Law firms across America are pivoting to video conferences during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to keep business moving even while most of the country is sheltering in place. In order to make these video conferences as effective as possible, especially when mediating between clients, it’s important to make it feel as much like an in-person conference as possible. Paying attention to the details, from the audio visuals to your interactions with the parties, leads to a more efficient e-mediation.
If you’re new to using virtual conference rooms, the following tips will help set you up for success.
- Good lighting is important. It can be difficult—especially when working from home—to create a professional-looking e-mediation setup. You might need to make some adjustments to your office lighting so that the other parties can clearly see you. If you’re sitting in front of a window, you’ll be backlit, which says “witness protection” more than “experienced legal professional.” Move your seating so that the light is shining toward your face, not behind it. This might involve putting a lamp or other light source behind your monitor and webcam.
- Test your audio first. Making sure the other attendees can hear you is crucial to a successful video conference. Some people choose to use external headsets and microphones in order to prevent echoes and static. If you decide to use one, make sure that your software settings recognize the external mic. You might want to experiment by recording audio first, which will allow you to test the sound. If it’s not clear, try pinning the mic to a different part of your shirt or switching headsets.
- Position the camera at eye level. If you were at an in-person mediation, no one would be looking up your nose—but if you’re using a laptop or monitor with a built-in camera, the other parties might be doing just that. Position your camera so that it’s at eye-level. You might need to prop it up with large books or a laptop stand, but the result will be a more professional, natural appearance.
- Close your other apps. If you were hosting a conference in person, you probably wouldn’t be running a bunch of different programs or apps during the meeting. It’s no different with a virtual conference. Not only will other programs make noise and distract you while you’re supposed to be focusing on the mediation, but they can also slow your computer down and divert resources away from the virtual conference program. This results in lags, screen freezes and other unprofessional problems. Only have open what you absolutely need, and remember, even if the other parties can’t see your screen, they’ll be able to hear everything you do. Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking.
- Read the room. Finally, part of mediation involves reading the room. Just as you would in person, virtually watching others’ reactions to your proposals and suggestions can give you clues as to who is satisfied and who might disagree. In order to do this, enable the “gallery view” feature on your conference software. This will show you everyone onscreen at the same time, so you can observe them during the mediation. Generally, you should use the gallery view anytime there are more than two parties in a conference room.
- Stay until everything is wrapped up. In an in-person mediation or conference, you would stay until everything is finished and the parties have left the building in order to prevent parties from talking to each other on their own, and the same applies here: wait until at least one party, if not all of them, have left the conference room before you disconnect, too.
Using these simple tips will help your Florida virtual conferences go off without a hitch.
If you’d like to see these tips in action during your next e-mediation, then please contact the firm to get your mediation scheduled.