Presentations can be nerve racking, the limelight is on you, everyone has tuned in to hear what you have to say and there’s pressure to present something worthwhile that doesn’t end up wasting everyone’s time. This can be amplified when giving a presentation over a video call because you’re not physically in the same room as anyone you’re presenting to.

Now we know why presentations are nerve racking, what can you do to make your next presentation a success? We’re going to offer some simple tips and tricks to ensure your next video call presentation is as engaging as ever.

Check your lighting and set up

To make your next presentation a success your audience need to be able to see you. It’s hard to engage with a presentation when you can’t see the person delivering it.

So, before you hop on the video call check your lighting and camera set up. Make sure that you are clearly visible, too much light can blur your face whereas not enough can make you appear as a shadow. We’d recommend having a set up where the light shines in front of your face. This will soften your features, whilst also ensuring you’re clearly visible.

Here are some more tips on proper video call lighting.

Understand the format

This tip is crucial, and it refers to understanding the tech that you’re using. You’ve already tripped at the first hurdle if for the life of you, you can’t figure out how to turn your video on or share your screen. This will make you look unprepared before the presentation has even gotten underway, so before showtime just play around with the product you’re using.

We’d recommend even doing a dry run with your friends or family. After all, practise makes perfect. However, be wary not to over rehearse, you still want your presentation to come across as natural, compared to robotic. Luckily our video conferencing is super simple to use, you can join and start meetings in seconds. Just ensure that you’ve allowed access to your webcam and mic and are familiar with how screen share works.

Want to know more? Here’s how to prepare for a video call.

Dress appropriately

The same as not knowing the tool your using can make you fall at the first hurdle so can turning up in a dressing gown. Now, we hope you wouldn’t be silly enough to do this but it’s still worth mentioning. Not only does dressing appropriately send of the right message to the people you’re presenting to, but it will also help with your own confidence.

Depending on your audience the way you dress may differ, it may be a suit and tie, or it may be hoodies and jeans, leading us nicely onto our next tip.

Know your audience

To clarify, we’re not talking about doing a deep dive into everyone who you will be presenting to, finding out their hobbies, interests, relationship status. No, what we mean is simply know who your presenting to in terms of what department they work in or their seniority. Every presentation is different but presenting to your team who you work, day-in, day-out with is going to be different to presenting to heads of business.

It’s hard to please everyone but try to take a step back and understand why you’re presenting in the first place. Clearly everyone there has some interest in what you have to say or the topic you’re presenting on, so use this to structure and plan out your presentation. An example would be, if you’re presenting to a group of developers who want to know more about the technical side of things compared to a group of marketers who want to know more about the results you aim to achieve.

Know your topic

Obvious but nevertheless vital. Failure to prepare equals failure to succeed. Ever heard someone say I’ll just wing it. Don’t, don’t just wing it. The person who wings it and ends up delivering a brilliant fantastic presentation most likely didn’t wing it and spent hours preparing. If you don’t bother to prepare for your presentation, then don’t be surprised when it falls flat.

Know the topic your presenting, do your research and try to enjoy learning about the topic you’re presenting on. Your enthusiasm and hard work will be conveyed through your presentation, trust us. If the presentation is still not a success, which is highly unlikely, then try and understand what went wrong and come back better next time.

Show, don’t tell

This tip is all about content and PowerPoint design ideas. When uploading a PowerPoint presentation using document share on your video call, then really think carefully about the content you feature on your slides. Ever heard of the saying less is more? Well this is particularly relevant to your slides. If you’ve ever sat through a presentation reading slides, then chances are it wasn’t an engaging presentation.

Try to tell a story

Humans are hardwired to engage with a story. There is something comforting in a beginning, middle and end, after all humans have been telling stories for millennia. If you can structure your PowerPoint presentation design in this way people will be much more engaged in what you have to say.

Ask for questions

Don’t just ask, encourage questions! Depending on what you’re comfortable with you can either ask for questions on each slide or finish your presentation and ask for questions at the end.  There’s no better way to test if you’re audience are engaged than by asking or questions, so make sure you incorporate this into your slideshow design.

