Video-conferencing. Even if you are still able to work onsite at your company’s office, the odds high that you have to meet online with a lot of people who are working from home.
If you were already doing remote sales pitches and virtual meetings, then this work-from-home world isn’t new to you. But if that’s not the case, you may be experiencing a steep learning curve.
Indispensable Skill Set
Under the current circumstances, hosting and attending virtual meetings is an indispensable skill set. And although not everybody excels at tech, the tools you need to learn are relatively straightforward.
While it’s true that some familiarity with video-conferencing is required to put your best foot forward, a stellar video conference still hinges on excellent management of logistics, communication, and preparation.
If you are feeling unsure about being at your best on a video conference, don’t be. If you excel at business and sales, you are already halfway there. You can take control of that virtual room. We’ll show you how.
In this article, we will cover:
- What you need to know about the technology and equipment required to attend a video conference.
- How to manage the meeting.
- Get you up-to-speed on virtual etiquette.
We’ll start with tech and equipment. After all, virtual meetings take place in a tech-based world. We’ll cover the essentials as well as add a few tips to boost your experience.
1. Start with the software.
If your company doesn’t already have the software or an app they use for video conferencing, you’ll need to do your research and make a deliberate decision on what would work best for you.
There is an array of apps and software programs that offer video conference hosting at a variety of price points. Free platforms usually offer basic tools, while higher-end options with lots of features can range anywhere from $15-$125/month.
Different tools work better for different circumstances, so make a list of your needs and the features you want and do your research.
Whatever company you go with, check their privacy and security statements to make sure your meeting is secure and can’t be used for data mining purposes (unless that’s okay with you).
2. Your internet connection can be a deal-breaker.
Nothing is more frustrating on a video conference than audio cutting in and out and the video breaking up. By far, the most critical element of video conferencing is a stable and fast internet connection.
Your internet connection will affect the quality of both your outgoing video stream as well as the incoming stream. Use a LAN cable whenever possible to guarantee a stable internet connection.
If you only have access to wireless, then make sure to play it safe with advanced encryption and password protection.
3. Could you speak up?
Choosing the right mic is crucial. If you have a quiet space in which to take the meeting, the mic that is built into your computer might do the trick.
If you want to get a better sound, there is a large variety of mics to choose from. You can even find mics that will plug into your smartphone.
Odds are you won’t be attending a video conference from a crowded coffee house any time soon. But if you are one of the many individuals who are working from home with family members and pets sharing your space, it may seem like it.
If you have to attend a video conference from a noisy environment, wear a headset. A headset will eliminate echoes and distractions and help other participants hear you more clearly.
4. Step into the light.
It isn’t necessary to have a full Hollywood lighting set up when you video conference, but the other participants still need to see you. And the better your lighting, the more professional you look.
Windows are fantastic for adding natural light to a room, and when that light is diffused and in front of you, you will look great on camera.
Having windows in the background will negatively impact the quality of your video by giving you a harsh silhouette.
If you choose to use a lamp, ring light, or other lighting gear, place the light in front of you. That’s how you will get your best lighting.
5. Don’t wait until the last minute to test your tech!
To ensure a productive and professional meeting, test everything well before the scheduled meet time. Even if you video-conference regularly, expect the unexpected and check your tech.
- Make sure the link works, the software or app functions on your hardware/ios, and any features you want to use work seamlessly.
- Make sure they can log on properly.
- Test your speakers or headphones.
Be a rockstar, and do a soundcheck with your mic.
6. Is this thing recording?
Pre-testing equipment includes the recording tool. With an app like ZOOM, the tool is built-in at certain subscription levels. With other apps, you will need to use a third-party app.
Thoroughly vet the app in advance and make sure that you know how to use it in tandem with your video-conferencing software, particularly if you are using a free version.
If you don’t take the time to educate yourself and practice, you may end up with bad results.
A watermark may appear across the video screen. The session may be split into very short clips that you would have to edit back together.
You might also find that the updated version of the recording tool doesn’t sync with the latest version of the video conference tool.
When you run a recording test, note exactly where on your hard drive the video files are saved, and if they are being saved in a cloud, find out how long they will remain there before being deleted.
Here’s a quick tip that may save Mac users some hassle:
QuickTime is preloaded onto all Mac computers. It can record your screen independently of the video conference tool. If you only want to capture part of your screen, it allows you to choose which portion.
