15 Tips for Before, During, and After
Video conferencing isn’t difficult. In fact, over 11-Million video conferences are held each day. What is difficult, however, is making a lasting impression that looks, feels and sounds professional. This requires a significant amount of preparation and foresight, but can also be a lifesaver for future meetings. Here’s what you need to do in order to ace the video conferencing game.
Before the Meeting
1. Arrange a Simple, but Effective Background
Find a space in your house or apartment with a clean and simple backdrop. This can be a bedroom, kitchen or study as long as there’s not a significant amount of traffic going through the area. If your workspace is limited to only one option, make sure that viewers won’t get distracted by anything else in the frame.
If possible, add little accents like flowers or plants to the background for additional life. It’s an incredibly effective method for contributing color without being too distracting. Easy maintenance plants like snake plants and Aloe Vera are inexpensive and ideal for simple settings.
If none of these options are appealing or you just have a history of killing plants, consider checking out one of the many virtual backgrounds that Zoom, Skype and Google Meets have to offer. There are hundreds of options, but remember that simplicity is key.
2. Setup the Perfect Complementary Lighting
Proper lighting can make or break a virtual meeting. It would be a shame if so much time and effort was spent on a presentation only to be thwarted by overshadowing or annoying glares.
If your conferences often take place during the day, take advantage of the natural light and move your workspace to a nearby window. Natural light is by far the best option for soft, warm highlights. If natural lighting isn’t an option, avoid using direct light and instead bounce some light from a lamp off a surface to generate a softer effect. The differences will blow your mind.
3. Optimize Your Camera Angle
Let’s face it: there are many unflattering camera angles that can ruin an otherwise incredible call. If the camera angle is too high, it makes the subject appear weak and ineffective. If the camera angle is too low, the focal point will be on the user’s nose and chin.
The ideal camera angle is either eye-level or slightly above eye-level. This allows speakers to look directly at their viewers and maintain their attention throughout a meeting. An eye-level camera angle helps to replicate real-life conversations by encouraging eye-contact and giving viewers easier visual cues.
Many laptops with stock cameras often will not meet their users at eye-level if sitting on a desk or a table, resulting in a low-angle view. If your setup falls into this category, consider moving your computer to an elevated surface, using a separate webcam or a dedicated video conferencing device. Quality webcams are getting cheaper each year and video conferencing devices provide the added benefit of not being connected to your computer for additional security.
After configuring your camera setup, be sure to give it a trial run with a friend or co-worker before a meeting. Having to adjust a camera during a call is incredibly distracting and can ruin the flow of the speaker.
4. Dress to Impress
People often joke about only dressing from the waist-up when video conferencing, but don’t fall prey to this casual façade. A study conducted in 2012 at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management had two groups of students take tests: one group was given lab coats to wear, while the other took the test without. The group wearing lab coats consistently performed better than those without, a phenomenon known as “enclothed cognition.” All this to say that clothing might not make the man (or woman) but it does make them more mentally fit for work.
Some workplaces may have lenient rules about dress code when it comes to video conferencing, but who would plan on dressing down after reading this entire article, right? (ahem.)
5. Create A Quiet Environment
Let friends and family know when you plan to be on a call. If your home office is in a common area like a kitchen or a living room, establish clear guidelines that TV volume and voices are to remain at a minimum during calls.
Zoom, Skype and Google Meet have advanced noise cancelling options. While not perfect, these features can help quell many of the sounds that the audience may chance hearing in the background. If multitasking is commonplace during meetings, be sure to use a separate conferencing device so that team members don’t hear the clattering of keys in the background. It also helps to mute your window when not speaking.
One frequently forgotten rule is to silence any mobile devices before starting a meeting. Phones and tablets often contribute to ongoing disruptions during calls. If you might be expecting an important call or have an emergency, notify team members of the situation before leaving or muting your window.
