In our current situation where social distancing is encouraged, we’re always looking for tools that would help us continue to communicate and do business virtually. One tool that has grabbed the market is Zoom, a video conferencing platform. In this first of a two-part series, Stephen Krausse discusses how we can get value out of video conferencing platforms as small business owners, as well as how we can find ways to get real value for our businesses through video. Take this great opportunity to learn how to use video and use this new tool. Make sure you tune in to this episode!
Listen to the podcast here:
Getting Value Out Of Zoom And Video Conferencing | Up And To The Right | Episode 036
If you haven’t heard of Zoom already, it is a video conferencing platform that has seen a large increase in business since we started social distancing, which make sense. Based on the situation, we’re going to start looking for tools. Zoom is a good solid platform and has managed to grab the market. I am going to talk a little bit about why that happens. There are many platforms like Zoom around. Why did they take off versus some other ones? The why of it is not necessarily important to business owners like ourselves in one way, but it is good to understand what the differentiators are. There’s been a couple of reasons why they’ve been in the news. One is this explosive growth that they’ve had and also, security concerns have come up. We’ll talk about both of those things as well.
This is not going to be about Zoom. Zoom is just a keyword that people are seeing a lot. This is going to be a discussion of teleconferencing or video conferencing in general. What can we do? This is the first of a two-part series that I’m going to do. This one’s going to be, “How do we get value out of the platform as small business owner? How do we find ways to get real value for our businesses through video?” The next one, I’m going to get more technical, but only in as much as, how do we get the best results we can either from the gear that we already own or from a modest investment? If we have money to invest, where should we put that money? Where should that money go versus one aspect of video to another? Where is that money best spent?
This is a great opportunity to learn how to use video and use this new tool. It is also important that we learn as much about the technology that we need to know, but also as much as we can about how to get value for our business out of the technology. Video and audio like any high-tech component of our business, you can go down a rabbit hole pretty fast. At some point, you’re going to stop adding value to your business and increase cost and spend time doing something that isn’t bringing you value. How do we balance that so that we make sure that we are getting the value? The principle that we’re talking about here is effectively using the resources we have. In some cases, we may not have all the resources and we have to look at that.
Are These Platforms Secure?
This is going to be a two-part series of getting the value out of video conferencing solutions and also the technical side of it, which were going to talk about in the next episode. How do we get the most out of the equipment that we already own? The first thing that comes up when people look at this stuff is, are these platforms secure? That’s been in the news a lot. Zoom has been unfairly criticized. I won’t say they don’t have work to do, but I do think that there’s throwing the baby out with the bath water thing going on here with that particular platform. Are they secure? No. Nothing on the internet is completely secure. It won’t be, at least nothing that we have access to. Maybe there’s some super-secret government video conferencing at Area 51 that is secure. For our purposes, there isn’t a 100% secure platform.
The question for us as small business owners is, is it secure enough for the purpose that we need to use it for? If you’re going to be doing a presentation with a client, is it secure enough to do that? In most cases, I believe that that is 100% yes. You can follow some specific guidelines on how do we make this as secure and safe for myself and my participants as possible. When it comes to down to the risk reward equation, the reward is going to outweigh the risk by a lot. Especially for us as small business owners. We don’t have a ton of money to put into security and extra firewalls that on the technology side might be a value, but there’s also not a lot of value in hacking us. We’re not going to have a super-secret thing that we’re doing that is going to get released at E3 or some other product secrets or trade secrets that someone’s going to get a lot of value out of hacking our specific meeting.
There is some risk that we’ll talk about when I talk about how to deal with the platform itself. Are these platforms secure? Not 100%. They can’t be but they are secure and there are ways that we can help keep them as secure as possible. In the specific case of Zoom, they’ve gotten a lot of negative attention around this. They did stop all of their feature additions and all of their product development until they have patched the security holes that they have been brought to a task about. Are they 100% secure? Of course, not. When we look at them, there are some things we can do to help keep ourselves as secure as we can. I don’t want to make it sound like we shouldn’t be using these tools. I think we should be using them for a number of reasons. I use Zoom. I don’t think it’s insecure that it’s a problem for my businesses. It’s either one of them.
