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/

A popular medium for digesting news and conversation, podcasts are favoured for their convenience and broad availability. But which podcasts do we really get the most out of? Ranking each ‘productive’ podcast in the iTunes library, we’ve brought you the shows that should be on your radar in 2021.

To create the list, we gave each podcast a score between 0-3, taking number of episodes, overall rating, and number of reviews into account (with each factor equally valued and given a score between 0-1. The overall score is the value of each criteria combined).

Read on to discover the most productive podcasts, whether the longest running series are the best, how ratings are only an initial indication of value, and which shows prompt listener reviews the most.

Top 20 productive podcasts

Revealing the 20 most productive shows, there’s not much between the top two. However, with an index score of 2.23, Entrepreneurs on Fire takes the crown as most productive podcast, closely edging out Mind Pump: Raw Fitness Truth (2.19).

Despite placing first, the business-related podcast is only one of two in the category amongst the overall top 20, with The $100 MBA Show the only other show that offers conversation around professional productivity.

Meanwhile, there’s no podcast category considered more productive than health and fitness. In fact, alongside second placed Mind Pump, the top 20 features four more shows that fall into the bracket. Similarly, mental health podcasts are ranked as equally productive, with five in this grouping also ranking amongst the top 20.

With a clear leaning towards shows aimed at bettering mind and body, it’s little surprise that our index’s 20 most productive podcasts are rounded off with three philosophical series, three around self-improvement, and two centred around spirituality.

Is productivity found in the longest running shows?

Are the longest serving podcasts always the most successful? According to the index, quantity often does mean quality, and those with the most episodes are generally deemed to be the most productive overall. In fact, the podcast series with the most episodes, Entrepreneurs on Fire, also scored highest with all three factors considered.

Additionally, 9 of the 10 longest-running series on the index also rank within the top 20 podcasts overall, demonstrating the productive value of a show listeners can really get stuck into. Notably, the only podcast that doesn’t feature in the overall top 20, Optimal Health Daily, isn’t too far behind either, placed 23rd.

Does a five-star rating reveal all?

Intriguingly, none of the index’s 253 five-star rated shows feature in the top 20 most productive podcasts, suggesting that, while offering initial value, ratings rarely reveal the full story.

Of the 253 to receive top marks, though, five podcasts (Shawn Ryan Show, New Mindset, Who Dis?, Know Your Aura with Mystic Michaela, The Connected Life, Wine & Spirits with Monica the Medium) have also each impressively received over 2,000 reviews from listeners.

In fact, the only criteria holding these five shows back is the index score for length of series, with each scoring below 0.15/1. So, there’s an indication that, with more episodes under their belt, these could be the podcasts to keep an eye on in 2021.

The podcasts sparking conversations

According to the index, the shows deemed most productive are generally those which impassion fans the most, to the point they leave a review. So, which podcasts get their dedicated listeners talking the most?

Supporting this, 9 of the 10 most reviewed podcasts across the index also feature in the overall top 20 for productivity. Interestingly, the exception to this, the Shawn Ryan Show, sits just shy in 21st position.

It’s never been more important to have a strong bank of productive podcasts to listen to, as we all try to find our way around the new normal. For even more expert advice around maintaining productivity, personally and professionally, explore the latest on our blog.

Let’s be honest, we’re all feeling fed up. Lockdown three (that’s right THREE) is in full swing, it’s January and the social interactions we’re used to are nowhere to be found. But and it’s a big but, we do have a vaccine and there is light at the end of the tunnel. So, with the doom and gloom out of the way, here’s our advice on how to stick it out and encourage virtual collaboration with your team.

Lots of communication

One of the cracking things about being in the office is the ability to pop round to someone’s desk, say ‘sup’ or however you introduce yourself and just have a chat. Could be work related, could be food related, could be alien related, whatever, the fact is consistent communication goes a long way.

This is particularly prevalent in a remote work environment, where you’re craving human interaction but may have only received a bunch of emails. That’s why as a manager, it’s crucial that you communicate lots with your team. Over communication is always better than under communication.

This has a host of benefits, including a more engaged team, a feeling of increased recognition, boosted morale, all cultivating in a collaborative virtual environment.

Set regular meetings (not just work related)

There’s only so much work one can take before they get ‘working from home burnout’. So, when you do catch-up with your team, try and mix it up and use them to understand how you’re all coping. Not only do meetings provide opportunity to give team praise and hash out important projects but they also allow for general catch-ups. This could be weekly meetings where work chat is strictly forbidden, tea and chats, Friday breakfasts, whatever works best for your team. It’s easy to begin to feel overwhelmed if all you have on your mind is work and there’s no respite.

Use meetings to not only encourage remote collaboration but also as a time to have a laugh. As Maya Angelou once said: “Laugh as much as possible, always laugh. It’s the sweetest thing one can do for oneself & one’s fellow human beings.”

