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Techniques: Setting up teleconferencing

by David Blakey

Teleconferencing often does not work as soon as it is taken out of its box.

[Monday 30 March 2020]

When you are setting up teleconferencing between people in their own homes to replace normal meetings at work, there are several things that you need to consider.

Working equipment and connection

Everyone should have equipment and a connection that work now, and will continue to work. I have seen several articles recently that advise people to log on to the teleconference ten minutes ahead of the scheduled time so that they can fix any problems. If someone does have a problem, they are probably not going to fix it within ten minutes.

You should run a series of test sessions ahead of the first real meeting session, to discover what works and what doesn't, and then try to get the problems fixed.. If you know someone who can probably be relied on to have a good connection, leave them till later. Start with the people:

  • who are not familiar with teleconferencing,
  • who don't already have an effective home office,
  • who may not have a reliable Wi-Fi connection, and
  • who are working with a mobile phone or a tablet instead of a laptop or a PC.
The best way to find who is in one or more of those situations is to ask them. Sometimes you will even get photographs of someone's home office sent back to you.

If you do have someone who is likely to experience difficulties, you need to ask yourself if you can solve most of their problems yourself or if you need someone who can provide technical support. If you do need technical support (and I believe that you probably will), then sign on with them first. This also makes sure that they can deal with any problems that you have before you involve the rest of your team. Always make your own notes of any advice given to you or to others by your technical support person.

Now you can call each of your people and ask them to sign on. You can deal with each problem at a time. You should not abandon anyone to be dealt with later. You should inspire confidence that everyone can use the technology and the platform. You should only end your call to each person when they have successfully signed on to the teleconference.

Once everyone is signed on, check that they can all hear each other and that they know how to mute thie microphone. Check this with everyone. Then set a time for everyone to sign on again, which can be only ten minutes in the future, and ask everyone to sign off. Sign off yourself.

At the new sign-on time, sign on and check that everyone else has been able to as well. Ask each person if they are comfortable with signing-on. Be sure to keep your conversations about the business of teleconferencing. If you start using small-talk now, you will set a precedent.

Good environments

Everyone should be in a good environment when they are teleconferencing.

You should not be worried about what you can see behind someone, and nor should they be. If someone decides that the best place to be is their garden shed, then respect that. Ban the feature of being able to add a background. You should be happy with someone's garden shed.

You should be worried about the appearance of pets, children, or other people. Everyone should be separate from the other distractions in their home.

There are also several articles available that suggest that people should avoid outside noises, such as building work. Modern technology should deal with external noises.

It may sometimes be better for people to work at their dining table rather than their desk. One reason for this is the distance that they need between them and the camera. If they are using a laptop, they need to move it at least 400mm away from them to allow them to place papers and other materials in front of them. Some modern slim desks are not deep enough for this, so a bigger space may be better. The person can also position themselves with a blank wall behind them.


Once you have good working equipment and connections and good environments, you are almost ready to start teleconferencing.

When your first teleconference is over, you should start planning the next. Decide whether you need to go through the entire testing procedure again, or if only people who might have problems should be involved, or even if you can manage without a second test. If you decide to go without a test, you should contact everyone and check that they are happy with this decision. Adapt your plan for anyone who is uncomfortable. If everyone is happy without another test, you can then tell everyone that before the next session they should start logging in ten minutes before the scheduled start time.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

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