The first thing is, don’t publish your meeting links. There’s a meeting that I go to every week that they published a meeting link. That’s not good practice. Is someone going to hack it? Probably not, but you could get people who wanted to post something in the chat that’s spam for selling. When you’re a small organization or a small business, the odds of somebody meeting bombing you are not very high. Don’t publish the meeting link. Send the meeting link to registered participants. For customer meetings where things might be intellectual property, only invite the people to that meeting that you want to participate in. Both of those things are available on most of these platforms. Also, have a backup plan. What if something does go wrong? Don’t let that surprise you and put you off your game. If something goes wrong in a meeting, have a plan to deal with it. Whether if somebody’s meeting bombs and they’re throwing spam in there and you can’t get them out of the meeting for whatever reason. How are you going to respond to that?
All of these platforms, you should be able to kick somebody out of the meeting. If they’ve targeted you and they have the link, they may be able to continue to get on under a different email address or whatever. Have a plan. I’ve never had it happen. I think for small businesses, the likelihood of it happening is very small. While they’re out there and they could happen, it’s not very likely. We’ll go through a couple of the video or a few video conferencing platforms that are out there. Zoom is out there. People use Skype, WebEx, Google Hangouts, Join.me, and Zoho Meeting or all the big guns. There are a lot of other ones like 8×8. One is not better than the other.
Similarities And Differences
I use a number of these on a regular basis. There’s no saying, “This one is better for everything all the time.” There are different factors that go into what makes one more useful than another one. What is the difference between one of these platforms and another? Before we talk about that, let’s talk about what makes them the same stuff we all get. What is in every single one of these platforms? Audio, video, screen sharing and chat are almost ubiquitous. You don’t have to make a choice based on those. You’re going to get those features in almost every single case. I can’t think of a single platform that offers video content or video presentation or video chat that does not have those four things as part of its platform.
We started to talk about what makes them different and how do we choose something for our own business? The first thing you need to understand is, what do you need? What is the workflow that you’re going to be using on the platform and how is that going to be promoted? How is that workflow going to be enabled by the platform that you choose? If you don’t need to file share, maybe you don’t need a specific platform. If you don’t need a full screen video, maybe you don’t need a specific platform. Some of the differences that do come up are call in links. If you have a scheduled meeting, can people call in on a regular phone if they don’t have access to a laptop or a desktop computer? Is that a possibility? Is it designed for meetings or just video calling?Nothing on the internet is completely secure. Click To Tweet
For example, in my experience, Skype is good for video calling and not as good for meetings. If you’re going to have twenty people or even ten people, I haven’t found Skype to be as successful. A lot of times, it’s because people don’t have it. I had a conference call where they wanted to use Skype for business because they couldn’t use regular Skype. I couldn’t use Skype for business and connect to them. I think it had to do with the infrastructure of the security on their side in terms of who could join their Skype meetings because it was a Skype for business environment. In any case, it didn’t work. I ended up having to call in. That part worked, but we couldn’t use video chat or anything like that. There are limitations on some of these things. You need to understand what you’re going to need and what you want to use before you can make a choice.
Fullscreen video, this is one of the things I like about Zoom in particular versus the other choices. I’ve tested most of these at one point or another. Their feature sets changed. I have not done this research recently, but at the time that I chose Zoom, they were the only platform that would allow us to present in full screen video. Most of the other platforms had mosaic. They would show full screen if you were sharing a presentation and you would be a little thumbnail, but they never allowed you to show the whole camera view full screen, which Zoom does. That might not sound too important, but if you’re presenting and you don’t want to present to PowerPoint, I don’t feel like those are engaging. Someday maybe I’ll do a show about how much I hate presentations by a person that are just talking over a slideshow.
They’re much more comfortable for the presenter but being able to stand up in front of the camera with whatever you’re trying to do, a demonstration of or in this case, we were doing webinars for our high-tech products for directed energy. Those things are much more interesting if you can show them working or have them in your hand and talk about it or be able to connect with the audience by being present and standing in front of the camera. Zoom still allows us to do that. That’s one of the benefits that I like. At least having that option. I’m not saying you have to use it, but having the option is great. Most of these, you have to download a client, which means you have to download an application to use. That can be a barrier when it comes to talking about, “I want to do a Zoom meeting with a customer,” or “I want to do a Zoho Meeting with a vendor.”
