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So, you’re working from home…

The spread of COVID-19 has meant that thousands of workers across industries are now suddenly working from home to do their part to help “flatten the curve”. 

By now you’ve probably already googled “work from home tips” and found a lengthy list of articles on the topic. You probably already know you should try and dedicate a space to work from, stick to a routine, get dressed for work like you normally would and try to fit in a walk during the day.

So we thought we’d focus our advice on one thing we know well. 

Virtual Meetings/Video Conferencing

At Wisely, we’ve had our fair share of virtual meetings on a variety of platforms. Whether you’re new to working from home or need a refresher on the ins and outs of e-meetings, we’ve put together some best practices and solutions to common issues we’ve already troubleshooted so you don’t have to! 

Actual footage of the Wisely team on a conference call

There are a ton of options out there for video conferencing! Our clients will be familiar with Jiminny, the conferencing service that Wisely uses to do our demos, training and check in calls.

However, if you’re looking for some free, simple options, we’ve narrowed down our list of recommendations to the services we’ve actually used. Much like our many offices (we moved 4 times in 12 months!), Wisely has used a few different video conferencing services.

Wisely Tested 

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts are free and easy way to connect your team online. Use the chat function or make phone and video calls. All you need to use Hangouts is a Google account (though guests can join calls as long as they are hosted by someone with a Google account), an internet connection and a computer or phone with a camera and a mic.

UberConference

An easy to use, no-download service with the added bonus of the funniest hold music you’ve ever heard while waiting for a call to start! Free for calls of up to 10 participants.

Zoom

Zoom is the OG video conference service. The free version gives you unlimited 1:1 meetings with a 40 minute limit on group meetings — which could be a blessing if you’re aiming for efficient meetings! The paid plans are also very reasonable starting at $20/month for a team 

Bonus Round: Slack

Oh man, do we love Slack! If you’re not already using it in the office, this might be the perfect time to get started! Slack is a messaging platform that will cut down your volume of internal emails like crazy! Organize topics of conversation by creating new channels (ex. General, announcements, fundraising team, events etc…). You can also make 1:1 calls and video through Slack too — though this will only work for internal users. With a free option for small teams trying it out, this is definitely one of Wisely’s must-haves, not just for remote work, but every day!

 

Best practices

A lot of the technology available is very straightforward and user friendly — but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without a bit of a learning curve! We’ve broken down some best practices for meeting virtually and broken down exactly what you should expect to see on your screen (we’ve used Google Hangouts as the default, but virtually every service should have equivalent features)

  1. Mute your mic! 

Background noise is distracting and makes it hard for everyone on the call to hear the person who is speaking. Every conferencing service will have an option to mute your microphone so the rest of the folks on your call can’t hear you or what’s going on in your space. Look for a microphone icon and click on it to mute your sound. 

Unmuted — everyone can hear you when you talk (and any background noise the mic picks up)
Muted — no one will be able to hear anything going on on your end. Remember to unmute if you have something to add to the conversation!

2. Be heard

One of the greatest frustrations of conference calls is when you can’t hear what anyone is saying! Make sure your volume on your phone or computer is turned up, be aware of where your microphone is and make sure nothing is blocking it or in danger of muffling your voice. Try speaking at a slightly slower pace in case of any audio delays and speak clearly — no hands anywhere near your mouth while you’re talking!

3. Dial in vs. computer audio

For less confusion and to avoid getting caught in an endless feedback loop, use the same device for your mic and speaker. That is, don’t dial in through the phone and then also connect your computer audio. 

However…If the option is there, I will admit I’m a big fan of using a phone to dial into meetings and then connecting my screen separately. I find the audio is typically better quality than through the computer, though connecting to the same meeting through two devices can sometimes cause confusion. 

  1. I usually connect my computer to the screenshare portion first so I can make sure that I’ve muted my computer audio and/or connected just my screen. There’s usually a pop up screen that will ask how you’d like to connect. Don’t feel rushed — you can take a minute to read all the options and select the right one. This will ultimately save time down the line if it prevents a technical difficulty! 
  2. Next, I use my phone to dial in the number provided. If you are an organizer, you might have to enter a pin, depending on the service. 
You can dial into a Google Hangouts call from your phone
Or you can have the meeting call you!

3. Headphones

Headphones help you block out distractions and enhance the sound quality so you can concentrate on the call you’re currently on. Noise cancelling headphones are best, but any standard ear buds will help make a big difference!

4. Close your tabs

Choppy audio? Sound cutting in and out? Close your tabs! Each tab pulls bandwidth from your call. Fewer tabs open means better call and video quality and less “wait, what did you say?? I missed that.” The OneTab extension for Google Chrome is a great solution for this issue! 

Troubleshooting

Technical difficulties — everybody’s got ‘em, so don’t feel bad or embarrassed if you get tripped up! Thankfully, the Wisely team has walked the video conference world so that you can run — learn from our experience! 

Problem: You can’t hear the person on the other side of the call/they can’t hear you

  • First, send a quick message in the chat function to let them know what’s going on — this buys you some time to find the fix

  • Check you’re not on mute — either through the conference system or the actual volume on your computer
  • Check to see if you’ve accidentally connected your sound to a nearby bluetooth device (this has happened to me more than once!)
  • If you’ve got a dual monitor situation and have connected your audio through the computer, check to see that your speaker is using your computer audio and not the monitor.

Problem: The endless feedback loop

  • We touched on this above already, but if you’re finding yourself in an echo chamber, you’ve probably connected your audio twice. Hanging up the phone should probably put a stop to it, or you can leave the screenshare and re-enter — just make sure to mute your computer and select the option to enter the room without audio connection.
  • Because we’re social distancing these days, this shouldn’t be a problem right now, but keep in mind for the future that if multiple people are getting on a call in the same room using different devices it will also cause an echo chamber. If you’re all in the same room, call from one main line.

Problem: You’re sharing your screen but no one can see your presentation

  • Did you share your entire screen or just a window? Stop the screenshare and then when you restart it, opt to show your entire screen this time and select the tab or program screen you wish to share.
  • Again with dual monitors — check to see if you’re sharing the right screen and then either drag your material to the shared screen or stop sharing  and re-share your screen

 

We hope these tips and tricks help make all your future calls go seamlessly! The Wisely team is still active and operational and we’re here to help support you however we can. We’re just a video-conference away.

Stay safe and stay healthy!

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