Video conference is becoming increasingly more popular in corporate circles due to the ability to collaborate efficiently and in real-time with colleagues and external partners. Further, this may be used to create a virtual workspace that include file-sharing in addition to a host of other useful integrated collaboration tools. Without the need to travel long distances to meet clients, partners or a division of a company, productivity can be improved immensely and a new emphasis on easy convenient collaboration has arisen. Operating efficiently is the main goal of most offices, whether large or small, and being able to accomplish all the work needed with as little time wasted, frustration caused and delays – as possible.
As colleagues communicate and collaborate in real-time via video conference, it also entails implementing some new rules. While meeting with these tools can be effective, efficient ways to conduct meetings, there are a few cautionary tales. For example; the woman who hasn’t had her breakfast yet and instead decides to munch down on a fresh bagel and slurping coffee during the meeting while everyone can hear it. Then we have the well-dressed guy wearing a crisp new poplin shirt and tie, but as soon as he gets up from his chair to get his notebook – he’s only wearing boxers below – while unbeknownst to him he is being projected on a wall-size screen and possibly even in offices around the world.
Despite situations as listed above, virtual meetings are taking off in the corporate world – and mot of us truly appreciate it. The technological advancements, coupled with the ability to work part of the time from home or elsewhere, has made video conferences a valuable and cost-conscious way for colleagues to collaborate. However, as mentioned there is a dark side to it that can range from hysterical to upright humiliating. Therefore, we have listed a few tips that will help you maintain a professional meeting whether you’re in or outside of office, or even abroad.
1. Find a quiet, neutral place
Most workspaces have designated areas for privacy and if you’re in office, the best way to handle a video conference is to take advantage of it and close the door. It’ll help you stay focused as well as avoid distracting other coworkers. However, if you’re at home or on the go– try to find a place that is fairly quiet with the least amount of distractions. Even if you have the most comfortable bed in the world, keep it professional by getting out of the bedroom and go to a quiet neutral setting, like your home-office or living room. No one needs to see where you sleep.
2. Dress the part
Although it might seem obvious to most, pajamas aren’t appropriate dress code for a video call, even if you’re at home. Try to keep the attire professional, even if you have to change right before the call. Present yourself as you would in a face-to-face meeting and think of it as an interview; you want to make a good impression. If you work in a causal office, take the opportunity to step up your fashion game. If you work from home, at least have a somewhat professional outfit on.
3. Lights, camera, action!
Lights and angle are as important for video calls as they are for any professional photo shoots. You may not be particularly interested in the way you look during conference calls with coworkers you’ve known for years, but when you talk to a new potential partner or investor, the situation is completely different. As a general rule, the primary light source should be behind your camera and avoid fluorescent lights.
As for the angle, the camera should be placed at eye level. If you’re using a laptop, place something beneath it to raise it to that level. Worried about your best angle? This isn’t the time nor the place – it is however time for a close-up. Make sure your camera is focused on your face and eliminate as much of your surroundings as possible. This may also eliminate any distractions that may be happening in the background to keep your co-workers focused. The closer eye-lever and front facing will help it look like you are talking directly to the person at the other end.
4. Get the right audio
No matter the format of the meeting, poor audio quality can truly kill productivity. Consider investing in an external webcam with high definition capabilities and depending on your surroundings, you may also want to use a headset during your call. But first things first; check your internet connection. Test your WIFI before the call and make sure that the speed stays moderate. Without a good connection, the conference call will be a disaster. It will keep connecting and disconnecting and will ultimately result in an unproductive meeting as well as annoyed participants. Secondly, try using a conference device. While joining the call on a cellphone seems like the easiest option as it’s the main means of communication, even the most expensive and modern phone don’t have as good sound quality as good old landline phones or computers. Lastly – don’t use speakerphone. Speakerphone may seem like a convenient option; however, it’s famous for its’ inadequate sound quality, which makes the meeting suffer.
5. No pets allowed
It should go without saying that your pet shouldn’t be a participant in the meeting. However, a lot of employees have seen a pet or two make unexpected cameo appearances. Keep your cat or dog in another room where you can’t hear them. We know, everyone loves Fido, but if you’re holding a video conference no one wants to listen to him barking. Unless it’s very small group in the meeting that are knowingly ok with your dog around, it’s a better idea to leave Fido outside of the meeting. As mentioned above, maybe sit in your home office and close the door so that you won’t hear the dog’s most anticipated moment of the day – arrival of mail.
6. Keep it quiet
You may not be able to keep your workspace completely quiet but trying to keep your video calls as silent as possible will improve your calls. Also, remember to mute when needed. We’ve all been there before – you think you’re on mute or that everyone has left the chat and then you accidentally say something inappropriate that shouldn’t be heard by everyone, or anyone at all. Remember, mute is your friend. In addition, it’s really frustrating when you’re on a call and you can hear someone else’s background noise that constituently drowns out the person trying to talk.
7. Don’t fiddle around or multitask
If you tend to fidget, play with your hair or tap with your pencil – try to keep it to a minimum on your call. This can be surprisingly distracting to others. Also, everyone can see you, so please refrain from checking e-mails or even worse, pull a Houdini disappearing act. It’s understandable that disruptions may occur if you’re out of office. However, the first rule of thumb is to always keep the listed above to a minimum, but if you must step away, notify the group verbally or in the chat.
8. Be on time
A video conference should be treated like any in-person meeting; no excuses for lateness. It’s as much of an inconvenience to others as leaving someone stranded alone in a conference room at the office. If you for some reason are unavoidably detained, send a polite message to let them know that you’ll be late or if you need a rain-check.