferences, let’s take a look at some of the best practices for video communication. The goals of your meeting don’t change even though the setting has. In the virtual space, there are new areas you must consider to maintain a professional environment and ensure the meeting runs smooth as you are accustomed to in an office or conference room setting.
Optimize Computer Performance
Your computer is the technical engine that runs the meeting. Make sure it is operating at top performance prior to starting! Test out your internet connection in advance to make sure you are running a speed that is on par with your regular connection levels. Then go ahead and close out any other applications on the computer you won’t be using for the meeting. Apps can slow down your computer if too many are open at once. Even if Spotify or iTunes are just sitting open in the background, close them out.
Be Careful Before You Share Your Screen
If you’re going to share your screen during a video call, it’s a good idea to take extra precautions so people can’t see anything private or potentially embarrassing. First, go to your browser and close all tabs, especially anything you wouldn’t want anyone else to see. I also recommend enabling Do Not Disturb mode on your Mac or Windows computer (and your cell phone). This ensures that others won’t accidentally see messages from private conversations that come onto your computer when you share your screen.
Select A Background That Brings Value To The Meeting
Zoom, more notably than the other video conferencing platforms, have great background feature capabilities. For B2B or B2C meetings, having your brand logo in the background, or a welcome sign to a potential client is a great strategy. If you’re holding a staff meeting and want to have a little fun with your employees, “working from the beach” could be great to boost morale.
And, if you really want to impress, buy a greenscreen. Zoom offers this option and it makes your logo or background dramatically better.
Here are a few options:
Dress To Impress
Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you can run video meetings in your pajamas with bed hair. Make sure your personal presentation fits the environment you are meeting in. With that being said, there’s nothing wrong with the buttoned shirt and pajama bottom combo. Comfort is part of the benefit of the work from home environment. Just don’t hold professional meetings and present yourself visually in a less professional manner.
Try To Limit Noise Around The House If Possible
If you have a private home office you’re already in great shape. If not, don’t stress. Kids may be running around, dogs may be barking, just do the best you can to control the environment prior to starting. If you have to step away for a second to calm things down around the house, no problem. Your colleagues should understand. Muting your mic when you aren’t speaking is a great strategy to limit any unwanted noise as well.
Be Present As If You Were There In Person
It may be tempting to try and multi-task during a virtual meeting. Checking emails, reading articles, or peeping in on social media. Avoid this as much as possible. You want those on the call with you to feel as if you are present, the same way you would be if the meeting was held in the conference room. Keep your eyes on the meeting, stay locked in and engaged. Also, please don’t eat during the meeting!
The Benefits Of Telecommunication Within The Food and Beverage Industry
Perhaps one of the silver linings we can take from the outbreak of this pandemic is that – there is tremendous value for companies that are transitioning to a more virtual format in a “work from home” (WFH) environment. In this section we’ll outline where the benefits lie.
Reducing Office Expenses
With video conferencing starting to become the norm, companies — be it manufacturers, brokers, distributors, or retailers can begin to cut down on office size or eliminate formal offices all together. Let’s say you’re a company on the smaller side, 7-15 employees. If you can move out of an office that you previously needed to fit all of those employees — into a space that is smaller and more cost effective, you’re saving money on overhead right away. That’s money that can be used towards paying your employees, investing back into the business, or adding benefits for those working for you. The same goes for larger companies reducing their office space size as well. As a business owner it could save you utility expenses along with rent, furniture, etc.
Less Travel More Time
The old adage “time” is money has never been more prevalent than it is here. No more getting to the airport 2 hours ahead of the flight and waiting another hour during a flight delay. Think of all the hours you, or members of your team spend traveling a month for meetings — thousands of dollars in flights, hotels and food, on top of the lost hours in transit. The ability to accomplish nearly all of this virtually can pay 6 or 7 figure returns in expenses by the end of the year, not to mention it is far less taxing on those who would have been traveling. Employees naturally will be more productive when they aren’t tired, and are healthy and comfortable. Furthermore, video conferencing enables companies to connect with networks that are otherwise challenging to meet with such as connecting internationally.
Tech Based Value
Collecting data from face to face meetings can be tricky. Insead of just taking notes in a meeting or taking home a copy of a presentation, services like zoom allow you to record meetings and data as the meeting is going on. So now, if reviewing the meeting is something you’d like to do with employees after the fact, you can literally watch it back. There are other value adding features available as well such as meeting polls.
The Downsides Of Telecommunication Within The Food and Beverage Industry
While the value of a virtual workspace transition is apparent, there are some drawbacks. After discussing the pros, let’s come to the limitations of implementing a virtual work environment as a new business culture.
Loss Of Cultural Environment
Since video conferencing does not require the physical presence of participants, it is easy to understand how the cultural feel of a meeting or a work environment can be lost. Being around your colleagues and absorbing the atmosphere created in the workspace from the start of the day to the end cannot be recreated in a virtual environment. The small stuff can get lost – going to lunch with coworkers, break room chats, etc. You also lose that cultural feel when taking travel work meetings to the virtual space. Meeting in a different country or even in a different state in some cases has a unique feel to it that cannot be replicated online.
Lets say your home wifi crashes, that could ruin a whole meeting or even a work day. Yes, this issue could arise in an office setting. However, offices generally have a much stronger network given the size and money that goes into them. Perhaps your computer crashes — there are no tech guys on site to help you fix them, and likely no back up computers available. Worst case scenario, a home office gets hacked and valuable data gets stolen. These are all things to consider when transitioning to a virtual work environment and could be areas in which a company will need to invest into securing in order to not risk productivity loss or security breaches.
If you are working on a Desktop rather than a laptop, you want to consider buying a battery backup and surge protector like this:
This trend to a virtual work environment is only heading in one direction, up. While the hope is that life will resume to some form of normality in the near future, now is the time to get your company operating at a high level within this new work culture. There are a myriad of benefits that virtual work environments present to a company and many easy ways to improve overall performance levels within the space. As far as drawbacks go, we have to learn how to navigate through them. Ideally, when the world opens back up safely — the best practices of a virtual work environment and an in-person work environment can be combined. Thus, maximizing the overall productivity and cost effectiveness of a company, while elevating work satisfaction levels of everyone involved.