Finally, follow up

Remember to follow up with a thank you email, letting everyone know that you appreciate them taking the time to listen to what you have to say. This also presents a good opportunity to share the meeting recording or provide a short recap of what was discussed.

And with that, we conclude our simple tips and tricks on how to make your next presentation a success, you’ve got this!

 

 

 

Stand-up meetings are a great way to get your working day off to a productive start and make sure your team is all on the same page – but what’s the best way to run a virtual stand-up meeting? And, in fact, just what is a stand-up meeting? Read on to discover our top tips and best practices for running stand-up meetings.

Let’s face it, we’re all seeing a calendar stuffed full of meeting invites. We’ve learned to adapt to working life during lockdown, logging on to work from home each day, but what was previously a quick question across the desk to someone else in your team is now a pre-booked 15-minute-minimum video call, and it’s easy for your day to end up being completely booked with lots of smaller, shorter meetings with teammates. That’s why the stand-up meeting is perfect for a busy team, especially if you’re trying to encourage virtual collaboration but you’ve all got plenty on your plate.

What is a stand-up meeting?

A stand-up meeting is, at its most basic, just what it sounds like: a meeting at which everyone stands up. That’s oversimplifying a bit, though. A stand-up meeting is meant to be a very brief catch up with your team to run through everyone’s plans and deliverables for the day. In 15 minutes or less, your team members should know what’s expected of them for the day, and be aware of current team goals plus what their colleagues are working on.

The standing-up part is to encourage everyone to keep the meeting brief, energetic, and dynamic – no settling into comfy board room chairs or trying to find a meeting room with enough space for everyone to spread out. It’s not compulsory; just a good way to keep your energy up and encourage the meeting to stay short and snappy.

A stand-up meeting is also sometimes called a morning update, or sometimes a huddle or a scrum. But whatever you call it, the point is to keep it short, to-the-point, and focused on action. Although we love a good icebreaker, a stand-up meeting isn’t really the place to catch up with co-workers or even to bring up larger questions – it’s a focused 15 minutes on your specific goals and deliverables.

Do you really need to stand up in a stand-up meeting?

Standing through a meeting might feel a bit absurd at first. But there are benefits – standing up engages your muscles, and sends blood and oxygen through the body, helping to energise you. And there’s even research that sitting down for too many meetings could be detrimental – a study by UCLA researchers in 2018 found that sitting too much could be linked to the thinning in the section of the brain that is critical for memory. So give your brain a helping hand, and stand!

Of course, it’s important to make your meetings accessible too – so if you have people on your team who are unable or less able to stand for long periods, then ditch the name and keep the point. The only truly important part of a stand-up meeting is the tight focus on team goals and deliverables.

Can you run a virtual stand-up meeting?

The stand-up meeting is obviously intended for a team working in the office, but in our ‘new normal’ where hybrid working is sure to become more common, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t move over to a virtual stand-up meeting using video call software like PowWowNow.

If you’re running a virtual stand-up meeting, it might feel a bit daft to actually stand around in your home office or at the kitchen table. As long as you’re keeping to a tight timescale and focusing on what your team need to discuss that day, you can skip the standing if holding up laptops and iPads seems a bit risky.

Stand-up meeting best practices

Running a stand-up meeting should be relatively straightforward, but here are some top tips for stand-up meeting best practices to make sure you’re getting your team’s day off to a productive start.

It should be easy and simple

However you connect with your team, the setup should be fast and simple.

Luckily, our video conferencing solution offers everything you need. Check out our video call 101 guide for everything you need to know.

Establish a structure

You’ve only got 15 minutes, so make them count. A structured stand-up meeting allows you to keep things moving along, so make sure you account for all of your team with an agenda you can stick to each morning. PowWowNow allows you to upload an agenda, so everyone knows the score, or you could have a set order for your team to go around and update.

Stick to the time

The 15-minute time limit for a stand-up meeting might feel arbitrary, but unless you have a very large team it’s a good idea to stick to it. It doesn’t take too much time out of everyone’s day, so you’ll have the security of knowing that your team knows what’s going on without getting in the way of them actually achieving their goals.

Convinced? If you need to make sure your team is connected and efficient, give a stand-up meeting a try, whether you’re in the office or hosting one via a video call. Alternatively, for more tips and tricks on how to have efficient video calls, head on over to our blog.

