Video conferences play an essential part in most remote jobs. They are a great way to communicate with your team members, clients, or customers all over the world. However, they can be tricky sometimes. If you look for ideas to professionalize your online meetings, check out the following best video conferencing tips.
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Video Conferencing Preparation
There are a few things you should prepare before you start a video conference:
Check the Time Zone
Make sure you check the time zone of the video conference well in advance if you work in an international team. It would be very unprofessional if you missed the meeting because you thought it’s in a different time zone.
If you are the one organizing the meeting, make sure you pick a time that works for all of your participants, in case they are based in different time zones.
Send the Agenda
If you are organizing the video conference, make sure to send the agenda to all participants. Let them know how long the meeting is going to be and if they should prepare something, e.g. an update of their current work status.
This also works as a reminder of the upcoming conference.
Adjust your Camera
Make sure your camera is positioned at eye level. If it’s too high your forehead appears to be very prominent; if it’s too low, people can look inside of your nostrils. Both sights are not ideal.
Also, try to look into the camera when you speak and not into the chat window or at your own image on the screen. That gives the attendees the feeling that you are looking at them directly and not somewhere else.
If your monitor or laptop screen doesn’t come with a camera in decent quality, consider getting an external one for better images, for instance, the Logitech HD Pro.
Get a good Microphone
The same goes for microphones. Oftentimes, microphones on laptops don’t come with the best quality and your voice might sound tinny or not clear and with random noise.
If you are participating in online meetings frequently, it is surely worth investing in an external microphone. That could either be a stand-alone mic, such as the Blue Yeti, or a microphone integrated into a headset, like the Sony Headset.
Also, having curtains, carpets, blankets, or any other kind of fabrics around you help absorb your voice so there is not too much reverberation.
Eliminate Background Noises
Maybe there are some background noises that you can’t reduce, like a construction site just across your house.
What you could do in these cases is to use noise-canceling headphones. They help you reduce the noise around you.
Another great video conference tip is using apps such as Krisp. With only one button all the background noise going from you to other call participants will be removed and vice versa. That means you can even eliminate background noises coming from other participants. Genius!
Clean your Background
If you plan on having the video conference at home, decide where you want to sit. It’s always best to have a dedicated home office since it looks professional.
If you don’t have one, at least make sure that it doesn’t look too casual. Sitting on the floor of your kids’ room with toys behind you might not be the best idea. Make sure that your background is organized and clean.
In case you are currently traveling, your best bet might be a coworking space. Often they offer video call booths, which are small rooms that are sound-proof, well-lit, and have great internet speed.
If you don’t have that option, maybe your hotel room could work? A café is a very dangerous place for an online meeting as it can be quite noisy and the internet is often not reliable.
Before you start the online conference make sure you put your phone on silent. Also, make sure to close the windows and let your family or roommates know that you are in an online meeting.
If you have cats or dogs, maybe it would be best to bring them to another room during the meeting. Your dog might hear something outside and start barking whereas cats love to jump on your keyboard, which could interrupt the conference.
Always remember the BBC News interview that was distracted by kids walking into the home office (totally cracks me up every time I see it).
Get the right Lightning
Yes, it’s the details that count. If you have the window behind you, your face might be in the dark which gives you a bit of a creepy appearance.
Make sure you are either facing a window (as daylight is always the best) or have a light source in front of you. If you want to go for the extra glam, you can get very affordable ring lights at Amazon which gives you a YouTube-perfect appearance.
Test this before you start the video conference so you can adjust your setting if needed.
An online meeting is just as important as an in-office meeting, so treat it like that and dress accordingly! If your ripped-jeans and old shirt won’t do it at the office, they also won’t work in a video call.
The professional look will also help you get into the “work-mood”. You feel more professional and you act it.
Prepare Work Utensils
Be prepared and have something to take notes during the online conference. A pen and a piece of paper will do. That shows that you are organized, structured, and are truly interested in what is said during the meeting.
Also get a glass of water or a cup of coffee and all the documents, papers, or whatever might be needed. You don’t want to get up and start searching through your drawer in the middle of the meeting.
Check your Internet
Is your internet strong enough for video calls and is it reliable? If you are joining in from a new location, you could use speed test tools beforehand, such as Speedtest.net or Fast.com, to check the speed of your connection.
If you experience internet shortcuts from time to time, work on a backup plan. For example, you could use your phone as a hotspot to access mobile data from your computer. However, this might be expensive and not strong enough for video calls. Check that beforehand!
Alternatively, organize a mobile hotspot so you can get your WIFI from this device.
Test your Technology
Test all of your technology before the video conference. Do your camera and your microphone work?
If necessary, download the software that is used for the meeting, e.g. Zoom. Ask a friend or family member to download it, too, so you can make a test call. Alternatively, you can simply use your computer and your smartphone to give yourself a test call.
