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How Video Conferencing Powers the Remote Workplace, an Interview with Michael from Zoom

Video communication has been around for a while now with nearly every platform offering their own version. From the original Skype through to Facebook calls or Google Hangouts, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t utilised this feature in their personal and professional lives.

Now, more than ever, with increased globalisation, remote workers and international teams, effective communication via video conferencing is an essential tool in the day-to-day workflow of many businesses.

To gain some insight into the best ways to utilise video communication, we spoke with Michael Chetner, Head of Asia Pacific at Zoom who shares his tips on integrated video communications for your business.

As a distributed team, ShieldGEO uses Zoom for much of our communication including client calls, weekly meetings, one-on-ones with managers and all-hands calls. For us, Zoom provides a high-quality video call experience that supports the needs of our diverse team.

Zoom, a video communication platform developed in 2011, offers a range of services including video conferencing, conference rooms and webinars. It won the Frost & Sullivan Global Video Conferencing Company of the Year Award for 2019.

Video communication as a management tool

For those with a global team, using video conferencing to communicate is probably already part of your toolset. Whether that’s for weekly team meetings or presenting project briefs, video can significantly enhance your relationship with team members and increase the efficiency and accuracy of completed tasks.

“I manage a team across all those Asian markets, so for us to stay in contact [we need to use video]” Michael says.

For Zoom, that looks like a combination of scheduled meetings and ad hoc calls.

“We’re trying to replicate that [face-to-face] experience,” he says.

To get the best out of the tool, Michael encourages using video for more than just a project managing, but for team management too.

“The beauty of a high-quality video call [is that] I can see the non-verbal cues… If I have a guy in Melbourne and he’s hesitating on his forecast I’m not going to pick that up on a phone call,” he says.

“There’s research that says that it’s probably about 50-60% of all communication is non-verbal. It’s around rubbing the eyes or tugging at the earlobe those subconscious nuances you can only pick that up in face-to-face – virtually or in person.”

This continued face-to-face interaction develops relationships that simply couldn’t be maintained through text-based communication alone.

“You can’t grow teams without developing a level of trust with them,” Michael says.

With international or remote teams, you can’t rely on incidental bonding time through team lunches, office banter or knock-off drinks.

“This is not to say people shouldn’t catch up in person — I think there’s always a time and place for people to meet face to face. Relationships are formed when people are together,” Michael says.

“But when you can actually improve the effectiveness of, and continue, those relationships through Zoom that puts you also ahead of the competition.”

Video communication will grow your talent pool

“In Australia, we’ve grown from one person to 60 in the Sydney office in two years,” Michael says.

“Rather than getting people to come into the city where we were doing interviews, we were doing all of our screening over Zoom.”

Using a video call makes the process efficient for both parties and doesn’t exclude those who may be unable to attend the call times for some reason.

“Sometimes people will just exclude themselves because they can’t make an interview so this way, we can make it as stress-free as possible by using our tool to do that,” Michael says.

This way, candidates don’t have to take a whole afternoon off and commute in just for a half hour meeting.

“There’s a lot of benefits there,” Michael says.

Video conferencing encourages connections and a unified company culture

Zoom conference calls allow multiple attendees to log in to the same call from wherever they are in the world. While this is essential for remote teams to conduct their daily tasks, it’s also a useful tool for full company updates and connection.

“Our global HQ is in the US, and we have offices in Tokyo, Sydney, Singapore, London and Amsterdam,” Michael says.

“We can never solve [the problem of] time zones but the ability to get on a call with team members across the world [is game changing].”

As you would expect, the international Zoom team use their own tool for meetings, calls and other communications. They also use it to employ an ‘all-hands’ session where everyone in the company joins a call at the same time.

“Every two weeks we do an all hands … We hear from our CEO directly, [he interacts] in real time with questions from Australia, Tokyo [and others],” he says.

“If you’re going to build a good culture, you’re going to need to have good trust as well. As we have teams situated in lots of parts of the world and as we’re growing, the ability to interact regularly and in an effective way over Zoom is [paramount].”

To see the true value of these calls, Michael likes to ask the question – ‘what if we didn’t do it?’

“We’d be relying on catching up once a year and relying on impersonal emails and so forth,” he says.

“Getting instant reactions and seeing the response of people’s faces obviously plays a lot to that trust factor.”

He also sees the effects of these calls in the efficiency of the global company.

“The speed of the responsiveness and the ability to get the message out really quick just allows us to move quickly.”

Good video communication will attract top talent and encourage flexible working conditions

Arguably, all of these tips fall under the primary use for video communication — to connect people who are not in the same physical space.

“I was the first employee [in Australia] a couple of years ago, and we wouldn’t have been able to grow as quickly as we [did] to the 80-odd people we have across Asia without using tools such as Zoom,” Michael says.

“Being remote and having that connection back in is really important.”

From an employer’s perspective, removing restrictions on where a potential employee might live has the potential to increase access to talent.

“I’ve got the best people I can source, and they can be wherever they want to be,” Michael says.

“We’ve got a guy in Brisbane, he’s extremely good at what he does and him being able to do his job through Zoom just changes the game.”

For global companies, this is imperative, but equally, teams located within one city can use video to accommodate flexible working conditions.

“Anecdotally, and also some of the research that we’ve seen says, more than half of people in Australia will say they’re more productive at home,” Michael says.

“Whether it be around savings in travel time, whether it be around less distractions because you have to be able to have some thinking time, there’s a lot of flow-on effects specifically around productivity.”

What’s next for video communication?

In its current iteration, video conferencing is an essential component to a business’ success from sole traders, small businesses through to large global incorporations. However, as with all areas of tech changes are expected.

When asked about the future of video communications, Michael shared his thoughts on the integration of technologies like artificial intelligence with video.

“We’re talking about how do we make a virtual or video experience better than being in person,” he says.

“For example, in a meeting AI can recognise your face, it’ll source your details it might even link in with something like linkedIn and provide me your profile. All those things become a richer experience.”

Though this does seem somewhat futuristic, Micahel is adamant it’s nothing to be fears.

“Again, you’re not replacing physical [in-person interactions] but you are enhancing the understanding and learning within a collaborative environment.”

Tips for using video communication

When incorporating video conferencing into your work flow, there are a few things you can do to ensure you have the best experience.

1.    Lighting

When using video communication, it’s important to make sure your location is lit correctly to ensure your video recipient can see you. This may mean moving away from windows which may cause backlighting if they are behind you or harsh shadows. Equally, low light can be an issue, so make sure you have overhead lighting or a lamp handy to combat low sunlight.

2.    Invest in good quality headphones

While relying on your computer speakers and microphone capabilities may be adequate in a quiet home environment. This may not always be the case in a full office, co-working space, or if you get stuck needing to take a call while you’re out and about. There are plenty of good ones on the market, and it could be the difference between a seamless video call and a frustrating one where everyone is having to repeat themselves again and again.

3.    Troubleshoot in advance

Have a few tried and tested troubleshooting options available for when issues invariably show up. For example, your internet security software may block your webcam or audio. Or the headphones you’re using may not produce the best audio quality. Know where your settings preferences are for the apps you’re using to check for simple fixes like deselecting options that block audio or webcam access.

4.    Always have a backup option

While technology standards are increasing all the time, technology often has a way of failing just when you need it most. Zoom allows you to dial into video calls from a landline, for those who can’t use their computers for whatever reason. But you may have other preferred backup methods.

– Bree Caggiati

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