7. Is that a Batman costume back there?
Unless you are in comic book sales or are known as an eccentric, make sure the batman costume isn’t hanging on the wall behind you.
- When you test your video camera, look at what is in the frame. Is the background tidy?
- Would you want your boss or potential customer to see what is hanging on the walls or the floor?
The best, but not always the most convenient thing to do is place yourself with a wall or bookshelf behind you. That way, people won’t be looking into your personal space.
And here’s a little extra tip: place your camera above eye level so that you are looking up. This opens up your eyes and gives you a free non-surgical facelift!
So your equipment is ready to go! Now what? You may be tempted to jump right on the call with no additional prep when, in fact, there is still plenty of prep to be done.
The secret to hosting, or even participating in, a productive remote meeting is the same as a meeting in any other venue.
Meeting management starts from the get-go. In the best of worlds, an agenda will be included with the invitation to the meeting.
That way, everyone knows why they are being invited to and what to prep. If you are the host, attaching an agenda will also save you time because you won’t have to spend as much time fielding questions from invitees.
If you can’t send the agenda with the invitation, then send it out asap. Also, send a reminder before the meeting that includes both the invitation and the agenda.
That way, your invitees will have everything at their fingertips and won’t have to go searching.
Understand Everyone’s Responsibilities
It will also prove helpful if everyone understands the role that they play before getting into the meeting room. If you are in charge of the meeting, make sure that everyone understands their responsibilities.
If you are not the lead, then make sure you understand the role that you have been assigned. Having this clarity will make the meeting run more smoothly and avoid double-headed management.
Ask For Clarification
If you have been invited to a meeting and need more information about what will be covered and what your role is, it is reasonable to request that information in advance.
You can also ask for any clarification on the following:
- Is there a conference link?
- Will there be a presentation? Will I be expected to give some portion of a presentation?
- Is my presence required or optional?
- Will I be heard? Seen?
Where in the World?
Video-conferencing allows participants from all over the world to participate, which means there may be people attending who live in multiple time zones.
If you are hosting the meeting, make sure to include the time zone on the invite. You can also add a link to a time zone finder to help people out.
If you are a participant, make sure you check the time zone on the invite. If you are confused about the time difference, google it!
Will the Video Be Recorded?
Recording video meetings isn’t only helpful as a review tool. It can support the flow of the meeting. When people know that they are being recorded, fewer side conversations arise, and teams progress through their agendas more smoothly.
You are required to let everyone in the meeting know that it is being recorded. All-party consent is a law in approximately a dozen states.
Could You Mute Yourself, Please?
To eliminate background noise during the meeting, mute yourself whenever you are not talking. This will also minimize echo from the microphone.
If you are the meeting host, show participants how to mute as well as unmute the microphone and ask that all of them are making use of this feature.
Virtual Etiquette 101
You’re ready for the meeting! It’s time to go online! Here’s where you shine! You’re looking and sounding good. Your equipment is ready to go— now is not the time to blow it.
Although meeting etiquette from in-person meetings can be carried over into the virtual world, there are a few differences.
It’s also easy to get your slacker on if you aren’t used to working from home. Here are best practices for virtual meetings.
- Be online on time.
- We’ve already mentioned it, but it is worth it to repeat it. Mute when you are not speaking.
- Don’t turn your back to the screen.
- Don’t block the view of the camera.
- Introduce yourself before speaking so that everyone knows who’s talking and can address you by name.
- Take note of other people’s names so that you can return the favor.
- If you are using an app like ZOOM that has your participant name onscreen for everyone to see, make sure it shows the name you want to be called by your colleagues.
- Turn off the sounds on your computer or smartphone.
- Speak clearly in a slow but natural way.
- Know your stuff so that you don’t mumble.
- Don’t shout. You can adjust your mic level if needed.
- Keep body movements at a minimum.
- Don’t interrupt other speakers.
- If the meeting leader has set them, follow the comment/question guidelines.
- Maintain eye contact by looking into the camera.
- Avoid side conversations- that includes texts, IM chats, everything that is outside the bounds of the meeting space.
- Dress appropriately. Stripes, patterns, and colors red, black, and white can be distracting.
- No noisy jewel or dangly earrings.
- Remember to always say good-bye to the onscreen participants before leaving a meeting.
We Are Here For You
We hope this article about best practices for video conferencing has supported you in your work and encouraged you to make video meetings and pitches a part of your toolbox.
In the past few months, our lives and way of doing business have changed drastically. It’s a good thing. We are all so adaptable!