6. Distribute Meeting Materials in Advance
Meeting materials should always be sent out 24 hours in advance regardless of whether or not the meeting is remote. The only change that needs to be implemented for remote meetings is to include a note about online meeting etiquette and a reminder for everyone to check and make sure everything works prior to starting the meeting (i.e. camera, wifi, etc…)
For those who have never distributed meeting materials before, be sure to include the following:
- The meeting agenda- Meeting topics, who will lead each topic, how long each topic will take, and review of topics covered.
- Presentation slides- Slides that will be covered in the meeting for others to follow along and review beforehand.
- Meeting minutes- A record of what was discussed and decided in the meeting as well as who made the decisions.
7. Make Sure Meetings Are Secure
The best way to ensure your meetings remain private is to require a password for each participant. By doing so, meetings won’t run the risk of being “bombed” by outside parties and jeopardizing data. Teams wanting to go the extra step can use a separate device for conferencing to sever the connection between their personal devices and the outside world.
8. Get Familiar With Your Software
Apps like Zoom, and Skype have made it easier than ever for users to intuitively use their software, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a learning curve. Take some time to get used to the different features of each platform including backgrounds, audio options and text options.
After getting used to the basics, it helps to explore specific hotkeys for viewing options, muting, and turning on/off video. There are dozens of functions for each platform, but most people just use three to four, so just learn a few to start.
During the Meeting
1. Introduce Team Members
Depending on the number of people in the call, either introduce all team members or key speakers before starting the meeting. If the group is small enough, individuals can introduce themselves and give a little additional background for reference. Introductions should not take longer than 1–2 minutes.
Teams should avoid using ice breakers during conference calls unless the topic of the call is light and casual. Ice breakers are an excellent tool for developing team synergy, but are less effective when pressed for time.
After all introductions have been made, the host should review the speaker names and roles for all members in case someone missed a name or title. Remember, during remote meetings, clarity is essential.
2. Provide Landmarks
Conference calls are easier to navigate if the entire team knows where they’re going. Be sure to highlight specific points or transitions to different topics. Viewers might’ve had an important question to ask, but failed to ask it prior to changing the direction of the conversation.
3. Ask Questions
Throughout the call it’s important to keep team members engaged and get everyone involved by asking open-ended questions. Examples might include: “What’s your opinion about this idea,” “Is this the right direction for us to take?” or “How does this benefit the company.” When team members can’t anticipate when they will be called upon, they will be much more focused and attentive.
Towards the end of the meeting, consider closing with some Q&A to provide an opportunity for others to take the floor. Many team members will often take notes and wait to ask questions until the end of the meeting so they don’t interrupt the flow of the speaker. Hosts should leave about 10 minutes for additional Q&A before closing.
4. Include Nonverbal Communication
For those who aren’t well acquainted with video conferencing, it’s easy to forget that we use more than our words to communicate effectively. In fact, verbal communication only accounts for about 30% of total communication. When factoring in mannerisms, facial expressions, and body movement, it’s easy see why video conferencing is such an incredible leap from traditional conferencing.
5. Avoid Distractions
It can be hard resisting the urge to check emails or messages during a call, but that’s precisely what’s expected of all team members. Be sure to close out of any social apps prior to starting a meeting and not just minimizing a window. If the temptation of browsing the web or speaking to others on the side is too strong, consider using a dedicated conferencing device.
After the Meeting
1. Close Out of the Call
This one SHOULD BE a no-brainer, but awkward video evidence suggests otherwise. Don’t let your guard down until you’re certain that no other eyes are watching. Nothing hurts worse than gaining a lot of credibility from a great presentation only for it to be ruined by an embarrassing moment.
2. Send a Follow-Up Email
Recap topics that were discussed and issues that came up in the meeting. Thank everyone for their participation and especially any guest speakers who took time out of their schedule to contribute to the meeting.
Remember that it’s never too late to highlight the accomplishments of team members. If a chance was missed during a meeting, be sure to include a shout-out to any team members in the email. Recognition often gets overlooked when operating remotely, so any bit helps.