Video conferencing is a great way to have face-to-face meetings with clients and colleagues worldwide without booking a flight. People in the USA, China, and Australia can all be in the same room while putting their ideas across and sharing information.
While this type of technology has always been advantageous for international affairs, never has it been more important than in recent times when restrictions on travel have been in place. Being reliant on technology has been one of the only ways of communicating.
However, video conferencing is still relatively new for many people, especially before 2020, and scheduling international meetings and getting things to run smoothly is still quite the challenge. But that doesn’t mean that you should give up yet; our ten tips for video conferencing with international teams will provide you with all the information you need to know to communicate with the world easily and effectively.
10 Tips for Video Conferencing
Tip 1: Think About Time Zones
This should be one of the first things you think about when scheduling a virtual meeting with someone on the other side of the world. What might be a mid-morning meeting for you could potentially mean your international colleague having to get up at 4 am.
One of the best ways of ensuring that everyone is happy is to talk to each team member and find out a time that works well for them. If, after doing this, you are no closer to finding a suitable time, it might be a good idea to rotate times so that everyone has a chance to join the meeting at various times in the day. However, this will only work well if the sessions are on a regular basis.
Of course, you could invest in a world clock, so at least you know that contacting your international colleagues won’t disturb their evening meal.
Tip 2: Understand Each Other’s Culture
One of the most common problems for people worldwide is that there is a cultural divide; what is acceptable in Japan may come across as utterly rude in India.
Before you start bringing your team together, take the time to explore one another’s culture, and check for any things that might offend. One great example of this is that those in Europe take far more vacation days from work than those in the US; expecting a European to forego one of his vacation days might be absurd, so it is worth educating yourself on other countries’ customs.
Tip 3: Make The Most Of Technology
It is hard to imagine a time where technology was not as advanced as it is now, so why waste what we have?
Since working with international teams can be challenging, it is worth making the most things like instant messengers to contact those who aren’t currently in the office. Alternatively, using platforms such as Google Drive to share files is an excellent way of keeping everyone in the loop, regardless of their time zone.
Tip 4: Move Away From Work
Mainly, you will be discussing work-related subjects with your international colleagues, but it is crucial to building a bond with these people.
As such, many business experts suggest taking part in bonding activities. This doesn’t need to be complicated; something as simple as a virtual coffee morning where work-talk is off-limits will be sufficient. Or how about trying a fun question and answer game to get to know each other a little better?
Tip 5: Communication Is the Key
There is a high chance that there will be a language barrier among international teams, so video conferencing can be challenging when trying to understand one another.
Aside from learning the native language of one or all of your colleagues, which we know is unrealistic, there are things you can do to make things easier.
If you have the luxury of a translator - use them or if you have the funds, consider hiring one. Alternatively, translation earbuds are relatively inexpensive and can be a lifesaver for international conferencing.
Tip 6: Make Sure You All Have The Correct Software
It is highly unlikely, but make sure that every member of the international team has access to the required software and a good internet connection.
In some countries, there may not be the relevant services or software in place, so you must be sure to cater to everyone so that nobody misses out on the video conference, for example, in some countries, such as Iran, Sudan, and Syria, where Microsoft Teams may not be available.
Tip 7: Be Prepared For Additional Time
If the meeting that you are planning should last for one hour, schedule an hour and a half into your diary. This is important in any video conference but when dealing with teams all over the world is of even greater importance.
In the main, this is because your global team may take longer to settle into the call than a local one. There may be issues with connectivity in some parts of the world, and introductions may take longer than usual.
If your video conference doesn’t run over, then you have earned yourself a few minutes break before moving on with your next task.
Tip 8: Double Check That Everyone Understands
Nobody wants to admit when they don’t understand something, especially if it means interrupting a meeting that is in full swing. If you are leading a discussion between international colleagues, it can be constructive to ask if everyone understands consistently.
This is another reason you should extend the average time of a video conference for international teams as you may spend quite some time going over things again.
Be patient with your colleagues. If you are not speaking in their native language, it is better to go over things twice than not have the job done correctly as your instructions were misinterpreted.
Tip 9: Think About Titles
Referring back to culture, how you address an international colleague or client might be vastly different from how you address your co-workers at home.
For example, in France, it is considered extremely rude not to address someone as Monsieur so-and-so or Madame insert-name-here, whereas in the USA, greeting someone on a first-name basis from the off might be far more acceptable.
Be aware of these subtleties, and be sure that you address the person or people on the other end of the call correctly.
Tip 10: Arrange Real Life Meetings Where Possible
Video conferencing is an excellent tool, and most modern business would be lost without it. However, it can never replace the human interaction and bond that develops from meeting someone in the flesh.
For this reason, if you have a group of colleagues with whom you regularly video conference if you are ever in the part of the world, make an effort to drop by.
Not only will this give you a clearer understanding of your co-workers, but it will also allow for a far easier interaction on video calls.
There is no denying that international teams are essential to many businesses, and communicating worldwide has been made far easier through video conferencing, especially when travel is limited. However, one should always be prepared to deal with international clients and co-workers and understand what might affect their video conference. This might include breaking language barriers, understanding how to address people correctly, and finding the right time to contact people. All of these things combined will make for far more straightforward international video conference calls.