 

It’s not the most pleasant topic, but with many teams now working remotely or in a hybrid model, HR sessions like a disciplinary meeting may have to be held virtually. We take a look at the ways to make meetings like this easier on everyone, and answer questions that both employers and employees might have.

How to conduct a disciplinary meeting

A disciplinary meeting isn’t really the most pleasant part of work even at the best of times, but the shift to home working or hybrid working can make it feel even more difficult. Nevertheless, you’ll have to weigh up what’s more appropriate – conducting a disciplinary meeting virtually, or waiting until you’re in a position to take the meeting face-to-face.

Waiting until offices reopen could be a risky decision – there’s a reason behind the disciplinary meeting, after all, and leaving those issues unaddressed or unchecked could lead to more issues down the line.

If you decide to press ahead, you’ll be running a virtual disciplinary meeting. This might sound daunting, so we’ve put together a few tips on how you can make a disciplinary meeting like this run smoothly and with as little stress for everyone involved as possible.

Virtual disciplinary meeting tips

No-one likes conducting or attending a disciplinary meeting, but unfortunately they’re a necessary part of HR. Make sure that this difficult process is a little bit easier on everyone by following these disciplinary meeting tips.

Check your HR policies

Before you get started with a disciplinary meeting, you’ll need to double check your HR policies and processes. If your grievance procedure or disciplinary procedure state that the meeting should be face-to-face, you might need to get written consent or approval from the individual.

Make sure everyone has access

One of the most important parts of holding a virtual disciplinary meeting is making sure that everyone involved has proper access and the necessary software to make the meeting possible. If the employee is struggling to see or hear the meeting, they’re at a disadvantage, and this could add unnecessary stress and strain. Make sure you use a service that allows for easy video calling and also sharing of relevant documents, like PowWowNow’s video calling software.

Send an invitation to the disciplinary meeting to all relevant parties

An employee can opt to have a relevant person, or ‘companion’ accompany them. You can find out more about this at Acas. If the employee has opted to have a companion present, such as a colleague or trade union representative, make sure everyone has the invitation to the disciplinary meeting, and that everyone is aware when and how the meeting will be taking place. It’s also worth discussing and agreeing ahead of time how the employee can speak with a witness or third party during the meeting, such as a second video call or separate phone call.

Send relevant documents ahead of time

Of course, before the hearing, you need to make sure the employee has written notice of the disciplinary action, including:

Make sure everyone has access to an agenda, and any relevant HR documentation by sending them to everyone ahead of time. You can also use in-call document and screen sharing options to make sure everyone is clear on what’s being discussed.

Take your time on the call

Running a virtual call can be difficult, especially if people talk over one another. Even with good internet connections on both sides, it’s easy to overlap – so take your time on the call. The employee will probably have plenty of disciplinary meeting questions they’d like answered, so take your time in allowing them to ask and answer slowly. If you’re not a natural on video calls, check out our guide on video call confidence to get prepared.

Take advantage of the virtual process

Holding a disciplinary meeting virtually might feel awkward and stilted, but there are some unexpected benefits. If the meeting is strained or if emotions are high, once the meeting is over, both parties can take their time to come around. An upset employee won’t have to face leaving a meeting room in full view of the office – they’ll be in the safer environment of their own home. In fact, you can take advantage of running a disciplinary meeting virtually – add the meeting into your calendar for a little longer than you think the meeting needs to be, so both you and the employee in question can take some time afterwards without being interrupted by other calls.

Can you record a disciplinary meeting?

It’s up to your HR team and policies on recording a disciplinary meeting. If you decide that one or both parties will record the meeting, luckily video conferencing software like PowWowNow allows you to record meetings at the click of a button, and let everyone in the meeting know that you’re recording the disciplinary meeting. After the meeting is concluded, the file can be shared with the employee and other relevant parties.

Conducting a virtual disciplinary meeting can be difficult – but with preparation and the right video calling tools, you can make the process easier for everyone involved. For more tips on how to manage remote workers and handle video calls, check out our smarter working hub.

You may remember a little while ago, we put a call out for all remote workers suffering from some serious lockdown lethargy, to get some much-needed (virtual) puppy love… and it’s safe to say, we got a lot of replies!