If they don’t already have it downloaded, they’re going to need to download it, get it working on their computer before the event starts. That’s something that as a business owner, we need to be thinking about this in advance and say, “We’re going to ask customers to use this particular platform.” What does that look like when they’re trying to get ready and they’re trying to participate? How difficult is that? Is it something that they can do? Is it something that’s not a realistic expectation? Maybe it’s going to eat the first ten minutes of your meeting time because they’re going to sign on and it’s not going to work. There’s going to be an audio problem because their mic’s not talking to their software or whatever. It’s something that you need to understand as a business owner.
The next differentiator that I want to talk about is cost. Here’s one of the things that made Zoom popular so fast when social distancing became a thing. They have a free option because they offer their base product for free. It’s easy to rationalize, “Let’s use that one.” Their free product has a pretty good feature set. WebEx has up their own game and they also have a free option, but it was not as robust and they have bumped that up. I’m sure it’s in response to the fact that Zoom exploded when social distancing became important. WebEx has a free option, Zoom has a free option, Join.me is $10 a month. Zoho Meeting is $8 a month. Skype is free for a small group of people.
Google Hangouts is shutting down. I have no knowledge of the Google verse beyond what everybody else does. They were planning on shutting down Google Hangouts. Are they going to change that because social distancing is still going to be important going forward or because there’s something there that they can leverage? I don’t know. We may see some changes there, but that one’s also free. Skype and Google Hangouts, those are more one-on-one phone calls, maybe a small group. If you’re going to share your screen, you don’t have a lot of options, but you can get through a video call with those tools. If that’s what you have and the price is right, then we can use those to do that work. If you want to have a meeting with presentation and participation, then some of these other tools become more interesting and more compelling. Some of the other features that they’ll have for group meetings is raising your hand, responses like clapping that are all in a participant panel. They’re not necessarily distracting to the speaker, but they can be used to augment the meeting or provide nonverbal participation while somebody is talking. That can be valuable.
The other thing that some of these do that’s worth thinking about is record. It depends on the state or country’s laws, you do have to let people know they’re being recorded. That’s important. It is also something that can be valuable. How can we use these tools in our small business to get value and engage with customers calling people? We’ve been calling people a long time. We can use our phones. It’s in the real life events that we can’t have or that we should be avoiding that we need to look at and say, “How can I do this in a new environment and in a new way? How can we stay socially distant and still achieve our goals?” One thing that’s nice about getting into video, when we have these requirements for social distancing, is that it does allow us to see other people including those clients that might have only seen us when they came into the shop.
We get value out of that personal connection and if we can’t be there in real person, being able to make eye contact on video is the next best thing. There’s a lot to be said for being able to see them and make eye contact when we can’t be there in person. Another thing I wanted to touch on and along those lines is this is a great time to get into practicing video. Everybody’s jumping in with both feet and expectations are low because we’re not good at it. There are a lot of challenges to doing video well. I said, everybody’s jumping in with both feet, but that’s not true. We’re jumping in because we have to. If you take this opportunity to jump in with both feet and say, “I’m going to do this thing. I’m going to do it as well as I can, given the environment and the situation that I’m in,” you will be a step ahead of everyone who is tentatively putting their foot in the water because they don’t have any other choice.
Embracing Video Communication
Now is the time to embrace video communication. I can guarantee that anybody who is watching this video has everything they need to do video conferencing. Can we do it better? Of course, but you have what you need to do it and we can get value out of it. If you take the time and spend a little bit of energy learning how to do it and embracing it, you’re going to be ahead of the curve when you realize that we can still use video conferencing and video as a tool in general after the pandemic abates. We won’t go back to the way things were because things will have changed in our culture. When things go back to where people can come into the store again, you’ll still have the benefit of being able to use this new tool effectively going forward.
