04/14/2020

By Ricky Townsend | Senior Marketing Specialist

If you weren’t already part of the 64% of Americans who were videoconferencing weekly even before the Coronavirus outbreak, chances are fairly high you’ve now slid into that statistic.

However, for many of us, our videoconferencing prowess stops at personal FaceTime calls or the occasional Skype video meeting. This epidemic has ushered in a deluge of new habits for millions of people as videoconferencing has emerged as the new normal of not just telecommunication – but communication in general, for a while at least.

While the use of video conferencing in the workplace was already gaining momentum, with 80% of executives agreeing that videoconferencing was “fast becoming the norm for internal teams (as opposed to audio conferencing)”, it goes without saying that social distancing has served as a catalyst for an exponential take off. Look no further than the surge in demand on videoconferencing software – or the number of blogs out there helping with videoconferencing tips (#selfaware #selfisolated).

Whether it be professional, social, or creative, videoconferencing has gone from a nice-to-have to an integral part of functioning as a human. And since it’s likely here to stay even more so now, there’s no better time to familiarize yourself with videoconferencing etiquette and best practices.

Keep in mind, these tips don’t just help you “look” good, but equip you with the tools to help ensure your ideas and words are heard more effectively. Connection is key and it’s no less important when pitching an idea to a superior, disclosing some personal information to a friend, or giving it a shot at this #influencer thing. We all have something to gain by sprucing up our video frame. Besides, you probably have the extra free time now.

Whether it be professional, social, or creative, videoconferencing has gone from a nice-to-have to an integral part of functioning as a human.

1. Let There Be Light (in Front of You)

A Caucasian male sitting in front of a window with light coming in behind him so that there are shadows on his face

A common mistake people make is sitting with a window behind them for a more appealing view for their colleagues. Certainly in real life, that nature shot behind you looks great – but on a Skype or Zoom call, the juxtaposition between the sunlight and your face will result in overexposure of the former and underexposure of the latter. In a world of Portrait Mode and filters, do your face a favor and let that natural light spill onto that mug! Primary light sources (especially natural light) should always be in front of or slightly to the side of you. However, that doesn’t mean there should be zero light behind you. Which brings us to our next tip…

2. Get Out of the Dungeon

A Caucasian male with a spotlight on his face and dark shadows in the background

While it’s important not to be backlit by the sun or other primary light sources, the room you’re in still needs to be evenly lit. And definitely not lightless, save for one lamp. By not lighting your room, you run the risk of looking like you’re:

  • in a dark cave
  • in a dungeon; or
  • serving time in a federal prison during a power outage.

You’re most like not in any of those places. And if you are, you should probably be reading a different blog.

3. In The Sha-Sha-Sha-Shadow

A Caucasian male with shadows on his face in a video conferencing call

If you’re noticing odd shadows on your face, trial and error is your best friend. Try moving your light sources (which again, should be in front of, or to the side of you) closer to you OR dulling them with a lampshade or white sheet. Desperate times call for creative measures, folks. No shame in some DIY filmmaking.

4. I Was Framed!

A Caucasian male on a video conferencing call with bad framing

While lighting reins king, positioning is paramount as well. The main thing to remember here is that keeping things at eye-level is everything. If your camera is at eye-level, chances are everything else falls into place, such as:

  • Slight space between your head and top of the frame
  • Shoulders/upper midsection at bottom of the frame
  • No upward or downward angles

If your camera isn’t naturally at eye-level, then take some extra care to ensure your camera isn’t too high or too low, which can result in some unflattering angles.

5. Are You Talkin’ to Me?

When you’re speaking, look into the camera instead of the screen, if you can – especially if you’re giving a presentation or saying more than just a few words. Your listeners will process more of what you’re saying, retain more information, and naturally be more attentive. If that’s too difficult, see if you can’t move the video window (of the people/person you’re talking with) to be closer to your camera.

6. Can You Hear Me Now? Good.

A Caucasian male using headphones during a video conference call

When at all possible, use headphones. Especially for those juggling remote work with roommates, families, or young children. Most people just think of headphones as a way to keep the computer/phone/tablet noise from bothering those physically around them – but if the headphones have a microphone (and most do, these days) you’re also doing your video-conference cohorts the invaluable gesture of keeping background noise to a minimum. In some cases, they can eliminate it completely. And as our next tip explains, muting is always an option as well.

7. Was it Something I Said?

As with normal phone conferences, it’s typically best practice to mute the microphone if we’re not speaking – especially in conference calls of more than 3 people. But be aware of your settings and don’t forget to unmute when you do speak (it’s ok, we’ve all been that person.)

8. There’s No Such Thing as (Hidden) Multi-tasking – Stay Engaged!

If you’re reading this, you probably think you’re an expert multi-tasker. Especially while working from home. And making dinner. And doing your taxes. I’m here to tell you that there are no secrets on video conferences. Unless you can pull off Keanu Reeves’ video loop trick in SPEED (1994), it is very easy to tell when someone isn’t engaged or focused on the conversation, for a multitude of reasons (eye movement, mouse clicking, delayed responses, screen reflection changes on face, etc.) Do your best to close down your email, put your other work to the side, and direct your attention to the call for that 30-60 minute meeting. Physical separation makes it harder for cohesive dialogue as it is – don’t make it harder by not being 100% present!

9. Set the Scene

Disclaimer: context is everything. It goes without saying that company culture, guidelines, or the situation dictate what your attire and background should look like. For the most part, you’ll do well with a neutral background – but if the situation is appropriate, don’t be afraid to show some personality – books, furniture, a piece of art.

While there’s definitely a balance of what’s distracting and what’s boring, having a clean, yet unique background can help distinguish you from others and make the conference a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

10. Test, Test, Test

A Caucasian male chatting during a video conference call

If you’re not already a video-conference pro, give yourself half an hour to go through this list and practice framing yourself up. Even if you’ve already mastered the art of the video conference, it’s still wise to give yourself an appropriate amount of time to check your internet connection, camera, audio, and microphone.

There’s a direct correlation with meeting efficacy and videoconferencing quality. Don’t shortchange yourself by rushing through these steps. By employing these tips, you’re not only respecting your video conference colleagues, but yourself as well.

And if something goes awry? That’s fine! No one has a 100% track record with video calls and people are very forgiving when it comes to blunders. Just be transparent with whatever you’re dealing with and get back to the presentation as soon as you can.

Stay safe out there. And light up that beautiful face!

There’s a direct correlation with meeting efficacy and videoconferencing quality. Don’t shortchange yourself by rushing through these steps. By employing these tips, you’re not only respecting your video conference colleagues, but yourself as well.

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