Use remote working tools

Encouraging virtual collaboration with your team can be difficult, albeit impossible without using remote collaboration tools. When we say remote collaboration tools, we’re not just talking video calls, although they are essential for most teams. You’ve also got instant messaging apps such as Slack, project management tools such as Monday, good old-fashioned emails, Google Sheets, the list goes on.

Use a variety of tools, after all variety is a spice of life. This will stop your team relying too heavily on one tool and prevent virtual collaboration from becoming stagnant. What we mean by this is you don’t always have to jump on a video call, when a simple message will do. To the contrary if you’re trying to explain something quite complex, that would benefit from screen share or present document then use a video call. Know what tool to use in what situation to maximise efficiency and productivity.

Invest in team building

With a remote team and the state of the world it can be challenging organising team building activities. Conventionally you’d all meet up for a rad go ape sesh or just a rad drinking sesh, and hey presto, you’ve had a wonderful team building experience. For obvious reasons that’s not possible but that doesn’t mean you can’t build your team virtually. You might just have to get a bit more creative.

We’ve had a virtual crystal maze, virtual family fortunes, both of which were brilliant for team building. Doing something other than work with your colleagues will not only build a better relationship but also encourage virtual collaboration.

Understand and empathise

And that brings us to our last point. Understand that we’re in a rubbish situation and try to empathise. Acknowledge that your team might be struggling more than usual, and they may be finding it difficult to motivate themselves. If there was any time to be kind and understanding now would be it. So, communicate lots, have regular catch-ups, use remote working tools and invest in team building. That’s how you can encourage virtual collaboration with your team.

Ahh a good old brainstorm, where creative juices are flowing, ideas are flying and solutions to problems are being offered up left right and centre i.e. the ultimate exercise in collaboration. This is when things go right, brainstorms can also be plagued with uncomfortable silences or an hour wasted discussing something irrelevant. So, when it comes to virtual brainstorming, it’s important to bare these challenges in mind, not to mention some that are specific to an online environment.

Not to worry though, we’re here to offer 5 tips for a successful online brainstorming session, so that the many of us working from home can still collaborate effectively.

Keep on topic

Right, this seems contradictory to the whole free flowing nature of a brainstorm, but it’s important to stay on topic. Otherwise, your session has the potential to spiral and suddenly you’re all debating the greatest films of the 80s rather than how your next campaign can successfully raise brand awareness.

We’d recommend opening with the problem, this will help everyone get in the right mindset and keep the brainstorm focused on finding an appropriate solution.

Make the most of the mute function

When you’re asking from input and ideas from several people, particularly if the people you’re asking can be described as vocal then things can get quite noisy and there is a tendency for people to talk over one another. Unfortunately, this is amplified online as there are less non-verbal clues to pick up on, which act as an indicator of when someone is about to speak.

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution. To keep your online brainstorming session productive, have one person speaking at a time. When other people aren’t speaking or contributing, politely ask them to mute themselves. This will help bring about some order, where everyone can contribute, not solely the people with the loudest voice.

Use a video call platform

For online collaboration to work, it’s crucial that you’re able to see the person you’re speaking to. Choose a video call platform with stellar video and audio quality (ahem, us, ahem). A video call tool will also include other features that make it easier to run a successful virtual brainstorming session.

You can use a virtual whiteboard, where you can all scribble down thoughts and ideas (be sensible, nothing naughty), making it perfect for a brainstorm. Screen share allows you to share your screen, giving the group something central to focus on and discuss. Last but certainly not least, with present document you can upload a specific document, and all annotate said document.

Stick to a time limit

By setting a time limit for your online brainstorming session, you’re setting a precedent that unnecessary waffle is banned. You’ve got an objective for your session and this doesn’t include wasting two hours of everyone’s time. Sticking to a time limit will keep the session relatively disciplined and focused, increasing the chances of it being productive.

However, don’t put pressure on the session or feel disheartened that in the one hour you didn’t come up with the solution you wanted. Putting pressure on the session is more likely to stifle creativity rather than encourage it. Instead, put together some follow up actions that will ensure the next session is more successful.

Don’t forget to follow up

The last point leads nicely onto this one. Whether your online brainstorming session was a roaring success or the opposite, don’t forget to follow up. It’s important that everyone who attended the session has a clear understanding of what is expected of them.

Send out a message thanking everyone for their participation, a list of what was discussed and any follow up actions that need to be taken. This will reiterate the importance of the session and prevent people from forgetting about why it was important in the first place.

So, there you have it, our tips for a successful virtual brainstorming session. Looking for more productivity tips? Check out how to prepare for a video call.

You’ve done it, you’ve decided to use video calls. You enter your first meeting with video and you’re slightly bemused. How do I turn on my webcam? What is VoIP? What do all the features do? Do I really look like that? Well, we’re here to tell you that you don’t have to be a tech wizard to have productive meeting using video. Whether it be yourself who struggles or a certain family member, here’s a brief guide to video calls for the non-tech savvy.