What are some of the things we can do in real life that we can now push to the video environment? One is workshops. We can do a workshop, customer calls with presentations, regular customer calls. I would encourage you to call a customer on video if they’ll take the call that way over any other call media because you get that personal connection. I would even encourage you to do that before COVID because it’s a more personal call. They might not take it and people aren’t used to being on video as much. There are some barriers to that but the more we can use video when we have to work with somebody across distance, the better. Customer service calls, is there something that you can do in video that maybe someone would come into your location or you would go into their location to perform a service call? You may still have to have some amount of in-person work, but is there some portion of that work that can be done through video?With video conferencing platforms, when it comes down to the risk-reward equation, the reward outweighs the risk by a lot. Click To Tweet
If we call somebody to fix a furnace, we assume that they’re going to come in and have all the parts on their truck and know exactly what to do to fix it. What if that weren’t true? What if they don’t always have all the parts on their truck and they don’t always know that that clicking sound means this when we make the call and report it? If we could incorporate as the vendor or as the provider, “Can you get on a video call with me, go down and show me the furnace, and let me hear the clicking sound?” A picture is worth a thousand words and a video are worth a thousand words times 24 frames a second. There’s a lot of value in being able to do that. One of the first things that we do for my directed energy business when a customer says, “I hooked it up and it doesn’t work,” is we ask if they can take a picture and send it to us.
I would love to get into having them do video also, but the importance here in order to provide a good service call is being able to see what they’ve done. If you’re talking about video, now they can explain and point and talk about what is happening in their environment for the situation. You then have all of that data that you can go back and say, “When I load the truck, this is what I need,” or “Do we need to send that unit back to the factory?” Maybe they plugged it in backwards or whatever. Customer service calls, is there something that we can do through video that would allow us to get more data and minimize the amount of in-person contact time that we do have if we have to send a service person out or they have to come into our store.
In-person consultation, a lot of service businesses spend a lot of time talking to their customers asking questions. Is there some of that that you can do on video? When you interact with a customer, look at what portion of that is asking questions, listening to the answers, explaining options? Is that something that can be done through a video call rather than in-person? To take that a step further and piggyback on a show about creating revenue streams, does that have specific value? Can you take that portion of your product offering and create a revenue stream out of it so that you can continue operating and still have social distance? Those are all brainstorm of ideas of ways that you can use video conferencing to replace in real life events. I’m sure there are more for your specific business and many other businesses out there. Hopefully, that will get you thinking about what you might be able to do.
Let’s talk about some guidelines to get value out of video conferencing. The first thing is as a rule, it’s just a meeting so run it that way. It’s new technology or fair enough, for those of you who are thinking about it’s not new technology. No, it’s not, but the rapid adoption due to the current social distancing standards that we have is relatively new. There are a lot of people who are new to video. You may be one of them. That enters into the concept of we’re getting on this platform and now it doesn’t feel like the same thing that it would feel like if it was in a conference room. It is the same thing. We’re using a different tool. We may not be in the same room. We’re not supposed to be in the same room, but it’s just a meeting. We need to relax and run it that way. Have an agenda like you would at any other meeting. What’s your expected outcome? Most small businesses don’t have time to have high level strategic planning meetings that don’t result in anything. We need action-oriented meetings.
Let’s have an agenda. What action do you expect from the participants? What do the team members need to get done? What does a potential customer need to do? Maybe you don’t want to put it on them in terms of, “I need you to do this by this.” What action are we hoping to get the customer to do at the end of the meeting? That needs to be on the agenda. We need to understand how we’re going to get from, “How are you? Video’s pretty cool, isn’t it?” to, “I’d like to order 75 of those.” That’s our goal. Business owners, that’s what we care about. How are you going to get from that place of getting on the call to getting that order or getting that next thing? If it’s a vendor, what do you need them to do? What do those people need you to do? The whole meeting may be about what you can do as an entrepreneur or small business owner to support your team, your customers or your vendors.
It needs to come down to action. What action needs to happen as a result of this meeting. You need to be clear about that going into it. From that perspective, it’s no different than any other meeting. We need to know how we’re going to get to action. Have that agenda. Test your setup but don’t test it with the settings panel. That will tell you if your video works for you and whether or not the audio works for you. It’s not going to tell you what the customer experience is like and what the other participant’s experience is like. We want to understand how it works for them. How it works for us is much less important than how it works for our customer. Make a call to a colleague and test the features and see what works and what doesn’t work. Test the features that you expect to use but also test the features that you don’t expect to use in case somebody asks you to use one or somebody knows the software very well and uses it with the assumption that you do too.