We’ve captured some of the funniest and sweetest moments from our virtual office puppy calls for the world to see, with our pup-dates featuring the adorable Coco.

62% of home workers have had their meetings interrupted by dogs

It probably comes as no surprise that nearly two thirds of remote workers have had a furry friend join one of their video calls over lockdown, with 32% saying the interruption had made (or would make) them feel happier.

With more people deciding to adopt a puppy during the pandemic, as we slowly return to the office over the coming months, we’re all starting to think about how our pooches are going to cope without us.

One of the solutions (which we, at PowWowNow are firmly in favour of!), is allowing dogs to come into the office – and lots of you agree, with 45% of remote workers in favour of this.

However, whilst office dogs may help to make some office workers happier, 38% said they didn’t think dogs roaming around their office was a good thing, with 13% saying having a dog interrupting them during work would make them less productive.

Women are more likely to apply for a job that has an office dog policy

According to our survey, 52% of women said they thought having an office dog policy was a good idea, compared to just 37% of men; with 51% of females saying they’d be more likely to apply for a job if the workplace allowed dogs, compared to 37% of men.

There’s also a big divide across professions, with some definitely more pro than others. In fact, these are the top five sectors in favour of office pooches:

  1. Energy and utilities (66%)
  2. Environment and agriculture (65%)
  3. Law enforcement and security (64%)
  4. Marketing, advertising, and PR (63%)
  5. Hospitality and events management (62%)

In contrast, those working in the legal field were most against having dogs in the office, at 55%, followed by public services and administration, and sales.

Are you in favour of pups roaming around your office, or do you think they’ll stop you from getting your work done? One thing’s for sure: with people slowly returning back to the office, there’s going to be a big increase in dogs being left at home on their own. But equally, as we move towards a more flexible working model, chances are, being interrupted by an overexcited puppy or two on your video calls is likely to continue to be a regular thing!

For more tips and tricks on making your video and conference calls more productive, head on over to our blog.

You ever turn up to a meeting and say to yourself, hey, this feels awfully like every other meeting I’ve attended? Meetings do tend to follow the same format. You do your intros, you inject some small talk, maybe run through an agenda and then depending on how productive the meeting was, you run through next steps. This formula isn’t always the most inspiring for creativity, so we’re going to look at some fun icebreakers you can use to get the creative juices flowing, create a positive atmosphere, help people relax and break down barriers.

Quick quiz

An easy way to wake up the brain and get everyone’s attention is a quick quiz. We’re not talking a meticulously planned out quiz here, with five different rounds and a quizmaster. No, we’re thinking three or four random questions just to get people thinking and in the right mindset. Don’t make them too difficult, make them easy enough for people to know the answer and feel a sense of accomplishment. If they’re too hard people will feel defeated before the meeting has even began.

Word association game

Here’s an interesting one to get an insight into how people think. All it entails is choosing a word, say ‘ocean’, ‘dog’, ‘work’, ‘meetings’, choose any word you want (keep it safe for work). Then you go round the group and ask the next person to say the first word that comes to mind when they hear the chosen word. This continues, like a chain reaction until everyone has said a word. We guarantee you may hear surreal associations and it will get people thinking creatively.

Time travel

This one’s simple, ask the question, if you could go back in time, what period would you go to? You might discover some aspiring gladiators amongst the group or cave people or medieval knights, whatever you discover it’s a great way to break the ice and ask a thought-provoking question.

 Would you rather?

Ahhh this classic. Would you rather be a penguin or a meerkat? Would you rather have eight legs or eight arms? Would you rather be in this meeting or somewhere else? (maybe skip this one). The possibilities are endless. The important thing to remember here is you don’t want to ask any questions could make yourself or others look bad, that defeats the fun element.

What would your superpower be?

Try and get people to ground their answers in their real-life skills. If someone has impeccable time management skills; their superpower would be control time. Someone has brilliant communication skills; their superpower would be they could read minds. As a bonus get people to pick a superhero name that they can be referred to for the remainder of the meeting. This is great because not only will it most definitely break the ice, but it will also get people thinking creatively about their strengths.

Some bonus ice breaker questions:

What do you want to get from this meeting?

