If you’ve previously worked in an office, you are likely to have come across conference room meetings that incorporate communicating via video link.
Thankfully, they are likely to have been relatively infrequent, normally occurring on a weekly or monthly basis. And that’s a good thing, considering the tech problems that always seemed to ensue.
But if you’re working from home on a permanent basis or just remotely for now, then meetings via video calling are probably going to be much more the norm, so it’s best that you get it right.
I’ve had to undertake numerous video calls over the years and have made several mistakes or faux-pas in my time.
Getting it right first time is not easy, so if you are new to the whole video-calling thing, I’ve complied several tips to help you out.
After all, if you are charging for someone to speak with you, the least you can do is make it look like you’ve put some effort in making the video quality good.
Here are my top 10.
There are now a multitude of Web-conference packages that you can use.
While there are many others, these are all pretty good and I’ve used them all at some point. My go-to software tends to be the first three, depending on who I’m speaking to.
The first thing you need to do is check out the settings within your chosen software.
Video: If possible, enable mirror effect. So, if you move your right hand, then your right hand on the screen also moves. Often the opposite could be the default setting, which could cause confusion if you are showing your audience things or pointing to a part of a slide, for instance.
Audio: I’ll talk more about audio below but adjusting the microphone levels could make a difference as to how your audience hears you. Normally the default settings are okay, but should you get complaints that your voice is distorted or not clear enough, disabling this may work as it could be competing with your computer’s software or mic settings.
You are on a video call and about to close a deal.
Then your Wifi cuts out. You realised it was weak beforehand but thought it would be okay.
This could jeopardise your moment to gain a new client, so always check and test your Wifi beforehand. Remember, what seems decent strength Wifi for web browsing may not be good enough for a long video conference call.
A good way to check is by using Speedtest
Zoom uses 1.2Mbps for upload (presenter) and download (attendee) speeds for a group video call but you need 1.5Mbps if you want to see everyone in a thumbnail video gallery.
Cisco Webex meetings for up to 5 people, with one screen and sharing content, suggest 1.5-1.65Mbps to transmit video and 1.75Mbps to receive video. However, without sharing content, the minimum bandwidth requirements fall to 685k upload and 920k download speeds.
For ClickMeeting, audio and video calls require 2.5Mbps download and upload speeds. Including screen sharing, the company suggest 1-4Mbps for both if using the product through your browser.
If your bandwidth isn’t fast enough having tested it using Speedtest, there a few things you can do:
You will likely have to play around with different lighting scenarios to get the right lighting for your video call.
Natural light is always best but failing this, using LED desk lamps could be an option. I would suggest bouncing the light off a wall rather than directing it right towards your face, which makes the light softer.
If you’ve got a monitor, you could always turn up the brightness on the monitor and zoom in on a blank document (or anything that’s white). It can massively improve the lighting and how you appear on camera.
In terms of background, it is always a good idea to have a neutral background and one that doesn’t involve any clutter. Check this out before you make the call!
Plants, bookcases or inobtrusive artwork are also good for video call backgrounds. But don’t make your background the focus of your call because everyone will be looking at it.
Keep it simple.
A pile of washing sitting on the floor behind you is probably not a good idea.
And if you’re lacking in either the cleaning or home design departments, Zoom (and others) has a number of virtual backgrounds that you could try out ahead of the call.
However, depending on your computer, this may mean covering your background area with a one-tone colour set up (a bit like a green screen) in order to get the best quality backdrop.
Once you get your visual quality right, setting up your audio is equally as, if not more, important.
If no-one can hear you or if the audio is not clear, the meeting will be disrupted.
Using the internal microphone on your laptop/ computer is okay and can be quite clear, but I find that it often produces an echoey type sound and could be considered less than professional.
There are numerous external microphones that you could purchase. I find that the Rode SmartLav+ works well, is relatively inexpensive and is often the mic used by professional newsreaders.
Alternatively, other desktop USB mics and wired or wireless headsets will tend to sound better than the internal microphone on your laptop.