Know your system and test your setup. That’s especially true with the software. Be ready to let go. In this environment or in this situation, we don’t get control of all the environment. When I have a meeting in the conference room, I’m well in control of that environment. When I have a Zoom meeting or a Skype meeting or a GoToMeeting, I don’t have any control over the environment that my other participants are in. I still have control of my environment but I don’t have control of their internet connection, their technical knowledge, their video etiquette, their office environment. That could be a bedroom, a kitchen, a living room. We might not have any idea what their environment is like and we don’t have control over it anymore. It’s important to understand that you’re going to have to let that go because you don’t get to fix it, but you do need to have a plan.
How are you going to handle disruptions? Do you need to organize your meeting at a specific time of day? Are you familiar with the situation for each participant? If this is your coworkers, you may be able to talk to them, maybe you could text them and say, “What’s the environment like where we’re going to have this meeting, because we’re going to have customers on the call. Is that okay?” They’re going to say, “My kids are studying from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Maybe that’s the best time to have the meeting.” Understand the environment that your participants are going to be in as much as you can and then set expectations. You can’t tell customers exactly what to do because we’re not the boss of them. We can set the expectations up front. “We know we’re social distancing. We understand that there are times where things might not work like we would expect. If you have a problem, this is what we want to do. Here’s an email address. You can rejoin the meeting. That’s fine.” If you need to drop out, have a rescheduling plan. If this thing goes sideways because somebody can’t get on the internet, what’s your next plan?
Have that ready so that it’s not a surprise and nobody feels uncomfortable about it. Know your software, do some test calls. One thing at the beginning of the call, go over the features of the software, but do not ask, “Does everybody know how to use XYZ platform?” The people who don’t know how to use it don’t want to get called out as not knowing how to do it publicly. In many times, they won’t say, “I don’t know how to use it.” They’re going to hope that they can wing it. We don’t want to put them on the spot so don’t do it. Say, “In the right-hand column is the clap icon.” Go through the features that you expect people to use. If there are advanced features that other people will use, that’s okay. If you don’t need them to achieve your agenda, then don’t go over them. They’re not important to you. If other people use them, that’s fine.
Don’t ask if people are familiar, just go over the features that you want. That puts people at ease because they know how to use what they need to and it keeps them from feeling uneasy because you’ve put them on the spot saying, “You don’t know how to use this tool.” Nobody likes to be ignorant. We don’t want to do that. I was doing my notes and violated this twice. I would strongly encourage you to stay engaged and I did this twice. I signed into two meetings and then I turned off my video and muted my microphone. I was passively listening to the meetings, but I wasn’t engaged. I don’t want to call them social meetings, but they were not me talking to a customer or a vendor or something else. This was me on meetings with colleagues. That’s how I rationalized it. I’m going to do this from now on. You need to decide what you wanted to do with your time because if you’re halfway listening to a meeting and halfway trying to do other work, are you doing either one successfully?
For me, I’m not a multitasker. I should have signed off of those calls and gone on to do other things or turned on my video, left my mic muted and engage with the meeting. That means look at the camera and pay attention to what’s going on. You wouldn’t check your email or your phone or something like that when you’re pitching to a customer. Even if they’re talking and even if they’re going off the rail, if they’re talking about something that doesn’t matter and it’s not applicable, bring them gently back and stay engaged. If it’s not something you have control over, you have to make a choice. At some point, if the meeting has gone to a place where it’s not valuable to you and it’s optional, you have to decide, “Maybe my time is best spent elsewhere,” or “It could be better spent paying attention to the content that I’m looking at here.” Unless you’re having bandwidth issues, stay on camera, keep looking at the camera and pay attention to the content that’s being delivered.
That’s something that I found myself doing that I thought might be interesting for people. It is easy to get into this while I can make this a side thing. I don’t want to hang up because I feel like that might be rude or whatever. If there are that many people on the call and it’s not specifically going to be valuable to you, the odds of them noticing that you’re not on the call anymore are slim. That being important to any of them, I hate to bust your ego, but they probably aren’t going to get too worried about it. Unless they were specifically talking to you or the speaker is a friend of yours. In which case, you should stay engaged and stay on the call anyway, but nobody’s going to even know if it’s a meeting like that. If it’s a meeting where you’re one-on-one with a customer, that’s where video platforms give us enough distance to be dangerous, where we can say, “I can check my email while I’m doing this and still pay attention.” We need to get away from that.