Less of a fun icebreaker and more of a practical one. To get your next meeting off to a great start why not ask what people hope to get from the meeting. Depending on the answers you get this will help you steer the meeting and increase productivity. It will also get everyone thinking about the topic in hand and provide a sensible starting point for a discussion.

There’s plenty more fun icebreakers we haven’t touched on, think creatively about how you’d like to start off your next meeting. Give these a shot and see how you get on, you never know it might just lead to your best meeting ever!

If you’ve ever checked your webcam reflection and you’ve seen yourself shaded in darkness or appeared obscenely bright then your lighting is off. A crucial element to turning on your webcam is so that people can see you (shock!). You don’t want to be known as the shadow figure or someone who just doesn’t bother to show their face. So, we’re here to offer some very simple tips for proper video call lighting so that you can whip on your webcam with confidence and have more productive video calls.

Tip #1: Natural light is your friend

Starting off simple, but for good lighting for webcam, you’ll need a good light source. The key here is to use a light source that illuminates you from the front, not the back. What we mean is if you have lots of natural light in your home then have it shining in front of your face, not in the background. Light from behind will conceal your face, making you look like some sort of light ghost. It will also put a strain on everyone else, helplessly squinting trying to see your face.

Tip #2: Artificial light is also your friend

If you don’t have lots of natural light in your room, then you can always use desk lamps for webcam lighting. Just make sure you find a good balance; you don’t want too much light on one area of your face. This will throw off the rest of your face and create unnecessary shadows. We’d recommend using a desk lamp to light your face straight on. Although don’t go overboard, there is such a thing as too much light.

Long story short, make sure your face is evenly lit.

Tip #3: Be aware of backgrounds

As well as using incorrect lighting, you can also distract from yourself with your background. If you’ve got wacky wallpaper or a brightly lit background in general, then you’re bringing people’s attention away from the forefront (you) to the party going on behind you. Try to choose a location where your background is plain and not littered with distractions.

Tip #4: Experiment with what works best

If you’ve had a few video calls and your lighting is off, don’t just accept this as your fate. Experiment with the light sources and equipment you have. Fortunately finding a decent lighting set up for your home office isn’t rocket science. You don’t have to know all the avant-garde tricks that film directors know, just lighting that lights your whole face evenly. If you find using one method doesn’t create the desired effect, then try another.

Tip #5: Think about investing in lighting accessories

If you do a quick Google search for best webcam lighting, you’ll see a host of useful accessories to turn your home office into a mini film studio. As mentioned, if you don’t have somewhere with lots of natural light then accessories like these could be a big help.

If you’re not interested in buying accessories, then you can always upgrade your webcam. A lot of the better external webcams have the tech to help address low light and to balance out light in general. Have a look here for a list of best webcams of 2021.

Hopefully, this has helped you understand that improving your appearance on camera doesn’t require tonnes of effort. With some quick fixes, you can ensure you’ve got fantastic video call lighting and no longer have to worry about how visible you are on camera!

With many rubbish things happening in 2020 and proceeding into 2021, hopefully not for very long, there were still many positives. After all, every cloud has a silver lining. We saw many people being forced to adapt to remote working. Some took to it like a duck to water, whilst others in dribs and drabs. What’s clear though and something which was much more openly discussed was the importance of employee wellbeing. A report carried out by Business In The Community, set out a clear call to actions for employees, one of them being: “Elevate mental health and safety on a par with physical health and safety.”

This post will look at ways you can prioritise employee wellbeing when working remotely, so that you’re all working at your very best, even if you can’t pop over to their desk and discuss the weather.

Communicate, communicate and communicate!

When working remotely it’s easy to get caught in your own little bubble, before you know it, it’s been two months and you’re forgetting what your employees look like. Okay, a little hyperbolic but you get what we’re trying to say. Don’t let a period of silence build up, make sure that you’re communicating daily. Use a mixture of communication methods, video calls, instant messaging, emails and whatever else you use, so that you can keep things relatively fresh.

Be warned though, there is such a thing as over communicating, which after a while can get a little exhausting. Save the video calls for when you have something meaningful to discuss, whether this be a project you’re working on or an overdue catch-up. Avoid scheduling video calls for every tiny detail, no matter how tempting. This will combat fatigue and mean that when you do see other people, you’re genuinely engaged and interested.

