In many ways, the coronavirus outbreak is like a sudden plunge into freezing water. Effectively, every aspect of our lives has suddenly been turned upside down. So have our working environments. Some of us have had to close our businesses and now depend almost entirely on some form of state support. Others are putting themselves at risk on a daily basis as they continue to commute to work. And a fortunate few are able to work from home and have been doing so for the last few weeks. At Frankfurt School, we’re lucky enough to belong to the latter group. We’re able to self-isolate, thus protecting ourselves and others, and yet work from home without any major restrictions. To do so, we rely on tools that enable us first, to stay in close contact with our colleagues, and second, to present our Executive Education programmes properly and professionally online.
We’ve drawn up a brief summary of points to consider when selecting and using these tools.
Anyone who wants to use video as a means of exchanging information should ensure they have the right technical prerequisites in place before choosing a tool. Do you have the hardware you need to hold a videoconference?
You should also test your Internet connection to ensure that it transfers data smoothly, without unexpected speed bumps or line drops.
Once the right prerequisites are in place, it’s time to choose a suitable tool. But first, you need to take a closer look at your criteria. If I want to chat with colleagues and hold team meetings online, or maybe communicate with external customers, I need the right software. Many of the best-known videoconferencing providers are currently making their (normally paid-for) services available to the general public free of charge. Forbes magazine has compiled a detailed list introducing the various programs. For a more compact summary, we recommend a useful article in business magazine CAPITAL.
Regardless of which tool you ultimately decide to work with, there’s one way in which a videoconference is just like a “normal meeting”: it’s only ever as good as your preparation. So here are some tips for organising online meetings.
Participants: The fewer participants you invite, the easier it is to manage the conference.
Moderator: Picking the right time to speak is probably the trickiest part of videoconferencing. So appoint someone to chair the virtual meeting.
Agenda: Agreeing an agenda by setting priorities and a list of items to be discussed helps to ensure that the conference doesn’t get “out of hand”.
Timetable: A videoconference is often harder on participants than a face-to-face meeting. Which makes it all the more important to agree clear timings. Meetings should be limited to 30-60 minutes in length. Online seminars shouldn’t exceed blocks of more than 90-120 minutes, separated by generous breaks.
Netiquette: Never interrupt speakers; always allow them to finish what they’re saying.
Video mode: All participants should activate their video cameras as a matter of course. This allows you to see exactly who’s speaking and make direct eye contact. It’s also easier to see when somebody is popping off to fetch themselves a cup of coffee, or to take a break if a couple of participants can’t sit still any longer.
Microphone: The etiquette for using microphones is slightly different. Muting participants who aren’t actively speaking prevents cross-interference.
Minutes: Write notes, draw up interim results and note down open questions so they don’t get forgotten.
Relax! Don’t get overanxious about the new medium – instead, look forward to the exciting possibilities it offers. This new level of flexibility represents a genuine opportunity!
If you follow these tips, there’s nothing to prevent you from collaborating very successfully with your colleagues and customers. Frankfurt School already offers a broad range of professional development courses in online formats, such as the Certified Blockchain Expert programme and our Virtual Leadership seminar. You’ll find further details on our website.