What happens quite often if you use a video conference program for the first time, is that it doesn’t recognize your headset or your camera and you need to change the settings. Make sure this is all done and works fine when the meeting starts.
Do you remember Lizet Ocampo, the political director at People for the American Way? When she started a video conference with her team, in early 2020, she (much to her surprise) realized that she had turned into a potato head.
She knew she had some funny filters on her computer but most certainly didn’t want to use them during a business call! Her colleagues were enjoying a good laugh while Lizet desperately tried to turn it off but couldn’t figure out how. Eventually, she gave up and stayed a potato head until the end of the meeting.
Her colleagues took a screenshot of it and posted it on Twitter. Of course, the picture went viral.
Thankfully, Lizet thought the whole thing was funny:
I yam potato boss. You should see me in a crown, right @billieeilish? I yam glad this is making folks laugh at this time. Please stay planted at home and safe! For more needed laughs, follow my favorite comedian @cristela9 . Potate out. #HASHtag #PotatoBoss https://t.co/OxpidZc921
— LizetOcampo (@mlizetocampo) March 31, 2020
What does this tell you? Test your technology beforehand! ;)
Charge your Battery
Easy one but people forget this so often. Make sure the battery of your laptop or phone is fully charged before the video conference or leave it plugged in.
In case you are using a wireless headphone or a wireless headset, don’t forget to charge it, too!
Close Tabs & Programs
Make sure to close down all other programs and tabs on your computer before entering the online meeting.
For one, there might be noisy notifications popping up, e.g. incoming emails. And for two, programs running in the background can take up bandwidth and thus, slow down your connection.
Prepare Screen Sharing
If you plan on sharing your screen during the conference, make sure to take some precautions:
- As just mentioned, close all of your tabs.
- Also, take a look at the bookmark menu of your browser. In case there are any items that the other participants shouldn’t see, delete them or hide the menu.
- Don’t forget to clear your desktop if necessary.
Video Conferencing Tips
Ok, now that everything is prepared, you can finally enter the video conference. Here are a few tips that help you carry out a professional online meeting:
Plan First Minutes
Especially, if there are several participants, you should plan the first couple of minutes for everyone to settle in. That means some people will be late, others will have technical issues. Be prepared to hear “Can you see me?” or “Can everyone hear me?” a couple of times.
So don’t expect the meeting to start right on time.
If you are the organizer of the meeting, clarify some basic rules before you start with your agenda. For instance:
- Attendees should mute themselves when they don’t speak.
- Everyone should turn their phones off.
- If someone wants to speak, he or she should raise their hand first, so that the person currently speaking can stop and they won’t speak at the same time.
- Clarify if questions can be asked during the conference or should be noted and asked at the end.
Keep Attendees Engaged
Let’s face it: Meetings can be boring. Even more so when people have to stare at a screen the entire time. That’s why it is important to engage your participants to keep them focused.
Here are a few ideas on how to do so:
- Ask for opinions or do polls
- Ask questions directed to all or single participants
- Agree on actions items for participants
- Use visuals, like graphs, images or slides
Keep it Short
To keep your participants’ attention, try to keep the video conference as short as possible. Since the mind wanders quickly and there is only so much you can do to keep everyone engaged, focus on the most important subjects.
In case a discussion gets out of hand, bring it back to the main point.
If there are multiple speakers, for instance, if team members need to give a status update, set a certain time frame. Every person gets 5 minutes to give a quick update. Check the time and intervene if they need much more than this.
Accept Technical Issues
In case your internet breaks and you get disconnected, don’t make a big deal of it. Simply return to the conference silently without apologizing five times and explaining what happened. That would only interrupt the meeting even more.
If you have missed something, ask the presenter about it after the meeting. The rest of the team surely doesn’t want to discuss the last 5 minutes all over again.
Only because it is a video conference, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to be as professional as you’d be in the office. That means:
- Don’t snack during the meeting
- Don’t text on your phone
- Don’t simply get up and do other things around the room
- Don’t get too cozy in your chair, sit up straight and be attentive
Video Conferencing Wrap up
Once the video conference is done, there are still a few things that you should keep in mind:
Close Meeting Software
After the meeting, make sure you leave the virtual meeting room. Many programs close the conference automatically once everybody has left or the moderator signed off.
But in case people forget, they don’t want to see you get up and walk around in your undies because you only wore a decent shirt during the call and no pants…
In case you took minutes during the online meeting, make sure to send them around or upload them in the cloud so everybody has access to it. The same goes for action items you all agreed on.
Make sure everyone gets these notes just in case someone had technical difficulties and missed something.
There you go – With these best video conferencing tips you are now perfectly prepared. That will definitely help you avoid most of the issues that can occur. And just in case something doesn’t go as planned – don’t worry! We are all there every once in a while. And in the worse case, your mess up goes viral on Twitter ;)