Video conferencing is a highly technical, vastly complicated technology that has been structured from the ground up to be as simple and user-friendly as possible. Even though video conferencing has only really become a viable medium in the past few years, it’s taken off as an attractive option when communicating with friends, families, colleagues, and clients. Despite its simplicity, there are many things you can do to – or not do – to ensure a great virtual meeting.
1. Give and take — questions and answers — are the bedrock of communication. In a video conference, you are hampered by not having everyone in front of you. This is especially apparent when you ask a question, as it is sometimes difficult for your participants to know who you are talking to. Make sure you say a person’s name at the beginning of your question.
2. An issue specific to virtual meetings is the mute button. Mute buttons are essential to having a well-ordered and quiet meeting, and their use should be encouraged. However, they can slow up Q&A sessions, especially impromptu ones. When you ask someone a question, make sure you give them a few seconds to respond. This allows them time to unmute themselves.
3. With everyone separated, it’s difficult to get a consensus. Asking people to raise their hands if they agree only really works in smaller video conferences where you have a window for each person. On larger calls or multiple meeting rooms, it can be impossible to get an accurate answer. Couch your questions to address the least amount of responses. For example, don’t ask if everyone understands; ask who doesn’t understand.
4. Video conferencing technology is hi-tech, but that just means it will do what it is supposed to. Shouting or speaking loud is not only annoying, but it also shows inexperience with virtual meeting technology. Speak in a normal tone of voice. Don’t worry, they will hear you.
5. If you can’t help but worry that people can’t hear you, test your sound first. Get your participants to introduce themselves at the beginning of the conference. Not only will this help break the ice, but will also allow you to hear their volume and sound quality. If you’re still anxious about your own output, simply ask someone if they can hear you well.
6. It may feel counterintuitive, but you shouldn’t look very often at the people on your screen, especially when you are addressing them. The best place to look while speaking is directly into the camera lens. Your participants will get the impression that you are looking directly at them. This creates a more trustworthy, congenial experience between them and you.
7. If you’ve done your preparations correctly, you know exactly how far you can move while in front of your camera. To help you hit your “mark,” use your mouse as your anchor point. Hold on to the mouse naturally while setting up your camera. Then, as you move back and forth pay attention to how far your arm bends or straightens. When you’re live, you’ll be able to keep yourself on screen without distracting yourself.
8. Unless you have dropped $50,000 to $150,000 on your video conferencing setup, you won’t have perfectly smooth, indistinguishable-from-real-life video. So, you need to work within the limitations of you and your participant’s equipment and bandwidth. The most important thing to remember is to keep your gestures small and your movements slower than normal. A little attention to this detail will minimize any choppy effects.
9. Your cloths say a lot about you, but through a video conference, some clothes say it loudly. To provide the best view of you, try to dress in light pastels and muted colors. Bright, loud colors can make your skin look weird on screen. Don’t wear all-light or all-dark colors to avoid any white balance or contrast issues. Busy patterns too are something to avoid.
10. While your clothes are telling your participants about you, so is the spot that you chose to do your conference from. Other than the obvious point that what you have on your desk and behind you will make impressions on your participants, they can also be detrimental to your video quality. Try to have a clean or bare background with a neutral color. Keep all camera-visible areas neat and decluttered. Not only will you look better on screen, it says something about how you work.
Video conferences are a great way to save money, time, and energy while still getting as much or more work done than before. They are hi-tech and worth a lot of “cool” points in the business world. If you put in the time and planning, your video conferences can be like the technology itself: complicated, yet smooth and on the cutting edge.