2019 to 2020 Shift
In 2019, there were people who hadn’t heard of Zoom. By the end of 2020, many of us were living our lives on it. There are a number of video conference platforms for business use, such as Webex, GoToMeeting, or Skype.
It’s hard to imagine a tool as valuable as Zoom or other video conference platforms going away once offices resume in-person operations, and that means the need for professional video conferencing conduct may very well become a basic job requirement. We thought it would be constructive to go over some best practices for professional video calls.
Video Conferences vs Audio Conferences!
Many workplaces credit video conferencing platforms for being critical in their ability to pivot into remote work. While voice conference calls have been around for ages, using video conferencing allows for a vital degree of expressive communication has played a major role in adapting to “the new normal”.
Video calls are only as effective as the people on them, and adapting to a world of video-only socialization can be a hard adjustment. The value of seeing people on the other end is what makes the meeting personalized. Having your video off and a black box or a still photo just isn’t the ideal expectation and it takes away from the experience of other participants. Imagine if you were presenting to 10 black boxes or still photos, not able to “read” your audience? Sounds pretty lonely.
Dress to Impress
The visual aspect of video conferencing is important. Without it, we’d simply be back to making audio-only conference calls. A core component of video conferencing is being able to see, react to, and empathize with the other person in a way that’s impossible if you’re just using audio.
Unfortunately, that means no more taking calls in pajamas. Looking professional on a video call is a factor that’s vital for a good first impression and every line of communication that comes afterward.
Camera Placement Matters
Camera placement is one of the easiest things to control, but it can also be a potentially massive detractor if it isn’t taken into proper consideration. Put simply: good camera placement is invisible. If your audience isn’t thinking about it, that means you did your job correctly.
Place your camera in a well-lit environment, on a steady surface, and with the light coming towards your face, never behind you—this can cast dreadful dark spots. It should ideally be positioned around your eye line and far enough away from where you’re seated to frame the full profile of your upper body. Angling the camera too high or too low can start your meeting off on an awkward note, as can sitting too close. It’s also important to know what is in your background, make sure you have a clean surrounding and nothing inappropriate is visible during your meetings.
Be on Time
There’s an old saying in the business world: “If nothing else, you can always show up early.” This is especially important when using a platform like Zoom to communicate with customers, clients, and coworkers.
Late arrivals to a video meeting can be frustrating for everyone involved. The notification sound that comes from someone entering means everyone is instantly alerted to a late arrival, and this can be distracting for whoever is currently speaking.
Using waiting rooms is a handy solution if you’re hosting the meeting. Having everyone start the meeting at once can offset some of the awkwardness that comes from the host being late, and it allows you to account for any late arrivals. Additionally, setting up a custom greeting for your waiting room to go over talking points for the upcoming meeting is a great way to make sure everyone’s on the same page when you start.
To Mute or Not to Mute?
This is going to vary based on the type of video call and number of participants. For meetings with many participants, it’s usually best to start the call with your audio on mute. Typing, crunching, or other sounds from people or machines are a distracting for the speaker. It also takes the video off the speaker and on the camera where the sound is coming from (they’ll see YOU!). Then, someone will be forced to speak up and ask you to put yourself on mute so the meeting can be conducted without interruption. If this is a much smaller group meeting, you’ll likely be speaking together more, but you should remain mindful of how sounds from your microphone will still distract everyone in the meeting, both audibly and visually.
Don’t Get Stuck on Filters!
After spending enough time on calls, being able to socialize as a cat, talking potato, or Disney princess goes a long way in fighting video conferencing fatigue. That said, there’s a time and a place for funny filters, and they’re a bad idea when you’re talking to clients, managers, or anyone who isn’t in on the joke.
While this might seem like a no-brainer, it’s a mix-up that can be deceptively easy to make. The internet has no shortage of “Zoom fails” videos where a cute filter utterly dominates the focus of the meeting. So please double check your filters before hopping on a meeting.
Consider Using a “Zoom Room”
If you’re using video calls frequently, consider setting up a private (closed-door), designated space just for those calls. This can go a long way towards communicating your professionalism to clients and other companies. While these configurations are understandably rarer in homes and apartments (which can have limited free space), they’re growing increasingly popular in offices as companies rely on video for more and more communication.
A Zoom Room is exactly what it sounds like — a space that’s been set up for the purpose of hosting video call meetings. These spaces usually feature a television and mic-enabled webcam mounted at a fixed angle, along with favorable lighting and (occasionally) tasteful backdrops. There should be limited distractions from other household members, including those furry companions we hold so dear. It may take some trial-and-error, but once a space is properly set up, you (ideally) won’t have to configure it again for a while!