As coronavirus (COVID-19) forces more employees to work from home, businesses are adapting to a new remote-work business model as quickly and effectively as possible. Although technology has made this process easier, our professional identity is temporarily confined to a small square of video.
Today we’re sheltered in place, but even when COVID-19 is over, we will be a society that’s learned to do business remotely. Remote working and virtual meetings are here to stay. Whether you are doing one-on-one calls or joining in a large group meeting, quality and etiquette that stands out as better than average gets noticed. Make sure that you stand out for your preparedness, professionalism and content.
Practical Tips for Video Meetings
- Backgrounds Matter
During video meetings, the other participants can see (and be distracted by) everything in view of the camera so take that into consideration of how you set up your workspace. Please resist the temptation to use virtual backgrounds or taking the time to arrange a beautiful tapestry of meaningful objects on the bookshelf behind you. A simple and uncluttered background will make it easier for people watching you to focus on the words you’re saying, instead of trying to read the titles of every book behind you.
- Dress Appropriately
Your colleagues will be able to see the background behind you and what you are wearing. Maintain professional standards for dress and appearance. Leave the sweats in the gym and pajamas in the bedroom.
- The right lighting is really important
The first thing you need to know is that having more is better. The more light you have on you, the easier it is for your camera to capture a picture. The brighter the light is shining on your face, the sharper and better your video will look. If it’s dark wherever you are, it will definitely be too dark for your camera to get a high-quality image. Another thing to keep in mind is that a person’s eye will naturally be drawn to the brightest thing on the screen. That means that anything in the background that is brighter than your face will draw the viewer’s eye away. Windows, lamps, reflections. Any of those will be a distraction.
- Position the camera correctly
The camera should be as close to eye level as possible so people are seeing you as they would in a face-to-face conversation. Nearly all laptops now come with cameras installed, but placement can be tricky. Traditionally, the most flattering angle is at eye line or just above it. Consider ways to get this done: buy a camera to go on top of your external monitors, get a shorter chair, or put your laptop on something tall, whatever it takes to get the right angle. Keep in mind that no one will see it but you, so it doesn’t need to be pretty.
- Half of What You See is What You Hear
If the video looks good but the audio is sub-par, it ruins the whole effect. The camera and microphone built into your laptop are probably sufficient. However, if you have headphones with a mic or earbuds, it will likely greatly improve the sound quality and prevent feedback.
- Mute Yourself except when speaking
This prevents background noise and feedback from becoming a meeting distraction.
- Know How the Program Works
There’s obviously a lot of grace in this time of transition, but very quickly people start to become frustrated if you don’t know how to use the tools in use. Learning a few key commands and special features will go a long way towards doing better than most. Every app has its own way of doing things; you’re going to want to get an idea of how each one does things. Much time is spent managing people and their mute button. Did you know that in Zoom, you can hold down your space bar to temporarily un-mute your mic? Did you know you can share a single program and not your whole screen?
- Look at Me When I’m Talking to You
One of the most frustrating technical limitations of video meetings is that I can’t look people in the eye. I can look at their eyes or they can look at mine, not both. This is a skill you’ll get better at with time, but it’s important to develop a habit of staring into the camera, even when people are talking to you. Resist the urge to watch them on the screen if you can. I’m obviously not suggesting you NEVER look at the screen, but the more you can stare into the camera, the more engaged your audience will be.
- Don’t multitask
Don’t work on other tasks (like checking email) during the virtual meeting. Turn off all notifications and make sure your cell phone is on silent. Make sure all team members are in a quiet area, free from unnecessary distractions.
I hope these suggestions help you raise the quality of your virtual meetings. In these tough times, opportunity is with those who adapt well. Looking and sounding good on camera will translate into showing that you care enough to prepare and make a more human connection.