We need to keep our energy and our attention on the task at hand because the people on the call are as human far away as they would be if they were sitting next to you. That’s important. What can we do about doing a video? What can you do in the next 5 or 7 days while we get ready for the next episode, where we talk about the technical aspects? Do a brainstorm for your own business for a couple of things. What aspects of your interactions that might be hampered by social distancing can you achieve using a video conferencing tool? That may turn into a revenue stream. I would encourage you to look at it that way as much as possible. Once you know what you think you want to accomplish, what features are going to be important to make that happen? Start digging into a few of these platforms. You can get into WebEx or Zoom at no cost. The general Skype is free. Skype for business is included with some of their office plans. Join.me and Zoho Meeting have costs.
You can find a platform that you can dig into. Google Hangouts is also free, but I’m not sure spending time learning how to use that tool is going to make sense for a small business owner. If you don’t already know how to use it and you don’t have people in the Google universe that you’re going to be talking to, that might not be the best thing to work with. Find the features that you think you’re going to need and then start doing some tests. Test with a colleague, test with coworkers, try to break it and say, “I’m going to present to colleague the customer proposal that I’m going to do next week. Let’s go through, here’s my introduction, here’s my slide show, here’s my standing up making the presentation, the pitch as if I would do it in person.” Your other participant or your colleague can try the clap icon or the raise hand icon or say, “Your audio doesn’t sound that good. You stepped out of frame of the camera.”
I know nobody probably ever noticed that I move a lot when I talk. If you’re a mover and you’re standing in front of the camera instead of sitting in front of your laptop, which I would encourage, you may move off camera. If you’re pacing a little bit, which might be very engaging, but it could put you off camera. You need to know where your camera starts and stops. In the studio here, I try to plant my feet during the live stream because I have everything set up. I have tape on my desk that shows me where the cameras are because it’s dark behind the lights. I have the same cheats on the carpet in the studio for the standing area so that I know where the camera frame goes or ends. You can put things like that together so that you know where things fall apart. You’re not going to know that if you’re not testing it with somebody. Go through the whole presentation and then go, “What didn’t work?” “You were off camera here,” or “I couldn’t hear you when you were over here.”
You need to try these things with a colleague. Try to break them and see what breaks and then say, “As it turns out, we need a feature that this particular platform doesn’t have. Let’s download another platform and redo it and try it out.” You’ve got a few free options that you can go through. If you need a feature that’s paid, which for most small business owners, you probably don’t need a paid version. I use a paid version of Zoom for one of my businesses and I use the free one for Beyond 50 Percent because I never needed it. As soon as I need it, I’d be more than happy to pay them for it because I believe so much in the value of that particular platform for my needs. Try it out. That’s all I would say in terms of practical action and things to do. If you haven’t already found a platform that works for you, dig into what you can use one for and how it can supplement your business. What kinds of uses you would have for it and what features you’re going to need and then test it, dig into it and try to break it.
Next, we’ll talk about specific technical aspects of video that we can do to improve the overall look and feel of our videos or the performance or whatever. I know it sounds like I’m a Zoom fanatic, at least probably. I do use their platform. I do think it has good value, but there are a lot of them out there. If you Google Video Conferencing App, you’re going to find a lot of services that provide very similar features and functions and cost points. Most of them are going to rattle between free and $10 a month for the features that most of us need on a day-to-day basis. If this episode was helpful to you, I hope that you will like it and share it. Subscribe to the Beyond 50 Percent YouTube channel. That helps share the message and also helps me know what video topics are important or not important. If you’re looking at any business issue, especially operating issues in terms of doing video work, I’ve been doing video for the web since 2015. I’ve got a good handle on it.
If you are trying to implement video or you have some ideas about video, but you’re not sure how to make them happen, please give me a call or visit us at Beyond50Percent.com or email at [email protected]. If you have a topic suggestion or you have questions, next episode we’re talking about video from a more technical aspect. After that, the schedule is open if you have a specific topic or a question that you’d like to see answered, please feel free to email at [email protected] and I’d be happy to look at those things. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, stay socially distanced but don’t stay socially isolated. Get on video and start moving your business forward with the tools we have. Thank you very much.
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