Around this time last year, students, faculty, and staff were going to classes, meetings, and conferences. We only used online conferencing for long-distance gatherings, such as calling a relative who lived in a different state or meeting with an executive who worked across the country.
Now, video conferencing has become a facet of our existence. We Zoom into work meetings; we hop on Google Meets to chat with the members of a club we are a part of; we use Collaborate to listen to our professor lecture; we FaceTime our grandparents that live two houses down because we want to be physically distanced to keep them safe.
Because video meetings have become so prevalent, it is a good idea to familiarize ourselves with the capabilities and capacities of each. So without further ado, here are the basics, special features, tips and tricks, mistakes to avoid, and to highlight which platform to use for the specific need.
Every video conferencing platform has a microphone, video, and chat feature. The microphone and video features are typically on the bottom menu bar of each forum. The chat feature is in a different place on each platform, but if you play around and search for an icon that looks like a speech bubble, you can click on and type things into it when you don’t want to turn on your microphone and interrupt the meeting or lecture.
Below are tips on how to get into or leave a session.
- Collaborate Ultra: To get into a meeting on Collaborate Ultra, you will need to click a link sent to you via email or found on D2L. Most professors utilizing Collaborate have a folder set up under the “Content” tab of the class that offers more detailed information about the platform and ways to get into the session. To log out, click the arrow on the left of the screen, and then the button that says “Leave Session.” Follow the instructions to leave. You can also close the screen.
Google Meet: To join a Google Meet session, either click the link sent to you or go to Google Calendar, click on the event that coincides with the session, and click on the link “Join with Google Meet” from there. To leave one of these sessions, click the red phone button in the bottom middle of the screen to “hang up”.
- Zoom: Zoom meetings also require a link, but they sometimes ask for a passcode. To join a Zoom session, click the link. If the application requires a passcode, type it in as provided by the session administrator. To leave zoom, click the button that says “Leave Meeting” at the bottom of the screen, or close the application.
The Best Uses for Platforms
Collaborate best used for academic courses. This platform has a feature where you can raise and lower your hand, which is especially helpful for the classroom context. Professors can also conduct polls, breakout rooms, and share content on this platform. Collaborate is best used with Google Chrome. Unfortunately, users can only visibly see four other users in the meeting on this platform.
Small group meetings
Google Meet works best for small group meetings. This forum can hold up to 250 participants, but users often have issues with connectivity when using this platform in large numbers. However, Meet is great for smaller meetings. With this platform, you can choose grid view to see all participants or pick another layout. Users can view this platform on all web browsers and via the mobile app.
Large group meetings
For large group meetings of up to 100 people, Zoom is extremely capable. Zoom can hold up to 1,000 people if the moderator pays for the upgrade. The administrator can record these meetings, and users can see up to 49 other participants at a time on grid view. Zoom can also be downloaded as an app.
Take your pick! All platforms are great for one-on-one meetings. As far as scheduling meetings, Google Meet is great because it syncs up with Google Calendar to show the availability of the people you invite to the meeting. However, you can do further research to see which platform is best for you. Going to ServiceNow and searching online using terms like video conferencing is an excellent place to start. You can see the details of Collaborate and Google Meet compared here.
Mistakes to Avoid
With a new way to communicate comes new communicative norms. Here are some things to think about and mistakes to avoid when interacting via video meetings.
Watch Your Mic
Make sure to only put your mic on when you intend to speak. It can be embarrassing to notice your microphone is on when you are not talking to the class! Conversely, make sure your mic is on when you address the professor or other students. It can sting to realize that your mic was off the entire time you answered a question that your professor or boss asked.
Find a Good Connection
If your internet connection starts to go awry during a meeting, try turning your mic and video off until you need to speak or be seen. Keep in mind that your video takes up more bandwidth than your microphone does.
Don’t Walk Away
Another mistake that people could make in a virtual meeting would be to log in, turn off their mic and video, and walk away to do something else. Sure, it looks like you’re still present in the meeting, but if you get called on, or your professor/boss wants everyone to go around and answer a question, it reflects poorly on you if you don’t reply at all.
Be Wary of Background Noise
It’s understandable if you have children, siblings, or roommates around when you are in a video meeting or virtual class. However, when you need to turn your microphone on to answer a question and your little brother is screaming in the background, it can be quite distracting and hard to understand you at that moment. Try finding a quiet place to sit during your video meeting.
Looking Professional in your virtual meetings
FaceTiming your best friend and joining a Google Hangout meeting for work are two very different situations, with very different unspoken rules. You wouldn’t talk to your boss like you would speak to your best friend, and you wouldn’t wear sweatpants and a sweatshirt to your workplace, so why would you on a video call? This next section introduces some tips on how to radiate professionalism during your video meetings.
Appearance Is Everything
Well, appearance isn’t everything, but it doesn’t hurt to look put-together when you’re trying to exude professionalism.
You should also be conscious of your surroundings when you are in a video meeting. Your background does not need to be blank, but you should focus on making sure your environment doesn’t look cluttered. Also, make sure there are no distractions behind you, like people walking around, for example.
Be Conscious of Your Angles
Laying on your bed with your laptop on your chest may be acceptable for a class, but not a work meeting. You must be mindful of your context and be conscious of when your video is on and off. When it is on, it is good to make sure your entire face is in the shot.