Every year thousands of publishing professionals travel to London for the London Book Fair. Many of these people are flying from across the world to have a few meetings. This year the London Book Fair was cancelled due to Covid-19 and publishing professionals were instead reliant on remote meetings to be able to arrange crucial business deals.
The London Book Fair is not the only major event that has been cancelled because of the virus; in February global air traffic was down by 4.3% because many business meetings were called off. NASA and the European Space Agency announced a significant reduction in pollution above Wuhan since January 1.
The reduction in emissions in China shows the impact that travel has on the environment and reveals the extent that remote meetings can help reduce businesses’ carbon footprint.
This post was written just one week ago, and circumstances are changing daily. Our staff, freelancers and authors are now all working remotely, the office is closed to visitors and we are in lockdown.
What is a remote meeting?
A remote meeting is when a business uses technology to run a meeting online. Many businesses have found that online alternatives to face-to-face meetings can be faster, more efficient and more collaborative. Video conferencing through apps like Skype, Zoom and Google Duo is one of the major ways that meetings can take place online and massively reduce the need for individuals to travel the office to talk with colleagues.
Other apps like Google Docs can be used as an alternative to a traditional face to face meeting as it allows multiple people to work collaboratively on a project simultaneously.
How do you make remote meetings more engaging?
The environmental benefits to remote meetings are clear but many businesses find that remote meetings are not as successful as face-to-face conversations. At Wordcatcher Publishing, we regularly use technology to liaise with authors and industry professionals around the world.
Here are 10 suggestions for a smoother online meeting experience:
- Test all the technology before the meeting
- Instal the software or app on more than one device (if it’s not just in a web browser window)
- Ideally, have one device running the conferencing software while you can still work on your desktop or laptop – it can be distracting having it running, particularly on smaller screens. Although, this isn’t going to work if you need to share your screen.
- Put devices into Do Not Disturb mode to prevent notifications interrupting the conversation – put your phone on silent
- Be aware of any global time differences
- Have a clear agenda for the meeting and circulate it in advance if possible
- Speak one at a time, otherwise a meeting will descend into chaos. Make sure someone is in charge of the meeting and can take control by muting users if necessary.
- Make sure you log in at least 5-10 minutes early to make sure the software is running properly and you have the correct login details. It’s better to be waiting a couple of minutes than find some unexpected hitch and arrive ten minutes late.
- Stick to time. As with any meeting, these things can go on longer than they need to and end up wasting participants’ time
- If your connection is poor, switch video off. This uses more bandwidth than voice alone.
People are moving to remote working as an absolute necessity
As we are forced to move to become a greater workforce working from home, remote meetings will become normal over the coming weeks. In an unscientific poll last night, 9 out of the top 10 free apps in the Apple Store were video conferencing and remote working tools, and not a game in sight.
It only remains to be seen if the inevitable increase in video communication places an undue burden on data networks and data processing centres.
There is the real potential that the current global crisis might change the face of working for millions of people. It remains to be seen if that will be positive in the long-term – homeworking can be isolating and requires discipline to stay focused on work when the cat wants to be fed or personal visitors come calling.
Will this lead to a trend of more homeworking after the all-clear? Does that mean companies will have to be more flexible in the future and offices might become smaller, if not yet obsolete? There is no doubt that 2020 is going to be very different to previous years, and may shape the way we live and work for many more to come.