Today video calls are a fact-of-life for almost everyone working remotely. If you have found yourself constantly on video calls throughout the day you have probably gotten into a way of working that streamlines what can be a daunting process. If you are new to the whole thing video calls can be a bit awkward and difficult to get used to at first. Having delivered 100's of sessions over the last two years, I now have a process and a dedicated space, with external webcam, lights and microphone. Whatever your situation here are 8 tips to help you make your video calls as smooth, natural, and compelling as possible.
1. Check Your Internet Connection.
Before your call, make sure you have a strong internet connection. Where possible I always use a hard-wired connection. The 'freezing' that comes with a bad connection can be extremely distracting and even drop the call. I like to have my phone as a back-up, I quit my mail-server (email is a big drain on resources) and I ask my household to minimise their internet usage (just while I'm on the call). As a side-note, get the biggest connection package you can afford. A larger capacity will minimise these problems.
2. Pay Attention To How It All Looks.
Two big issues in presentation are how you look in the foreground and what's happening in the background. It's a good idea to dress for your video call as you would for a physical meeting. Wear whatever you would wear in the real world. This will help create a good impression and put you in the correct mindset for work. Experiment with the angle between you and the camera. Avoid extremes, too close or too far away are equally bad. Pay attention to your background. At a basic level this just means tidy up. Hanging clothes, kids toys or personal items are at best distracting at worst embarrassing.
3. Act Like You're In A Meeting.
During the meeting, keep in mind that PEOPLE CAN SEE YOU. They can see your facial expression and can tell whether you're listening or not. Active listening (nodding and smiling) can be more important on video calls than it is in person. Look like you are interested and engaged.
4. Lighting Is Important.
Before the call, check out your lighting. Turn on the camera and see how you look. The aim is not to appear too dark or too washed out. The first thing to do is to try out different lights to see what looks most natural. For a more professional look, avoid direct unfiltered lighting and try to light the area immediately behind you. Don't sit in front of a strong light source like a daylight window. Fortunately there is a lot of specific help to be found on the internet.
5. Punctuality Matters.
Just like in the real world, be on time. To avoid complacency I allocate at least 20 preparation time before every meeting and I always connect before the published meeting time. If you are running the meeting it's good practice to create an agenda and stick to any time limits. I try to start by summarising the reason for the meeting and how long the whole thing should take. I like to finish on time (let people to leave the meeting) but allow for anyone that wants to stay on to chat or ask additional questions.
6. Mute Audio As A Default.
Most importantly mute yourself when you're not talking. This minimises the impact of any background noise you have become accustomed to and avoids any "Honey I'm Home..." moments.
7. Video Is Not Your Friend.
A quick search on the internet will bring up some of the hilarious 'fails' where people simply forget they are on camera. On a more mundane level if you find yourself having the move around (or deal with an errant family member) turn the camera off.
8. Be Prepared For It All To Go Wrong.
There always seems to be problems technical or human or both. So always have a backup plan and tell people what it is, early. For example if it all fails have an alternative time slot or switch to audio only or record the meeting so that anyone having problems can catch-up later.
The good news is that video calling technology is getting better every day, it's consistent and easy to use. All it takes is a little practice.
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