When it’s time for your next video conference, these eight tips will help you keep things on track. It can be difficult to manage calls when they’re remotely hosted, but as the host, you actually have the most control over the progress and direction of the call. Using your conference calling platform tools, a good agenda, and an eye for minimizing distraction, you can host your most productive calls yet. We’ll cover using an agenda, creating a calm environment, and more in this short guide to keeping video conferences on track. 1. Use An Agenda! All meetings need to have an agenda. Why? Because a meeting without an agenda is like a ship without a compass. Your agenda is your compass in the rough waters of side-conversations, distractions, and other derailing things. Agendas are super simple to create, and there are thousands of online templates you can use if you’ve never made one. At the end of the day, though, the only thing you really need is a pen and paper or a Word document. Spell out who’s attending, when the meeting takes place, and what you’ll cover. 2. Enforce a Dress Code Let’s be honest—we’ve all spent at least some time lounging around in our pajamas while working remotely. The temptation to get out of bed, make some coffee, and head up to the office in our jammies is real, and there’s nothing wrong with that…until you need to attend a meeting. Even if you’re just meeting with your project manager for a brief catch-up, you should dress accordingly. If you’re hosting a meeting, encourage everyone to dress appropriately in order to set the tone for the meeting. If everyone is wearing pajamas, it’s hard to step into that professional business mindset. 3. Give Everyone a Chance to Speak This tip is straightforward, but you need to remember to temper that freedom to speak with some conscious monitoring of what gets said and when. Yes, everyone should get a chance to speak, but the host should be monitoring to ensure no one is being interrupted or saying things that might be offensive to others. As long as the conversation is kept within the subject matter, getting everyone to participate actually helps a meeting move along. 4. Minimize or Eliminate Background Noise (And Encourage Participants To Do The Same) The bane of online meetings is the dreaded background noise, and it comes in many forms. Maybe Spot didn’t get enough food in his bowl this morning, and he’s howling in the background. Or, maybe Jenny is intrigued by mommy’s camera and won’t leave the office. Background noise may not be entirely preventable, but you can spare others from your background noise by taking a few simple steps to minimize or completely eliminate it: Host or attend meetings in a closed room with a locking door Move away from sound sources Use the mute button! Make sure your family or co-habitants respect meetings time and don’t intrude Your conference call service provider should be able to provide you with all the tools you need for a seamless meeting, so choose carefully. 5. Troubleshoot Tech Problems (And Open the Conference A Bit Early We’ve all been to that meeting where someone’s microphone was malfunctioning and the entire room had to witness the fumbling, panicked troubleshooting mid-meeting. The best way to avoid this is to simply check your equipment before the meeting even starts. If you’re the host, you can start things off a bit early to allow for real-time troubleshooting for your participants. The unfortunate thing about tech problems is they’re not always noticeable until you’re in the meeting room. Most meeting platforms will bring up a troubleshooting screen before you enter a meeting. Use the “test video and audio” features before you jump into a call to ensure everything’s working. Also, make sure you’re using a reliable internet connection! 6. Turn Off Notifications There’s nothing more distracting than someone’s phone dinging in the middle of a presentation. With nearly 81% of Americans using smartphones, it seems like we live off of our phones. But a meeting is no place for such distractions. The best way to avoid any problems is to turn off notifications before you go into your video meeting. Video meetings allow everyone to see your face, which means they can tell when you’re looking down at your phone. And let’s be honest—it feels rude and even disrespectful when you’re trying to talk to someone and they’re looking at their phone. So, be polite, silence your phone, and check it once the meeting is over. 7. Use The Mute Button If You’re Not Speaking Remember the part about minimizing distractions? The mute button is everyone’s best friend in a conference call. The golden rule: if you’re not speaking, mute yourself. That way, the focus is on the person who’s speaking and not on your neighbor’s lawn mower in the background. 8. Encourage “Cameras On” As the meeting host, you’ll want to encourage “cameras on” for a few reasons. For starters, it enforces accountability. That is to say, you’ll hold everyone in the call accountable for being there and participating. It’s easy to do other things like scroll on the phone with cameras off. Secondly, you’ll increase the privacy and security of your call. You don’t actually know who’s on the other end of that line, and seeing their face can help ensure you’re talking to the right person. You might be surprised by some of the lengths hackers go to just to get into company calls where sensitive information is being discussed. And lastly, you want cameras on for the sake of body language. Much of our communication as humans in non-verbal, and without body language, we’re losing that precious piece.