When you are working in virtual teams one of your greatest needs is a way to communicate with each other. So, do you just use the software available on your desktop or phone, or do you need to look for something else? How do you choose the best conference technology for you? The questions below will help you clarify what you need.
Think what is really important to your team?
Is it hearing each other? Is it seeing each other? Do you need the ability to collaborate on a whiteboard? Do you need instant messaging? What about working on documents? Do you need to communicate with each other in real time or asynchronously? Take some time to work out the problem you are trying to solve before you start looking for solutions.
How much are you willing to spend?
Are you willing to spend anything, or does the solution have to be free? There are plenty of free conference solutions around but you will have to compromise somewhere. To get either the robust service or features that you need you may have to pay. Remember, teleconferences replace face-to-face meetings so you are already saving on travel costs.
Do you know the technical problems you need to solve?
- How many people need to be online at one time?
- Does everyone need to contribute?
- Do you want to do broadcasts where one person talks and everyone else listens?
- Is it just for internal use within your company, or will you need to use it with suppliers or clients?
- Don’t assume that suppliers or clients will have the software you choose. There ARE still people out there who don’t use skype, and have no intention of installing it. You need to make sure there are freephone numbers available.
- Will people be at their desks or on mobile?
- Does your choice of solution work in both environments?
- Do any of your team have a visual or hearing impairment?
- Will the solution you choose enhance, or get in the way of, these people’s work?
- Poor connection is a major cause of conference frustration, so what broadband speed is there in the different locations?
- If everyone works in the centre of a major city then VOIP is a good solution. If not, you may find some people need a landline number to be able to hear what is going on.
Once you know the answers to these questions you are better able to narrow down the choices.
How are you going to make everyone feel part of the conversation?
People will need training in all but the most rudimentary of solutions. People get very bored when no-one can work out how to share their screen. Making sure everyone gets a chance to speak is the role of the person who is running or facilitating the meeting. They need to ask questions like “We haven’t heard from you for a while”, “Is there anything you’d like to contribute?” or “Can I ask what your thoughts are on this?” from people who are not saying much.
How will you learn as you go?
What does good look like? How will you know if your tool of choice is good enough for you? Once you start using the tool you may find that you need to work in ways that you had never anticipated. Don’t just work around your issues, go and have another look and see if you can find a solution that meets your needs. It will save you both time and energy in the long run.