The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has forced a lot of changes for companies of all sizes and industries. With many state governments now issuing “stay-at-home” orders and closing businesses that are considered “non-essential,” companies are turning to remote working solutions.
However, even when working from home, employees still need to communicate effectively to gather feedback, get clarification on tasks and priorities, and maintain the relationships that drive them to do their best.
So, during the COVID-19 pandemic, video conferencing has become an indispensable tool for businesses. But, not everyone is a master of setting up video conferencing equipment, environments, and software—which can lead to somewhat humorous or even embarrassing situations like having kids wander into the meeting, dogs barking like crazy at the unfamiliar voices, or a glimpse of another member of the household who just stepped out of the shower and unwittingly giving your VC audience a performance they’ll never forget.
To help you master the art of the video conference, here are some video conferencing best practices, some things to avoid, and an explanation of why it’s such a great business communication tool.
Why Video Conferencing is a Great Remote Working Tool
Even before the spread of coronavirus, many businesses were starting to migrate to the use of video conferencing software. Using video conferencing apps to have “face-to-face” communications between team members proved to be more enriching and rewarding for employees.
As noted in a Forbes Insights guide published prior to the COVID-19 crisis, in a survey of 333 executives, “92% of them believe that expanded use of video conferencing has a positive impact on their performance.” Furthermore, according to the survey, 80% of teams use video conferences as the norm for internal communications and 84% use it for meetings with external stakeholders.
Video conferences are inherently more engaging for employees than audio-only conversations, which helps to improve retention of information from meetings. Additionally, with video, conference participants can see one another’s body language as they talk, which can help to communicate inaudible context cues that would be missed in an audio-only phone call.
In short, video conferencing services help employees be more productive by allowing them to be present virtually when they can’t be present physically.
9 Video Conferencing “Do’s”
To get the most out of video conferences, it’s important to follow a few simple remote working tips when on these calls. Some video conferencing best practices include:
- Mute Yourself When You Aren’t Speaking. When you aren’t actively speaking to the group, be sure to set your video conferencing app (or your computer/phone’s microphone) to mute. In a home office environment, it can be hard to predict when loud noises (alarms, dogs barking, police sirens, etc.) or other interruptions may occur. So, to avoid accidentally disrupting others when they’re talking, it’s important to mute yourself. You may even want to turn off your video if there’s an especially distracting event taking place behind you.
- Be on Time. Being late to a video conference can put everyone on the call behind schedule. So, to avoid inconveniencing others, it’s vital to be on time for the start of the meeting. It can help to set alarms or reminders for a few minutes before a meeting starts so you have time to gather meeting materials and prepare (or fix some technical difficulties). If you can’t make the meeting on time for any reason, such as a scheduling conflict or personal emergency, send a message to the other video conference attendees so they don’t waste time waiting for you to join.
- Have Proper Lighting. Video conferencing is effective precisely because it allows people to talk “face-to-face.” Having poor lighting defeats the purpose of holding a video call. So, be sure to take your video conferences in a well-prepared room where there is plenty of lighting.
- Be Polite When Addressing People. Everyone on the video call will be dealing with stress. Being rude to others on conference calls is counterproductive—adding to the stress others experience without providing solutions. Being polite on video conference calls is important for avoiding problems that impede productivity.
- Wear Appropriate Clothing. You should dress appropriately for the situation. For a purely internal team meeting, simple “business casual” attire should be fine—especially if the video conference is a simple 1:1 meeting. A good piece of advice from Entrepreneur magazine is to “dress as if you’re meeting face-to-face.”
- Be Prepared for the Meeting. Before jumping on a video conference, be sure to ready whatever software and equipment you need to be an active participant. If you’re presenting, consider making a cue card with some speaking points and mounting it just behind the camera.
- Make Sure Your Surroundings Are Ready. Be aware of what is going on in the background that others on the call may be able to see. Clean up any cluttered surfaces, try to position yourself near a wall or corner where you won’t get a lot of “through traffic,” and consider changing your background if the video conferencing app you’re on supports it. Having a custom background can help lighten the mood a bit.
- When Speaking, Address the Camera. Don’t gaze at your own image on the screen when you’re talking. Instead, try to look into the camera so it looks like you’re addressing the other video conference attendees directly. This helps to make the meeting feel more personal for others and boosts engagement with your presentation.
- Be Patient. Not everyone is going to be able to master the video conferencing equipment and software as readily as you. You may need to link up with people outside the video conference to help them set up cameras, make sure their audio is working correctly, and log into their video conferencing services.
5 Video Conferencing Don’ts
Here are a few things to avoid during video conferences:
- Don’t Peruse Emails or Work When on Calls. Even in an audio conference, trying to multitask by doing work during the call is counterproductive. In a video call, being preoccupied with other tasks is even worse. Trying to complete other tasks on a call prevents you from focusing on what is being said—which can lead to missing important information. When on video, others can see that you’re not paying attention, which can be perceived as rude.
- Don’t Interrupt Others. Avoid interrupting others during their presentation as much as possible. Cutting off other speakers delays the meeting and generates bad will. Instead, consider following this piece of advice from The Verge: “Decide on a system for asking questions, such as raising your hand or using chat to ask a question.” This way, you can provide input and ask questions without cutting people off.
- Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute to Download Software. If you have a meeting at noon, trying to download the video conferencing software at 11:55 a.m. isn’t going to work. It takes time to download software, set up accounts, and learn how to join a meeting. So, be sure to download important software well ahead of time so you can familiarize yourself with it.
- Don’t Be in a Noisy Environment. Try to find a secluded and quiet place in your home if you can. Being in a noisy environment makes it harder to hear you when you’re talking and can be very distracting. Avoid starting or joining video conferences when you’re in public spaces unless you can find a quiet and secluded space with internet access and good lighting.
- Don’t Position Your Camera at Odd Angles. Try to keep the camera you use for your video conference at or near eye level. Also, you should avoid having your camera tilted to the left or right so your body doesn’t appear at a crooked angle to others. Having your camera at an odd angle can be mildly distracting or disorienting for other people.
The benefits of video conferencing are well worth taking the time and effort to do it right. Need more information about business collaboration? Contact Blue Wave Communications or check out some of our other blogs.