Lots of us will be working from home as we go back into lockdown, so it’s more important than ever to ensure you and your staff are properly equipped with excellent tools. Microsoft Office 365 comes with everything you need to work from anywhere! It includes Office productivity apps such as Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, that you can access online through any of your devices, as well as OneDrive (plus much more). OneDrive is a cloud storage solution that automatically updates and refreshes instantly over the internet so you can work between devices and access your files securely from anywhere! Office 365 is definitely the way forward right now, as it provides the perfect setup for remote working.
- Avoid any potential technical errors by testing and fixing them before the meeting. It’s wise to quickly double check that your internet is working, and maybe do a quick speed test to check that your call won’t be dropping frames left, right and centre. Also check that your webcam and mic are working fine before the call – this all only takes a couple of minutes but highlighting and resolving potential problems beforehand eliminates any awkwardness or delay if somebody’s microphone, video or internet fails in the meeting.
- If possible, find a quiet area to join the call from. Conference calls can sometimes be hard to follow and chaotic, especially in meetings with lots of active participants. Oftentimes people will accidentally talk over each other due to sound delay or not realising someone else is speaking. Therefore, joining the call from a quiet space with minimal background noise will help by not further adding to this mix of sounds and voices, and not contributing to confusion or distraction. Of course, especially in times like these where multiple people are working/learning in one house, it can be difficult to find an area that is completely silent, and people understand this. Just try to avoid noisy and crowded areas if you can.
- Speak clearly and at a comfortable volume. Again, after experiencing conference calling for a while now, we have probably seen two kinds of extreme when it comes to people’s microphones – those whose mic is way too quiet, making it difficult to hear and understand them, and those whose mic is too sensitive meaning they may drown out others. It is a good idea to test your microphone beforehand with a colleague, friend or family member, to gauge how loud or quiet you come across. This way, you’ll know if you need to speak louder than you would in normal conversation, or tone it down a bit. Also, depending on your device and conferencing software, your microphone sensitivity may be able to be altered, so it might be worth having a play around with that so you can speak at a comfortable, natural volume in meetings.
- Use lighting in the best way possible. Now, most people won’t have any sort of professional lighting set up, as that’s simply not usually necessary. However, you can improve how you light yourself on video calls with a few simple steps! A good piece of advice is to light yourself from the front, not behind – this means if you have a window in the room you’re using, don’t have your back to it, as it will appear as though you’re in a shadow which won’t read well on screen. Instead, use either natural light or a lamp/light coming from the direction of your camera and in line with your face, so you’ll be well lit in order for participants to clearly see you.
- Try to find somewhere with a relatively plain background. Although it’s not overly important what is behind you in a video meeting, in order to minimise distraction, it is best to find a background that isn’t busy and doesn’t have a lot going on. Try to avoid a space which will have others walking behind you, or with a lot of things in view. If this isn’t possible, or you’d rather not show your real-life setup, then most video conferencing platforms have a feature where you can either blur your background or use a replacement one, like a green screen. If this sounds like something you’d prefer, have a look at them! A simple plain wall or bookcase preset background would suffice, although some people like to have more fun with them and make it look as though they’re in space or on a beach! Obviously assess the seriousness and formality of the meeting before going wild with these, but some companies and colleagues like to use them as a bit of fun, so have a look and try them out.
- Test your setup before you start the meeting. This is similar to step 1, however focused less on the technical difficulties and more on your setup as a whole. Make use of the preview area before you join the meeting for real – check that your webcam is ideally around eye level, you are centralised in the frame, and your lighting isn’t too dark or harshly bright. Test your microphone, and maybe most important of all, check you haven’t left a silly background set before you join a serious meeting! Overall, if you follow these steps, your conference calls should be smooth and enjoyable. We hope they go well!
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Microsoft 365 Business Voice is a cloud-based phone system built for small and medium sized businesses. It enables users to make, receive, and transfer calls to landlines and mobile phones within Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft Teams is available in a restricted form free from Microsoft. SMS offer Microsoft Teams free with the following Microsoft 365 plans:
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