It's time to step outside of your comfort zone.
Many BBC Radio 4’s Today programme listeners across the land heard government minister Alok Sharma receive three incoming Skype calls during a recent interview with Martha Kearney.
We shouted at him over our morning brews: put on your ‘Do Not Disturb!’ - but to no avail. This is an example of what can happen when people get too stuck in their ways with technology.
In a world of constant software updates, we often ignore those friendly invitations to learn about ‘what’s new’ at our peril.
With our kids returning to school in September, it’s important to remember what young people with fresh minds have been teaching their elders during the lockdown period.
Never fearful of change or ‘breaking’ their devices, kids rarely get stuck in fixed ways of using software and love to play with every technology feature on offer. That’s why so often when our device or the software on them fails, we turn to our kids for help.
One type of software we weren’t expecting our kids to outrun us on, however, was videoconferencing. These applications were designed for simplicity in business, so we thought at least here we might keep the upper hand.
Wrong! It only took a few weeks before under-10s were running circles around us, sharing their screens, doodling on virtual whiteboards and setting up fun backgrounds.
In defence of us oldies, many learned about videoconferencing in the early days of Skype, when capabilities were quite basic and the user experience was what would now be considered…less than table stakes.
As such, many of us tend not to explore enhanced and ‘Smart Meetings’ capabilities offered in newer services today.
The best way to explore these newer features is to behave like a kid and just get stuck in. Go through the menus, and if you see something unfamiliar, click on it and see what it does.
Obviously don’t do this in an important meeting with clients or other external people. Start small by setting up an internal meeting as a ‘sandbox’ exercise and encourage participants to try things out.
An ideal type of meeting for your sandbox exercise is a creative brainstorming session. For this, you should record the session, with everyone’s consent. Here are some advanced and Smart Meeting functions available in some systems that you could try during such a meeting:
This is pretty basic and should be second nature, but I still find that not everyone is comfortable doing this. In a brainstorming session, different people may have different articles or presentations that provide context so they could all have a go at sharing their screens and talking people through their content.
You could invite people to submit brainstorm ideas verbally or use the chat window. The latter is a better option for those not as comfortable with speaking up. Just remember to look at the chat window, as this often gets ignored by people not in the habit of using it.
This can turn a typically one-sided content presentation into something much more interactive. In brainstorming, it gives participants a tool for riffing off ideas that others have proposed.
It will also intelligently listen for words like ‘important’ and ‘let’s capture that’ that indicate meeting highlights. After the meeting (providing you’ve recorded it) the service will generate a list of meeting highlights and follow-up actions to share with the team.
Over time, teams can train these AI systems to learn which words and phrases to listen out for. Using these advanced capabilities helps everyone use their time more effectively, including those people who were unable to join.
Not to mention, it makes the work-from-home experience a bit less mundane when you can switch up your ‘location’ for every meeting. Whether built in or through a third-party add-on, you can lighten the mood with virtual accessories, look more professional by brightening up the lighting, and even skip some of your morning routine by adding makeup virtually.
Hopefully this has given you some inspiration to step out of your comfort zone when using modern videoconferencing software. Mastering these ‘new basics’ will not only help you avoid embarrassing situations in important meetings, they will also help you to be more productive.
However, if you’re still hesitant to try these out, maybe you can get your kids to give you some lessons before they have to go back to school!
Paul Scholey is SVP International at BlueJeans by Verizon.
To Master The New Videoconferencing Basics, Learn From The Kids