A free videoconferencing tool belongs in any productivity kit, and not just for meetings. Used creatively, the combination of webcams and collaboration features can help you streamline other tasks and interactions in your workday, in ways you might never have considered.
Here are five extra ways you can put a free system to work for you.
Host Shorter, Smaller Meetings
At many companies, mammoth meetings with dozens of participants are the norm, yet managers and attendees alike complain that meetings are disruptive and ineffective. In BusinessWeek, consultants Bob Frisch and John Peck write that the ideal number of participants in a meeting where decisions are being made is just three to six people, a figure that fits in pretty well with the limits on many free videoconferencing tools. You can use such a tool to force yourself to keep the invitation list small.
Remember that online meetings needn't be limited to just voice and video. By using collaboration systems like online whiteboards and screen sharing tools to provide real-time presentations, you can incorporate helpful visual aids into your meeting.
While you're at it, try keeping the meeting length to a minimum. (Use your computer or mobile device's timer to set a strict start and end time.) One study suggested that attendee attention span begins to drop off precipitously after the 30-minute mark.
Embrace the Virtual Office
A generation ago, companies were founded by close friends who worked together, often in a spare room or garage until they could afford proper office space. Today that formula has shifted. Companies are launched by groups flung around the world. In some cases, founders may never have met in person.
Web-based videoconferencing makes it easy to manage and collaborate with other workers no matter where they are. With a solid videoconferencing plan, you are free to hire employees and work with contractors no matter where they reside.
Train New Hires without Leaving Your Desk
So you have to show the new hire how to use the CRM system. How to download a pay stub. What PC LOAD LETTER means. Many an office worker knows the hassle of constantly answering emails or having to walk to someone's desk to show the ins and outs of the business.
Videoconferencing is a much more convenient and efficient solution, putting you face-to-face with the trainee so you can more easily tell whether the lesson's sinking in. You can use screen-sharing features to control a desktop remotely and show someone the ropes.
Some videoconferencing tools let you record your conferences, though these features aren't usually available in free installations. Alternatives include tools like Applian Replay Telecorder for Skype ($30) to record your calls with one click. This can be useful for frequently asked questions that would otherwise require numerous one-on-one training sessions. Just upload your most common training scenarios to YouTube or another video-sharing site and point the curious in that direction.
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