The year is 2020: German health offices send their Corona documents by fax to the Robert Koch Institute, where highly qualified staff have to type them into their computers by hand – not a black-and-white flashback to the sixties, but everyday life in Germany. So if there is one good thing to be gained from the pandemic, it is that it puts a finger in the wound of Germany's digital backlog. But: more and more companies have switched to digital operation in recent months and offer work from home.

An important tool in times of contact blocks and concern about aerosols is video conferencing. Popular providers like Zoom are now seeing up to 300 million users a day - up from 10 million in December 2019. Already the phenomenon of Zoom fatigue is spreading, which says that video conferences make their participants tired because they require a particularly high level of concentration from them: Sound and image quality fluctuate and the beat rate of meetings is significantly higher. In addition, non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, gestures or voice pitch are much more difficult to decipher in a video chat than in a real meeting. Last but not least, during video conferences you are under constant observation - by other conference participants, but also by yourself; you suddenly wonder about your own nose, which looks much more crooked on the screen than in real life.

Nevertheless, we at Kohl PR consider videoconferencing to be an effective means of keeping operations running during Corona and have continued this practice even after the initial lockdown: it saves time and money, increases productivity and allows collaboration regardless of location. However, in order to prevent the Zoom Fatigue mentioned at the beginning, a few simple standards need to be followed. Our eight golden rules for successful video conferences are:

1. Be prepared.

Check sound and technology: Are the microphone and camera working? Also set an agenda of what you and your team want to talk about – that saves time!

2. Switch on your camera.

Facial expressions and gestures are important for a conversation and a successful feedback culture.

3. Check the background.

What do you see in the background? If there is a Pamela Anderson poster on your wall – and this poster has nothing to do with her professional work - it is better not to show it. Instead: Only things that are related to your job should be visible, because everything that is visible on the screen conveys a message about you. Therefore, also make sure you are dressed appropriately. And the desk should be tidy.

4. Appoint a facilitator.

Quieter colleagues in particular tend to fall silent during video conferences. Consciously include them in the conversation. Make sure that contributions are made in order and that colleagues listen to each other and let each other finish.

5. Those who do not speak mute their microphone.

Avoid distracting noises, because clearing your throat, panting or keyboard tinkling distract those who are speaking. Food and drink are usually out of place and distracting, as is a TV playing in the background. Find a quiet room for your meeting.

6. Establish a digital conversation culture.

Be aware that a videoconference is different from an on-site conversation: because the microphones are muted, we miss important signals about how what is being said is being received; no spontaneous laughs, questions or interjections reach us; instead, there is a rather artificial conversational atmosphere. Therefore, you should shine with presence and concentration and actively participate in the conference. As a rule, conflicts are also rarely dealt with digitally. Therefore: Discuss potential misunderstandings as quickly as possible.

7. Keep a record.

What was discussed should be recorded in writing and everything should be summarised at the end of the conversation. This creates commitment.

8. Meet for a maximum of one hour.

As mentioned before, video conferences are more exhausting than meetings in the office, so you should limit yourself to the essentials.