Video calls are the new normal. And just like in-person meetings, their success hinges on preparation and delivery. Whether you’re a video call novice or a seasoned veteran, the following pointers will help you deliver quality meeting experiences, even remotely.
Avoid positioning yourself with a window or lamp behind you. Instead, you want light—natural or otherwise—projected onto your face, stopping short of making yourself glow. On especially overcast days, I point a clamp-on LED desk lamp toward my face from about four feet away. Everyone’s workspace has different lighting, so test different options to see what works best for you.
Look Slightly Up to the Camera, Never Down
When selfies were becoming a thing, I remember kids making fun of us adults for holding our iPhones down near our belly buttons. The same thing applies on video calls. You want your eyes at least level with the camera, ideally looking up a few degrees. This rule also applies to tablets. There are plenty of stands on the market to give your device a lift.
Declutter Your Background
It’s human instinct to check out surroundings, even on video calls. On the one hand, you don’t want a sterile and empty wall behind you. On the other hand, you don’t want clutter to cause eyes to wander. An ideal background is a clean wall with a simple picture or painting, maybe a plant or bookshelf. And be careful with virtual backgrounds. Without a top-notch camera and a proper green screen, your clever digital image will randomly cut off your ears and hair.
Tailor Audio to Your Computer’s Strengths
Some machines provide better audio experiences than others. Some experience bad feedback or echo when using internal speakers along with the built-in microphone. Test your machine’s internal speaker and microphone to determine whether you need help from an external device. Audio issues can sometimes be environmental, so carefully test this in the room(s) from which you will be taking meetings.
The Jabra 410 USB Speaker Phone and Logitech HD C920 Camera w/Mic can be excellent alternatives. Using an over-the-ear headphone or gaming headset might make you feel like an NFL draft pick, but again they might distract your viewer—and like all Bluetooth devices, just add another variable that can go wrong.
Test and Prioritize Your Bandwidth
If you’re like me and have a few extra guests at home these days, you might be competing for bandwidth with school courses run on Zoom, League of Legends tournaments, or constant TikTok recordings. It may sound obvious but give your housemates a heads up when you’re heading into a video call. In my case, I use my Google Wi-fi app to allocate more bandwidth to my laptop for at least the duration of the call.
Sign in Early
If you’re hosting the call, you want to be early. This allows you to not only test your set up ahead of time, but also allows you to be on the line to greet your meeting attendants once they arrive.
Double Check Your Settings
When launching a conferencing application, do not assume that your previous settings have persisted. You have put the time into finding a good setup, and now is the time to ensure you are applying it.
Dress and Behave as if You’re in Person
If you’re hosting a meeting with clients, the general rule of thumb is to align your attire with that of the senior most client attendee. Similarly, you probably wouldn’t eat or slug back your kombucha if you were in person with your client—the same protocol applies virtually.
Focus on the Correct Monitor
Many of us have side-by-side monitors and can find ourselves speaking to the wrong screen (usually the one with our inbox displayed). Focus on your audience instead, and ideally look at the camera itself. If you need to look away to refer to your notes, that’s okay, but prepare enough ahead of time where you don’t come across as reading them.
When Sharing Content, Share the Application Not the Whole Screen
You can share applications like Word or PowerPoint, or you can share your entire screen. When possible, share the former so that your audience doesn’t see the myriad open tabs or a cluttered desktop we all tend to have.
Focus on the Meeting
Don’t try to multi-task when you’re on a group call—the attendees will notice. If your boss calls or texts you, don’t respond. Better yet, silence your notifications ahead of time and across all your devices. Also, it’s easy for attendees to “check out” of virtual meetings. At the beginning of the meeting encourage cameras to be on, and if someone is quiet and you can’t read their face, pull them into the conversation.
Use the Mute Button – Liberally
Defaulting to mute keeps you one step ahead of the unexpected, like when a kid barges into your home office, or when you absolutely can’t hold in that sneeze. And if something weird happens, it’s okay to turn off video as well—just momentarily. Linger too long off video and your colleagues will think you’ve checked out of the meeting. Finally, if you turn off video, be sure to mute audio as well.
Use these tips during your next video meeting to let your expertise shine through without distraction.