Communicate effectively with international customers and remote employees

Video conferencing has been growing steadily over the last decade as companies focused on international expansion and management of staff in regional offices. The use of digital conferencing software underwent exponential growth following the recent lockdown and immediate need for businesses and employees to work from home and continue to communicate effectively with customers and colleagues. It quickly evolved from a nice-to-have into a real business necessity.

Overview & advantages

  • 94%

    of businesses claim that video conferencing has increased their business’s productivity

    Source: skillscounter.com, April 2020
  • 75%

    of CEOs predict that video conferencing will replace regular conference calls

    Source: skillscounter.com, April 2020
  • 89%

    of employees state that video conferences reduce the time it takes to complete projects.

    Source: skillscounter.com, April 2020
  • 77%

    of remote workers report higher productivity levels when working from home

    Source: Hubspot.com
  • 94%

    of businesses claim that video conferencing has increased their business’s productivity

    Source: skillscounter.com, April 2020
  • 75%

    of CEOs predict that video conferencing will replace regular conference calls

    Source: skillscounter.com, April 2020
  • 89%

    of employees state that video conferences reduce the time it takes to complete projects.

    Source: skillscounter.com, April 2020
  • 77%

    of remote workers report higher productivity levels when working from home

    Source: Hubspot.com

There are three main types of video communication and all are expected to be more widely used post Covid-19.

  • Video conferences
  • Webinars
  • Virtual events

Which ones should you use?

A video conference is an online meeting between two or more people over a computer network using both video and audio. There are some obvious advantages to employing video conferencing in a business environment:

  • Enhanced productivity, meetings are more structured and decisions can be made online
  • Savings on travel costs
  • Remote employees feel more like part of the team
  • Reduced employee turnover
  • Improved attendance as meetings are shorter and anyone can easily take part
  • More engaging than audio conferencing
  • Job applicants can be screened in the preliminary stages of the recruitment process
  • Maintain a competitive edge by fostering personalised prospect and customer contact

A webinar is a video presentation normally taking place in real time and aimed at educating prospects and customers. Webinars can be used for lead nurturing, to demonstrate thought leadership, for a product or new feature demo, customer on-boarding or training, and pre-recorded on demand webinars etc. Advantages include:

  • Very cost-effective way to reach a larger audience with similar needs
  • Very good driver of lead generation (especially for lead nurturing)
  • Allows you to present and build your brand
  • Enables you to interact with your target audience via Q&A, survey and poll
  • Allows you to deliver high quality impactful visual content
  • Helps you increase customer satisfaction
  • The webinar can be recorded and placed on your website for others to watch later
  • Easy to measure and enhance your database with new prospects and customer data
  • Gives you the opportunity to attract people from all over the world

A virtual event is an event held online allowing attendees to interact in a virtual environment instead of meeting face to face. After the onset of Covid-19, such events have surged in popularity. Hybrid events, a natural spin off, combine a smaller local event including reduced physical attendance with a virtual conference, trade show, product launch etc.  A larger part of the invitees attend online from more distant locations where travel restrictions are in place. Advantages include:

  • Reduced cost of hosting the event (savings on rental, catering, travel)
  • Time savings
  • Ability to invite more attendees (even thousands from around the globe) resulting in improved efficiency
  • Flexible – interactive, language options, different streams with topics of audience interest etc.
  • Possibility to record the event and share afterwards
  • Enables you to interact with your target audience via Q&A, survey and poll
  • Easy to measure and enhance your database with new prospects and customer data

Solutions

There is a wide choice of software packages and mobile apps on the market and you will need to compare their functionality against your needs and check what may already be available in your existing software. The well-known video conferencing packages include Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Zoom, Skype for Business, Google Hangout, and Whatsapp (which only allows video calls of up to 4 people). In order to find new people to participate in your events, Meetup is a good platform.

There are also a choice of dedicated webinar and virtual event software packages on the market and again it will depend on your needs and your budget. Features you might want to take into account when making your decision are:

  • Maximum number of attendees
  • Automated and live webinars
  • Automated reminders sent to the participants
  • Hybrid pre-recorded and live webinars
  • Branded registration pages
  • Moderated live chat, polling, and Q&A
  • Private chat
  • Automated replay
  • Integration with your other systems
  • Ability to organise with a partner and co-brand
  • Tracking pixels for retargeting
  • Social media integration
  • Communication and engagement features (e.g. automated emails, reminders)
  • Choice of different space types
  • Analytics and reporting

Best practices

The video communication approach is becoming increasingly popular, especially in these changing times. However, it is important to include it in an overall strategy and remember why you are doing it. Is it to optimise internal communication, increase your brand awareness, generate and nurture leads, increase customer loyalty and retention?
Here are a few things to take into account to ensure you get the most out of your video communication activities:

Video conferences:

