How To Improve Virtual Meetings: A Guide for Product Managers

5 min read

Ever wonder why Zoom dominated Skype when the world switched to virtual meetings back in 2020?

Frank L.
Frank L.
Published June 27, 2023

Skype was launched in 2003 and had more than nine years to secure the modern enterprise video communications space before Zoom was launched. And yet, when the time came for video communications tools to really take off, Zoom went from 10 million daily active users in December 2019 to 200 million in March 2020. No other video conferencing tool, including the previous market leader Skype, enjoyed that kind of success.

So what turned Zoom into the go-to video conferencing tool for organizations and individuals across the world?

Zoom had features that were geared toward professional use. Breakout sessions, meeting transcripts, polling, whiteboarding, social media streaming, and the ability to host up to 1,000 people made it the go-to choice for businesses across the world. So when the world went into lockdown and a new market of people working from home emerged, Zoom already had the features to support their needs.

With the right set of features, you, too, can turn your video conferencing tool into a market leader in your space.

Understand the Needs of Your Users

The easiest way to cater to your users is to ask them what they want and then give it to them. Thirty-five percent of startups fail because of a lack of need for the products they are selling. Consider this when adding new features to your roadmap — they should be in line with your users' requirements.

Going back to the Zoom vs. Skype example: The people at Zoom realized that webinars and online trade shows usually have more than 100 participants, so they built the infrastructure to host up to 1,000 participants in a meeting. By the time Skype realized the same, it was too late.

To better understand the needs of your users:

  • Gather feedback. Conduct surveys and interviews to ask your users about their experiences with your product. Your customer support interactions and feedback forums also have a wealth of data consisting of customer pain points, which you can use to come up with ideas for new features that solve current problems. Also, monitor what people are saying about your product on social media and product review websites to get new ideas to improve your product.
  • Analyze internal and external data. Gather data through user testing, beta tests, market research, and competitor analysis and by tracking key usage metrics. Using external data in combination with your internal data will help you fill in the gaps in terms of user needs and make informed decisions about your products.

Once you have a list of ideas for new features or changes to your current features, validate them through user interviews and surveys and prioritize their development based on urgency.

Simplify and Streamline User Experience

A simplified user experience ultimately leads to higher adoption rates and customer loyalty. A streamlined experience reduces friction, making it easier for users to accomplish their goals and navigate the product. A clean and easy-to-navigate UI minimizes cognitive load, improves efficiency, and reduces the likelihood of user errors.

Provide a user interface with easy-to-access controls and clear navigation to ensure a smooth user experience. Your users need to get from the home screen to meeting rooms and switch between video calls, screen sharing, chat messaging, and recording or use built-in collaborative tools — sometimes using multiple features at the same time. If it is easier for users to go from one screen to another and use different features, their experience with your product will improve, and you will see higher engagement.

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Ensure Reliability and Stability

Think of a video conferencing tool that has all the latest features available, but it lags, or the video or audio freezes, or it slows down once there are a few hundred people on the call. No amount of features would improve the adoption or engagement of such a product. That is why product managers must prioritize reliability and stability. This involves implementing a robust infrastructure, conducting thorough testing and quality assurance, and being prepared to handle potential technical issues.

The reliability and stability of your product depend on your infrastructure and the quality of your code, your third-party APIs, and your user's internet connection. You can control all of these factors except for the last one.

  • Infrastructure: Invest in scalable cloud-based infrastructure providers such as AWS or Azure. If you plan to use on-premise servers, make sure there is room to improve their capabilities or add more servers if needed. You will also need sufficient bandwidth and network optimization to handle high volumes of data and user traffic.
  • Code quality: Use the DevOps best practice of continuous testing, leverage automated testing tools, and test for device and OS compatibility, as well as user load.
  • Quality of your third-party APIs: When using third-party APIs for different features in your app, use ones that are known for their availability, reliability, and high quality. Always test the APIs in a staging environment before going live. And test them every time you introduce a new feature or ship a new update.

Despite careful planning, technical issues can still arise during virtual meetings. Anticipate potential issues and have troubleshooting solutions readily available for your users. This includes comprehensive user documentation, FAQs, and knowledge bases to assist users in resolving common issues. Also, offer responsive customer support channels, such as live chat or dedicated support teams, to provide timely assistance for users facing technical challenges.

Enhance Collaboration and Communication Features

By enhancing the collaboration and communication features of your product, you can help your users improve productivity and enhance their overall meeting experience.

During video calls, the participants sometimes have to communicate, share ideas, and ask questions without interrupting the flow of the meeting. Platforms like Microsoft Teams and Slack provide chat functionalities that enable participants to engage in side conversations, share links, and exchange information effortlessly. You can do the same for your product by using a chat API or building your own feature.

Also, look into features that help meeting participants share files, such as project documents, presentations, or design mockups, with others in real time. Tools like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive offer collaborative document editing features, enabling multiple users to work on the same document simultaneously. Embed these tools in your product or use a screen-sharing feature so that participants in a meeting can use the same document simultaneously.

Collaborative features foster teamwork, streamline information sharing, and promote active participation, leading to more productive and effective virtual meetings.

You can also use the latest technologies to introduce exciting new features like:

  • Gesture recognition, so people can raise their hands instead of using a button
  • Facial recognition for emotional analytics, so you can analyze participants' facial expressions to gauge engagement levels
  • Augmented reality annotations, so participants can make annotations or drawings directly in their real-world environment during the video conference 

Use Third-Party APIs To Add New Features Quickly

When it comes to new features, there's always a discussion on building them internally as opposed to using the pre-built features available in the market. Building new features internally is a resource-intensive task, which may take anywhere from weeks to months for each new feature.

Rely on third-party API providers to quickly add new collaborative features to your app. For example, a popular virtual event application, Welcome, was able to add in-app chat and video conferencing in a matter of one week, thanks to third-party APIs. The app has seen a rise in demand since launching these new features and has gone from hosting events with hundreds of participants to ones with thousands of participants. Take a page out of their book and make virtual meetings more engaging for your customers.

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