Understand your employees needs

As well as communicating with your employees, try to understand what they want from remote working. Understand that unless they have worked remotely before, this way of working can come as a massive shock. Some may be finding it hard to cope with their new routine and the only way you’ll know how this can be improved is by asking.

A questionnaire is a great way to get input from your team anonymously. This should give you a true insight into how your employees are feeling and what you can do to life their spirits. What you ask is completely up to you, but we’d suggest asking about what challenges their facing, what they like about remote working, what you can do to help and being honest about what the future workplace will look like.

Encourage exercise and breaks

When you’re in the office it’s brilliant to get away from your screen and make yourself a cuppa. The same can be said when you’re working remotely. Let your employees know that you’re happy for them to take breaks when they need to. The same can be said for exercise. Countless studies have shown the positive impact exercise can have on mental wellbeing, motivation and productivity.

Create walking or running channels that people can be a part of. People or much more likely to exercise if there is a sense of comradery in doing so.

Set clear boundaries

One of the greatest challenges to overcome when working remotely is figuring out how to separate your work and personal life. This can be particularly difficult for employees who live alone, in a small property where their workspace intertwines with their relax space. Try to educate your employees on the importance of distinguishing between your work life and your personal life.

This could be as simple as having your employees plan something for the evening that they can look forward to. Setting up a channel where your employees can share book/film recommendations, cooking recipes, anything that isn’t work related and will help them switch off when evening time comes around.

Flexible working for the win

It’s likely that your employees will share different responsibilities and work in very different ways. Use remote working as an avenue to explore flexible working. If someone describes themselves as morning person or alternatively a night owl, let them work the hours they feel the most productive. Your employees may have childcare responsibilities, let them work flexibly to best suit these responsibilities.

Putting trust in your employees to work flexibly when they feel most comfortable to do so is an important element of prioritising employee wellbeing when working remotely.

Arrange in-person meetups

Not exactly possible right now but when it is allowed make sure that you organise in-person meetups with your employees. You can only get to know someone so well virtually, to work better as a team, their needs to be some form of real human connection.

This could be fortnightly, monthly, or even every couple of months. Plus, it’s a great excuse to do something that isn’t work related. Use these meetups as an opportunity to schedule a team-building exercise or a small party. Point is, these meetups will help your employees get to know each other on a more personal level, which will only prove beneficial when working remotely.

A step in the right direction

The willingness to discuss prioritising employee mental wellbeing Is a massive step in the right direction. With remote and flexible working here for the foreseeable, let’s hope that we see more and more companies place an emphasis on looking after the mental health of their workers.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (wouldn’t blame you with everything going on), you’ve probably noticed that video calls have exploded in popularity. From school lessons to yoga sessions, every Tom, Dick and Harry has christened their webcam. So much so that we now have people coming down with video call fatigue, exhausted by the idea of having to look at themselves day in day out. Whilst there is an argument for having a break from your webcam, this post will look at the reasons why you should turn your webcam on at work.

Elevated Engagement

We’ve said it before any we’ll say it again. One significant advantage of a webcam is increased engagement. With other forms of communication, where face-to-face interaction is missing, it’s easy to pretend you’re listening when in fact you’re daydreaming intently at a blank wall.

Turning on your webcam at work means that it’s much harder to feign interest, with the occasional ah-ha. Facial ques and affirmations let other people know that you’re engaged, such as head nodding, smiling, frowning and an array of other expressions the human face can make. A cheeky stat to back up our claim, 55% of businesses say video conferencing effectively increased employee engagements.[1]

Better collaboration

Why do we have meetings? The ideal outcome and one that signifies a productive meeting is being able to collaborate effectively. A big ol’ benefit of using a webcam at work is better collaboration. This ties in with the engagement factor, a more engaged group of people are more likely to collaborate effectively.

A good example would be a virtual brainstorming session. If you can only hear but not see the other people in the meeting, then it can turn into a train wreck real quick. Think people shouting over one another, no visual cues to let them know if it’s a good or bad idea and awfully awkward silences. Whereas all having your webcam on encourages active participation. You’re able to gauge the room and collaboration becomes much freer, just like what you’d get in a real life, face-to-face meeting.