Joining a video call

Right, let’s do this chronologically. The first step is joining the meeting. You’ll be happy to know that this is incredibly straightforward. All you need is a meeting invite, the person holding the meeting will share beforehand. This will include a Guest PIN, which adds an extra layer of security, so you don’t have randomers joining your meeting. Enter this PIN and you’re in. Easy enough right? On top of that, when using our video call product, you won’t need to download any software. You can access it straight from your browser!

Next, you’ll be asked how you’d like to join. You can either dial in using your phone or connect using your webcam and VoIP. Woah there, what is VoIP? VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. In Lehman’s terms, it means connect your audio through your computer. The most important thing to remember here is that you’ve allowed access to your webcam and computer microphone. If you’ve accidently blocked access, then you will need to enable it in your browser settings. See an explanation here.

Using video call features

You’ve made it into the meeting room. Now it’s time to explain a bit about what the standout features do, how to use them and why you’d use them.

Mute/unmute

A feature you’re likely to become closely acquainted with is the mute/unmute feature. With our product to mute/unmute yourself all you need to do is hover over your video feed and click the mic icon. Nifty when you’re somewhere with a lot of background noise or when you just don’t have anything to say. Just remember to unmute yourself when you want to speak (easier said than done).

Screen share

A real crowd pleaser, this is one of the most useful features you can use on a video call. The clue is in the name, but it allows you to share your screen, more specifically your entire screen, an application window, or a browser tab. To initiate a screen share all you need to do is click ‘Share screen’, decide what you want to share and you’re ready to rock. If it’s your first time using the feature you will have to download a small plug in, which doesn’t take long.

Why would you use screen share? This feature comes in handy when you want to visualise your point. If you’re struggling to sum up something using mere words, count on screen share to come in and save the day.

Present document

Like screen share this feature allows you to upload and present a document. To use this feature, click ‘Document’, choose the document you’d like to upload and present it to the audience. This makes it much easier to receive instant feedback on a piece of work, rather than having to wait a week for an email response.

Online chat

Want to make a point but the presenter is on fire and you don’t want to interrupt them? Introducing online chat. It works just like any other chat or text feature you’ve used; simply enter the message you want to share, and press send. This can also be used to share links to websites of interest and to communicate if your internet connection is playing up. Letting the group know why your beautiful face isn’t on camera, why you’ve chosen to dial in etc.

And the rest…

Other features included in our video call product are agenda, sentiment, bookmark and whiteboard but we’ll let you discover those yourself with our 14 day free trial. Hopefully, this post has reassured you that you don’t have to be tech savvy, leave that up to us!

Strap in, we’re about to delve into the history of the video call! When and where did it all start? Who invented it and how have they been developed? Well, you’ll be buzzing to know you’re about to find out all this and then some. Why are we doing this? To show you just how far this piece of tech has come.

When and where was the video call invented?

You might be surprised to discover that the concept of a video communication was floating around way back in the 1870s. However, actual work on tech began in the 1920s, with video conferencing first making an appearance in 1964. The company who unveiled this technological miracle to the world was AT&T, at the World Fair in New York (a worthy stage for such an invention). In the 1970s they developed a contraption known as the ‘picturephone’.

Check out the video below, highlighting some early picturephone features such as zoom control, height control, mute, document share and more.

Credit: AT&T Tech Channel.

You might also be surprised to find out that Bell’s picturephone wasn’t a roaring success, surely everyone would want to be nabbing this up. There’s no doubt it was technically, an amazing feat but Bell lost half a billion dollars due to extortionate monthly costs for the average consumer. It needed to be developed and be affordable for people to use it.

How have video calls developed?

Even back in the 1970s, many of the core features of the picturephone are the same as what we see today. But, with any piece of tech, the key to improving it is making it more refined and accessible for the people using it. For many years, the tech remained expensive and progressed slowly.

In 1982 a company called Compression Labs introduced the CLI T1, which was coined as the first commercial video conferencing system. Take a guess at how much you had to pay for this system. Well, it certainly still wasn’t what you’d consider affordable. In fact, you’d have to first dish out $250,000 (£187,123 in today’s market) for the tech itself and pay $1000 (£748.62 in today’s market) an hour for using the system.

We have titled this a brief history, so we are cherry picking the highlights here. So, when did video calls start being used on a wider scale? The invention of the webcam in 1991 was pivotal, as it meant that to use the product, you no longer needed to install equipment that occupied an entire room. The next revolutionary moment for the tech happened in 2003 where a Swedish man named Niklas Zennström founded a company you may have heard of called Skype. This was the first video platform that was adopted by your average person and really made them accessible to everyone.

Here at PowWowNow we expanded (blossomed some might say) from the world of conference calling to HD video calling in 2018. We also utilise video in our webinar product.

Present day

Today, we see video calls being used by essentially everyone as they’ve become the go to tech to communicate with people when we’re unable to meet them face-to-face. The tech has come an awful long way and the mass adoption of it means we are likely to only see in get better. For now, you can sign up to our 14 day free trial to experience our video call product!