Fabrics, such as office furniture, carpet or rugs will absorb sound in the room and prevent other people on the call hearing an echo on your calls.
Think about it.
By investing a little more into the sound quality of your next video call, you will be able to appear more credible and professional to your new client, prospect or audience.
It could make the difference that lands you your next deal.
If you look directly into the built-in camera on your laptop, it will appear to your audience that you are looking up, slightly above your camera.
You need a set up that makes it appear as if you are looking at the person you are talking to.
Your gaze should fall about two inches from the top of your screen to make it appear that you are looking straight at your audience. When speaking, try not to look at others on the call as it will likely come across that you are looking at something else.
Investing a little more into a quality camera could also be beneficial. Use a separate USB camera, not the one on your computer or laptop if possible and position it slightly above your eye-line.
But I often found that when using a laptop and sitting up straight, my face would be above the laptop when it is placed on the desk and I would be looking down into the camera. This is not the best set up as it will appear overbearing to your audience.
I’ve seen many people do this and try to correct it by hunching down. This is uncomfortable, bad for posture and results in poor body language towards your audience.
I’ve got 3 solutions:
Focus. Don’t look around the room, on your phone or at other materials if you can help it and don’t start to send emails.
You need to stay engaged with the audience in order to maintain the semblance of a face-to-face meeting.
Just because you are working from home, projecting a certain image of how you wish to be seen as a professional is important.
And that goes for how you dress as well.
Simply, there shouldn’t be much difference between working in the office or working from home.
So, if you would normally attend a business meeting in the office in smart or business attire, that’s how you should appear on camera.
Unless you’re attending an interview, perhaps dressing in a suit is a bit over-the-top; be realistic, wearing a suit whilst working from home all day could come across as a bit strange.
But you should still be smartly dressed. You don’t want everyone thinking you’re watching TV all day and taking naps.
And don’t think you can get away with dressing appropriately from just the waist up! I’ve seen so many people say that dressing smartly on top whilst wearing sweatpants is good enough.
You may have left an important document in another room that you need to get after the call has begun. Anything can happen – it’s just not worth the risk.
Steer towards solid colours; bold and colourful patterns could be distracting to your audience.
Coming across as confident on the video call is a must, even though you may have some nerves.
Being well prepared by having all materials to hand at least 10 minutes before the call will give you increased levels of confidence.
Go over what you want to say, including the key points you wish to get across beforehand. If it is an important call, rehearsing it with a friend of family member or failing that, recording yourself is good practice.
It is a good idea to mute yourself when you are not speaking, which will erase any unexpected background noises (dog barking, baby crying, sirens from emergency vehicles or even just you typing).
If you’re doing most of the talking, ensure that you do all you can to minimise any background noises ahead of the call.
To all of you who ‘talk with your hands’, your gestures are going to not come across as well as they do in face-to-face scenarios.
In fact, moving a lot or using your hands too much can be distracting to your audience.
So, by all means still use your hands but just don’t over do it.
Equally, if you are doing a lot of pointing on camera, such as towards a whiteboard or a slide, then you should explain verbally where you are pointing.
Do not make the assumption that everyone will always be looking directly at you, so your explanations should be more verbal in nature than they would be otherwise.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but I’ve been on calls when the meeting organiser hasn’t done this and the software used doesn’t end automatically.
Apart from unprofessional, you don’t want any untoward comments leaking though at the end.
We have all seen scandals emerge in the news from high-profile individuals who fail to turn off their mics or video links when their segment has ended, which can lead to embarrassing situations.
Maintain your privacy and make sure that it doesn’t happen to you!
Don’t just assume the software will close automatically. Ensure you close out the call or the call window.
Hopefully these tips will help you become a pro at how to deal with video conferences or calls.
Getting all aspects of video calling right is not easy and it will likely take a little time to get used to.
But with practice, you will become more confident and effective at speaking via video, which will make the meeting with your colleagues, clients or prospective customers more successful and enjoyable.
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