Benefits remote workers

Remote working has many benefits but that doesn’t mean it’s without drawbacks. One drawback that is reported by many remote workers is feelings of isolation. Turning on your webcam at work is a brilliant way for remote workers to feel more involved and help combat any feelings of isolation.

As a remote worker, you’re no longer simply sending and email or instant message with no real human connection. You can now associate a face with the person you’ve been messaging and begin to feel much more part of a team, compared to someone who feels isolated amongst their colleagues.

Improved relationships

It’s not just remote workers who will encounter benefits of a webcam but anyone who works flexibly or finds themselves working away from the office from a prolonged period of time, i.e. the majority of us currently. Turning on your webcam at work is a simple way to boost morale amongst your team. It’s important that you don’t only turn your webcam on for work meetings but also meetings where work talk is forbidden.

Again, being able to see the faces of other people, even if it’s virtually will help establish a human connection, something we’re all desperately need right now!

[1] https://getvoip.com/blog/2020/07/07/video-conferencing-stats

Artificial intelligence, more commonly known as its cool acronym AI has been an exciting and divisive topic for years now. There are fears that it will bring around a Terminator like scenario and on the other side that it will completely transform the world for the better. A rather reductive explanation. There are many more complexities to it that we’re not going to get into. Rather we’re going to focus on AI and meetings, specifically how it can be used to make future meeting easier.

What is artificial intelligence?

Before we delve any further it makes sense to provide a brief explanation for what artificial intelligence (AI) is. Simply put, AI is intelligence demonstrated by machines. Human intelligence heavily relies on our consciousness and emotions, whereas machines are devoid of this, representing the distinction between human and machine intelligence.

In certain fields of AI, the goal is to mimic if not recreate human consciousness and the ‘human’ way of thinking. Hence the Terminator I, Robot, Ex Machina, Blade Runner, and countless other films where AI takes on human traits and the consequences of this are usually a double-edged sword. But then you’ve also got WALL-E who is just an adorable robot cleaning machine. Swings and roundabouts.

Artificial intelligence in business

Right, now that you know roughly what AI is, how can it be used in business to make future meetings easier.

Encourage creativity

One of the biggest ways AI can be used in business, specifically in meetings is to make it much easier to focus on the meeting. It’s already used in video call products for several functions. An example would be producing recordings that you can download after the meeting. This removes some of the pressure to take minutes as you’ll have the recording to fall back on.

As AI becomes further utilised, we’ll see it encourage creativity and productivity.

Recognition of non-verbal cues

Ever suggested something and found yourself unsure as to how it went down? Did they like that? Was it awful? Was it the best thing ever? Well, this is where AI can help by recognising non-verbal cues of your fellow meeting Guests. What non-verbal cues does it use to judge whether an idea is bad or not? Well, us humans tend to react to a good idea with positive affirmation such as nodding, laughter and certain facial expressions. AI will be able to take note of these and highlight them post meeting, making it easier for you to identify good ideas.

AI powered action items

AI has the potential to recognise important discussion points of the meeting by identifying pre-programmed keywords and develop action items from this. Trying to make sense of what was discussed and outline next steps can be challenging at times. In some meetings, particularly brainstorms where ideas and suggestions are offered up freely, there are no definitive actions. Artificial intelligence software will be able to take care of that for you.

As well as AI being able to identify important action points for the meeting, it will be able produce automated meeting minutes. No need for an assigned minute taker.[1]

Improved scheduling and preparation advice

Scheduling meetings, especially if you have lots of them can be a pain. Artificial intelligence software will be able to be used for automated meeting scheduling. No more faffing around trying to find a time that suits everyone, or a free meeting room (when we can meet in person). It will automatically find this for you. As well as finding a suitable time and location for your meeting it could also be used to analyse past meetings and offer advice on what docs to bring and how to best prepare. Crazy we know

Complex meeting analytics

Current video call software offers meeting analytics and useful analytics to help analyse the meeting. Although as AI develops, it will be able to suggest improvements for future meetings. This will be done by identifying the cause for a good or bad meeting. This would be achieved through emotion recognition, the ability to identify is someone was hesitant or conflicted about an idea. This prompts artificial intelligence software to suggest the Host of the meeting follows up with that person.[2]

The future is exciting

Well, the future of meetings anyway. If all these use cases come to fruition then we can look forward to easier meetings with less time wasted and most importantly increased productivity, collaboration and creativity. The holy trinity in the world of meetings.

