FoundersForge webinar of “Going Virtual” spotlights options, provides some best practices

As David Nelson explained at the beginning of yesterday’s webinar on working virtually, it is entrepreneurs who have as much or more experience than most individuals working remotely. That is certainly true for sole founders who frequently work from home, a coffee shop or, if they are lucky, a co-working space. It’s also true for small start-up teams that are located in different communities or states.

“I know it is a crazy time,” Nelson said as he moderated the one-hour session delivered by Zoom, one of the virtual collaboration and connection technologies that was discussed. The event was sponsored by FoundersForge, a Northeast Tennessee organization founded by entrepreneurs to support others in the start-up world.

About three dozen individuals participated in the event, titled “Going Virtual,” that featured a discussion of the various tools that many remote workers and organizations use and a list of best practices followed by a robust Q&A period.

The major options discussed were UberConference compared to FreeConferenceCall, and Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Cisco Webex. In the case of the first two, it appeared to me that the major differences were: (1) 50 simultaneous connections on UberConference vs. 1,000 for FreeConferenceCall; and (2) a five-hour limit on the length of the event for the former vs. unlimited length of the video call for the latter.

“Slack works very well with the tech community,” Nelson said. “It’s all about getting your team together and outlining how you are going to use it.” As far as Microsoft Teams, he noted that “it might be the better choice” for users that already have Office 365.

Zoom is a technology that I use frequently for when a face-to-face interview is not practical such as right now, and I have noticed that several of the national networks are now using Cisco Webex to connect with pundits who are no longer available for an in-person studio discussion.

“These are the top tools,” Nelson said. “You need to evaluate what works best for you.”

On the best practices front, he offered a number of useful ideas that were supplemented by others during the Q&A session.

  • Ensure that the at home or other remote work space feels like an office. It should be dedicated space that is used for that purpose only. Also, set expectations for any children and other family members regarding the space.
  • Dress for the day and keep a schedule. Make it feel like you are at work. Since you’re not commuting, dedicate that time to exercise.
  • Have a well-lit room and always use the camera for online meetings. “This (being on video, not just audio) holds you and your team together,” Nelson said.
  • Have a good set of headphones and microphone and mute the mic when not talking.
  • Resist distractions like having a television on while you are working.
  • Set an alarm for break times, since the normal distractions that occur in the office will not be occurring.
  • Tell co-workers your schedule each day and when you will be available online. That builds the sense of being a team.
  • Remember the power of the watercooler (or coffee machine) and random conversations that occur there. Make sure to schedule some online.
  • Find things to do when you are not working to take care of your own mental health.

Nelson also noted that many of the services discussed are offering discounts to get more users to try their products. While the offers are a direct result of the coronavirus, they also provide a less expensive way to see what best works for individuals.

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