Getting the most out of meetings with the SimplyVideo Dev Team

Despite our obvious bias, we all think that SimplyVideo is an amazing video communications platform. While it’s the Sales and Marketing team that’s lapping up the positive feedback most of the time, we felt it was about time we introduce you to the boffins behind the platform that actually deserve the credit – the Development Team. 

Everyone at SimplyVideo is immensely proud to have the privilege of being colleagues and friends to our engineers. These guys live and breathe code and use their superpowers working solidly to ensure that SimplyVideo is optimised for anyone that uses it. You know the bit in The Matrix where Cypher is looking at a monitor crammed with green digits on a black background and says how he doesn’t see the code anymore, he sees a blonde, brunette, a redhead? They’re a bit like that except without the backstabbing and betrayal.

Cypher acting like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.

It’s about time they got a bit of the limelight. With a series of blog posts from the Dev Team, they’ll talk about what they’re doing behind the scenes and advise you on how to get the very best performance out of SimplyVideo. They may be a bit techie at points, but should you get stuck, reach out to any one of the team to translate. 

Without further ado, James, our Head of Product Service is going to kick things off by talking you through getting the most out of video meetings.

Hello, world!
Our Engineering Team (aka the Dev Team) here at SimplyVideo wanted a voice, a platform, so we can be seen. While we spend all day (and some nights) hiding in the shadows, cooped up behind the scenes in dark rooms, we do some incredible work (if I do say so, myself)! 

Our users only get to see the front end of our video platform, they don’t see what goes into it, the work involved, the hours spent poring over lines of code to identify and fix a bug. They also don’t see some of the stuff we work on in the background, prepping for our ‘next big thing’.

This new series of blog posts aims to keep you updated of the things we do to build SimplyVideo and keep our platform running. In the coming weeks, we’ll introduce you to various members of our team and let you know a bit more about what each of them does.

Our Meetings
Our first post should concentrate (quite rightly) on using our video platform. We love using SimplyVideo. We’re not just saying that because we built it, we genuinely do. We use it almost as much as our users do, and because we’re all super picky, we don’t like it if anything isn’t ticking along at optimum performance. 

Being users as well as developers means we have a great opportunity to take a step back and see what the end user sees. Knowing all of the nooks and crannies of the platform as well, we often see things they don’t. That logo that’s slightly off centre, that little bit of CSS that hasn’t rendered correctly. We spot all these things when we use the platform, and they hurt us deeply. That’s why we’re always on the ball when it comes to smacking these issues with a spanner and getting them fixed. 

Our Development team is spread out throughout the UK and abroad. We hold regular video meetings where we can discuss what’s happening, plan for the next sprint, identify any blockers to development and basically get together so we don’t feel siloed.

We have a few of these meetings scheduled in each week, sometimes it’s a stand-up session with the whole team, other times we have a management meeting to discuss next steps, or we’ll hold code roasts with engineers checking over each other’s work. Whatever the reason for the meeting, there’s a few key tips and techniques we’ve learned along the way we wanted to share.

1. Position the camera 
Camera positioning is important. During a video call, it can often be difficult to read and convey body language. Position the camera so there’s more than your head and shoulders in the video, this way you can improve on NVC (non-verbal communication).

Research shows 70-93% of our communication is non-verbal (https://www.lifesize.com/en/blog/speaking-without-words/). Hand gestures, body posture, head movements, and facial expressions are all incredibly important aspects to consider when holding a video call.

2. Sort your background out
An untidy background can be a distraction to whoever you’re talking to on video. In an ideal world, the area where you’re holding a video meeting should be well-lit with a gorgeous background. In reality, this isn’t always the case. People hold video calls from their bedrooms, kitchens, and maybe even cars. Participants are able to see all of this, and probably parts of your home they have never seen before. So sort that background out, have a neutral background with nothing too distracting on view. After all, we’ve all seen an interview and tried to work out if we have the same books on our shelf as the person on screen. 

To remedy this, we’ve developed a new feature coming soon to SimplyVideo – blurred backgrounds. This can help avoid some of the distractions. Regardless, best practice is to heed what’s been said above. 

3. Undivided Attention
As developers, this is even harder for us! We see something and we want to jump on it straight away. But you’ve got to resist that urge. Close all tabs (or minimise and mute them) so you can give the call your full undivided attention. The problem with video meetings and working remotely is that you’re already at your computer working on something important. When the meeting starts you close the window, but then ‘Ping!’ – a notification distracts you. You take a quick peek and your attention in the meeting is shot to pieces. 

So remember – close, minimise, and mute other windows. Also, take notes by hand as this often helps keep your attention on the proceedings. Don’t just rely on recordings or your memory. 

4. The Wi-Fi
Arguably the most important part (unless you’re wired), the Wi-Fi plays a massive role in videoconferencing. It can be the be-all and end-all of a video call. Make sure to position your router close to your computer, ensure the signal strength is strong and, if you’re using a limited connection, make sure no one else or anything else on the network isn’t saturating the connection. If the kids are streaming video games or Disney+ this can really impact the quality of your video call. 

Built into the SimplyVideo Platform, we have the ability to lower the quality of the call. Perfect if you can’t get rid of those bandwidth hogs.

5. Have a backup plan
SimplyVideo is developed with low bandwidth calling in mind. However, if something does go awry and you find that the connection is getting a bit dodgy, you can switch to an audio-only call.

Of course, the other issue is people screaming at you on a call. We don’t like those types of calls. They’re not fun. We can’t do a whole lot to help in these situations, but we have included that nice big ‘hang-up’ button that you can use. We’re not responsible for the consequences though.

We hope this will help you get the most out of your video calls. The dev team will be back soon with some more insight from behind the scenes. 

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