[1] https://technative.io/5-ways-ai-could-make-meetings-more-creative/

[2] https://www.unifysquare.com/blog/advantages-of-artificial-intelligence-for-modern-meetings/

That’s right ULTIMATE productivity, we’re not playing around here. If you find yourself working at your dining room table in a chair that severely lacks lumber support, a single laptop screen and paper splayed everywhere then it’s time for an upgrade to your home office. You might not be able to create a home office setup that would be featured on the grand designs of home offices (if that were a thing) but there are for sure some small home office design changes you can make that will make a big difference.

Get a desk, it’s essential

We’re starting with an essential item for your home office layout, a desk. If you’ve ever worked in bed resting a laptop on your lap, improvised a desk from some heavy textbooks, a washing basket or even an ironing board then you know it’s not the greatest catalyst for productivity.

The makeshift WFH standing desk of a humanities obsessive: pic.twitter.com/RiQ7XvXUk5

— Pedro (aka Peter) Luis Pérez-Zubizarreta (@wirechairs) March 13, 2020

A desk not only provides a solid resting place for your laptop it also acts as the hub for your home office layout, the main attraction. Your home office layout should revolve around your desk, with everything else serving as useful accessories. You’ll find desks in lots of different sizes and price points. Check out this brilliant list if you do find yourself on a budget.

Invest in indoor plants

You’re probably aware of this craze already but we do believe it’s a craze for good reason. Healthline put together a list of 7 science backed benefits of indoor plants. This includes a potential boost in productivity levels, reduced stress, improved indoor air quality and more. Plus, if nothing else they just look pretty and help create a home office layout you’re pleased to be in.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by House Plant Club (@houseplantclub)

Look, how pretty!

Natural light is your friend

Building on the theme of being at one with nature, try and find an area for your home office design that gets lots of natural light. Just like indoor plants, natural light has an array of supposed benefits. One that’s particularly relevant to the topic of this post is that it improves our productivity and focus. “Research indicates that the benefits of daylight exposure at work included everything from improved morale to an increased ability to remember numbers backwards.”[1] Remember this the next time you need to remember a sequence of numbers backwards, aye.

If you don’t have an area in your humble abode that receives a lot of natural light, then there are ways you can mimic it. One such example is full-spectrum light bulbs, bulbs that simulate daylight.

Have the suitable tech

You can have the greatest desk, the most beautiful exotic houseplants, plenty of rays on your chops but without some important tech you won’t have a home office. At the very least you will need a laptop that includes a webcam and an internet connection. We’ll look at more tech you can add to boost productivity later. Remote work has brought with it a reliance on video calls to communicate with colleagues, so you need the tech to allow this. If you want to step up your video call game, you could invest in a top-notch webcam. TechRadar have put together a handy list of their top picks.

Get a comfy chair, your back will thank you

Back pain is just NOT fun. If you haven’t opted for a standing desk, chances are you’ll be spending most your day sitting, so it’s paramount to get a chair that your buttocks and back are fond of. Just like a desk, there are endless options out there to suit all your home office set up ideas. We’d recommend picking one with a fair amount of lumbar support, promotes good posture and has adequate cushioning.

But beware, don’t choose one that’s too comfy, this could counter productivity when you accidently doze off mid email.

Use a second monitor

A second monitor is a superpower in terms of home office set up for productivity. When you get a second monitor, you’ll think that you were trapped in the stone age when all you had was your measly laptop screen. Suddenly you’ve got an excel spreadsheet on one screen and you can seamlessly transfer the data into that big presentation you’re working on, without the nuisance of constantly switching tabs.

They don’t have to break the bank either, a quick Google search will provide countless affordable options. An easy way to supercharge your home office design.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out this page dedicated to home office inspiration on Instagram.

https://www.cantifix.co.uk/blog/what-are-the-benefits-of-natural-light/