  • Establish a connection 5 minutes early to enable you to overcome any technical or connection problems and join the meeting in relaxed mode
  • Share the agenda in advance so attendees can prepare well and highlight the planned outcome
  • Note a backup phone number in case you get disconnected
  • Use headsets if several people are attending from the same office to avoid an echo
  • Mute when not speaking to reduce background noise if there are a large number of participants
  • Appoint a meeting facilitator
  • Engage all participants
  • If sharing documents, check they are available on your desktop or in the shared document folder in your video software so you can pull them up quickly

Webinars:

Beforehand:

  • Understand your target audience well and what you want to achieve from the webinar and tailor-make your content to optimise results and meet expectations
  • Use a professional-looking template for your slide deck highlighting your brand
  • Co-brand where it makes sense to give the webinar increased credibility
  • Showcase sponsors in a dedicated area with their logos
  • Invite a guest subject matter expert to co-present or set up a presentation with several panelists and a moderator
  • Make it very easy to register (including automated email confirmation and addition of login details to the attendees’ calendar)
  • Keep the slides text light so that that audience does not lose interest and ensure that the presentation is animated
  • Use images, icons, charts and other visuals to make your slides more attractive and appealing
  • Promote the webinar well with a dedicated webinar registration landing page
  • To maximise attendance, promote via several channels i.e. email, social media, blog post and third-parties and partners as appropriate. Insert a tracking code so you can measure which channels were most successful
  • Organise a dry run with the speakers 3 – 5 days before the due date to allow them to familiarise themselves with the platform and plan a Q&A session if needed
  • Do a test run in advance to check there are no technical issues and to fine-tune the presentation
  • Turn off all notifications on your computer prior to the session
  • The ideal time for a webinar is 45 minutes but you can extend to 60 minutes. Allow 15 minutes for Q&A and interaction
  • Send out an automated email reminder to registered attendees 24 hours in advance and on the same day

During:

  • Establish a connection 15-20 minutes before the start time to enable you to overcome any technical or connection problems and set off in relaxed mode
  • Welcome each of your participants as you would do if you were in the same room provided there are not too many
  • Prepare a script if you are presenting which will help you keep things flowing nicely
  • Manage expectations: Start with what they will learn. If it is a small group you can even ask them what do they expect to get out of your webinar
  • Clearly explain the chat function and planned Q&A at the beginning of the webinar to maximise audience engagement
  • Keep participants engaged throughout by frequently asking questions (via chat or in advance of the webinar) and by providing answers, introducing a short poll, changing speakers during the session
  • Include a satisfaction survey at the end. Keep it short and include questions which provide valuable insights. Include a comments section
  • Talk about your next events if you already know in advance
  • If there is not enough time to answer all questions, confirm you will follow up and forward answers after the session

After:

  • Record the webinar and post on your website
  • Send a “thank you” email within 24 hours to attendees and attach the presentation, and other related material with details where to contact you for more information
  • Send an email to people who registered but who were unable to attend sharing the webinar recording, presentation and contact details with them
  • Place the recorded webinar on your website for prospects and customers to download (in exchange for filling out a contact form)
  • Analyse attendance, engagement (who stayed until the end), answers to polls, surveys and questions asked. Include a short satisfaction survey at the end of the webinar
  • Update your marketing database and CRM with webinar registrants and attendees

Virtual events

Beforehand:

  • Understand your target audience well and what you want to achieve from the event and tailormake your content to optimise results and meet expectations
  • If you plan to do regular virtual events with many attendees, invest in a robust and performant virtual event management software
  • Invite participants to attend all or just a selection of the sessions
  • Use a professional looking template for any slide decks highlighting your brand
  • Include an event specific backdrop
  • Co-brand where it makes sense to give the event increased credibility
  • Showcase sponsors in a dedicated area with their logos etc.
  • Invite a guest subject matter expert to co-present or set up a presentation with several panellists and a moderator
  • Make it very easy to register (including automated email confirmation and addition of login details to the attendees’ calendar)
  • Keep any slides text light so that that audience does not lose interest and ensure that the presentation is animated
  • Use images, icons, charts and other visuals to make your slides more attractive and appealing.
  • Include videos between presentations to bring in variety and keep attendees engaged
  • Promote the virtual event well with a dedicated event registration landing page
  • To maximise attendance, promote via several channels i.e. email, social media, blog post and third parties and partners as appropriate. Insert a tracking code so you can measure which channels were most successful
  • Do a test run in advance to check there are no technical issues and to finetune any presentations. Recorded presentations are a safer bet for virtual events
  • Turn off all notifications on your computer prior to the session
  • Send out an automated email reminder to registered attendees 24 hours in advance and on the same day

During:

  • Establish a connection 15-20 minutes before the start time to enable you to overcome any technical or connection problems and set off in relaxed mode
  • Prepare a script (with autocue) if you doing a live presentation which will help you keep things flowing nicely
  • As a facilitator, ask presenters to introduce themselves and ask them one or 2 relevant questions so people already know who they will be interacting with
  • Keep participants engaged throughout by asking questions (via chat or in advance of the event) and by providing answers, introducing a short poll, changing speakers during the session
  • If there is not enough time to answer all questions, confirm you will follow up and forward answers after the session
  • Talk about your next events if you already know in advance
  • Include a satisfaction survey at the end. Keep it short and include questions which provide valuable insights. Include a comments section

After:

  • Record the event if not too long or highlights of the event, different sessions and post on your website and social media channels
  • Send a “thank you” email within 24 hours to attendees and attach the presentation and other related material with details where to contact you for more information
  • Send an email to people who registered but who were unable to attend sharing the presentation and contact details with them
  • Place the presentation or recorded event by subject on your website for prospects and customers to download (in exchange for filling out a contact form)
  • Analyse attendance, engagement (per session and who stayed until the end), answers to polls, surveys and questions asked. Include a short satisfaction survey at the end of the different sessions
  • Update your marketing database and CRM with event registrants and attendees

Cybersecurity

Protect your business

No company with an online presence is immune to a cyberattack. However, there are several precautions you can and should take to protect yourself and your business.

Some videoconferencing platforms have attracted a lot of attention because of their security vulnerabilities, and the threats they pose to users’ personal data. Here is a series of best practices which can be applied on most platforms to reduce the risks.

There are mainly three types of risks:

  • The main risk is a data leak as a result of passive and unauthorised listening to confidential discussions
  • Risks linked to an invasion of privacy following improper use, configuration, or software flaws allowing, for example, for someone to take control of the organiser’s camera without his/her knowledge, recording the call or even sending data from user accounts to third parties without authorisation
  • Documents, presentations, notes, and other chat messages exchanged (in addition to voice) which may contain sensitive information which may find their way onto uncontrolled servers

General Recommendations

  • A unique password for each meeting should be defined and provided to all invitees
  • If you do not have a password, use the ‘waiting room’ function to filter meeting participants
  • The audio connection options need to be configured so that the organiser is informed of the arrival of all participants.
  • The organiser of a videoconference should ensure that the right people are invited and present in the meeting. Guests should be discouraged from forwarding the invitation to other people
  • In the administration console, it is preferable to configure in such a way as to prohibit recording sessions
  • Administrators should not disclose reports on user activities
  • After use, it is preferable to close the session
  • It is advisable to ‘hide’ the webcam when it is not in use
  • Screen sharing options should be set correctly to avoid unwanted screen sharing with the group. Normally, only the organisers or presenters of the meetings should be able to share their screen
  • File sharing and note sharing options should be restricted to avoid storing sensitive information on uncontrolled servers

Specific Recommendations

Depending on the circumstances, certain functions can be activated or deactivated. It is best to think about the ideal settings before the meeting, and to adjust these parameters appropriately, according to the needs of the different stages of the conference

  • Video: Hosts should be able to turn off invitees’ video. This will allow hosts to block unwanted or inappropriate gestures during videoconferencing.
  • Mute participants: Hosts can mute/reactivate individual participants or all of them at the same time. Hosts can block unwanted, annoying, or inappropriate noise from other attendees. While invitees are entering the conference, hosts can activate the mute function in their settings to keep the noise levels down during larger meetings
  • File transfer: Meeting file transfer allows people to share files via meeting chat. This option can be disabled as necessary
  • Annotations: You and your participants can scribble and annotate content together using annotations during screen sharing. You can turn off the annotation feature as appropriate
  • Private chat: Most platforms offer meeting chat for everyone or participants can send messages to each other in private. You can limit participants’ ability to chat with each other while your event is taking place and reduce distractions

Between Two Videoconferences…

  • Like all software, videoconferencing platforms need to be updated regularly.

Advice available from SECURITYMADEIN.LU. Visit our website www.securitymadein.lu for more information and to contact us.

Measurement

Make data-driven decisions

These are the metrics you should ideally track to measure success and ROI of your webinars and virtual events:

  • Number of registrations and as a % of people reached
  • Number of registrations per acquisition channel (you can easily customise the URL to share a unique URL per channel) so you can then use the most relevant one
  • Attendees (average is 40 – 50% of registrants)
  • Number of attendees per channel so you can then use the most relevant one
  • Engagement – how many people stayed until the end and the % who participated in a survey /poll
  • Chat engagement

 

  • Performance rating – This can be ascertained from a short survey at the end where the attendees are asked to give a 5-star ranking and make comments and suggestions. You can also formulate your performance rating in order to ascertain your NPS (Net Promoting Score): “On a scale to 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or a colleague?” and then focus on those who give a higher score and appear to be most interested in your content
  • Include a call to action and measure the % of the audience who took an action e.g. contacted you, became a follower on social media, subscribed to a newsletter, downloaded a whitepaper, etc.
  • The number of attendees who register for future webinars

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