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Following these simple tips can ensure a smoother video conferencing experience while boosting your meeting’s productivity, effectiveness and efficiency
With social distancing and travel restrictions being imposed throughout the world to combat the global pandemic, virtual meetings and video collaborations have quickly emerged as a key to remote working.
In fact, video conferencing has come to the rescue of not only millions of employees who are now working from home due to COVID-19, but also teachers, students, medical personnel, and even church-goers, who are reconvening in cyberspace amid widespread lockdown.
According to app data tracking firm Apptopia, Zoom was downloaded 2.13 million times worldwide on 23 March, the day the lockdown was announced in the UK – up from 56,000 a day two months earlier. Third-party data indicates that daily usage of Zoom soared 300% from before the pandemic forced workers into their homes, said JPMorgan analyst Sterling Auty.
Microsoft Teams had over 44 million daily active users in March, up from 20 million in November, indicating a surge of more than 50%.
All data undoubtedly points towards an increasing trend of video conferencing. Many business leaders are even wondering whether working from will become the new normal in a post-COVID-19 world.
We bring you a list of video conferencing tips and etiquette to help you conduct seamless virtual meetings.
- Dress appropriately
Working in your pajamas may be one of the most alluring aspects of working from home. However, it goes without saying that you can’t be in sweats and a t-shirt for professional calls.
Dress appropriately for business video conferencing – and not just from the waist up – just as you would for an in-person meeting. You never know when you might have to suddenly get up, or your camera may fall.
2. Spend time troubleshooting
Just as you need to be on time for business meetings in person, it is essential to be on time for your virtual meetings as well. In fact, it is advisable to log in and troubleshoot in advance, to avoid delays due to technical glitches.
3. Set up your space
Set up your camera and inspect the field of visibility to ensure that everything, including any posters or art you might have up, look clean and work-appropriate. Small things like stowing your laundry somewhere out of sight can be managed by everyone.
It’s also good practice to ensure that your face is clearly visible. Do not sit too close to or too far from the camera, and make sure you have enough light on your face.
Avoid backlight or overhead lights as these might create shadows on your face. If you cannot change your lighting, place a source of light in front of you, like a table lamp, to ensure adequate lighting.
While office environments are peaceful and conducive to video conferencing, home environments are usually less so. If you have family members or housemates living with you, inform them of your meeting schedule so they know not to disturb you during those times.
4. Prepare in advance
An effective and efficient virtual meeting needs a clear agenda. At the start of a meeting, specify the meeting end time, purpose of the meeting, things to be discussed, and how much time can be allocated to each topic. This will ensure that your meeting stays on track while video conferencing.
If your presentation file is heavy and contains video, it is advisable to distribute the materials in advance so that participants can read, study, and reflect on the materials prior to the call.
Screen share is a useful tool for presenting to ensure everyone is on the same page, but prioritize conversation to maximize the time people are looking at each other.
5. Minimize presentation lengths
Technology tends to dehumanize interpersonal interactions, and it is easy for people to dissociate from the content of the meetings. Keep your presentations brief, to avoid losing your colleagues’ attention while video conferencing.
6. Stay focused and avoid distractions
Pretending to make eye contact with speakers can help you stay focused, says Art Markman, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin. While speaking, look at the camera and try to not get distracted by your own or other people’s video.
It is easy to get distracted while video conferencing – you maybe tempted to quickly check your email, or Twitter, or watch Netflix, or even chat with your colleagues about how boring the meeting is. Just as you would not do these things in a physical meeting, avoid these during video conferencing as well.
Besides, you may not be as subtle as you think – it is easy to tell if you are looking at something other than the presentation.
Also avoid drawing attention to accidental distractions. If a pigeon starts cooing outside your window, or someone’s dog suddenly starts barking, or a toddler makes an unexpected appearance, take a moment to acknowledge the interruption lightly, but make sure you move on quickly to avoid deviating from the meeting agenda.
7. Mute yourself when not speaking
Zoom’s Chief Product Officer Oded Gal recommends muting yourself for large virtual meetings. It allows the speaker to be heard more clearly by reducing background noise from everyone’s microphones.
Computer or camera microphones are designed to pick up background noise. Using headphones can also minimize inadvertent noises like paper rustling or chair squeaking, and ensure a smoother video conferencing experience.
8. Minimize body movements
Avoid quick or sudden movements as these are difficult for cameras and microphones to keep up with. Quick movements may appear jumpy or choppy to others on the call, especially if you have a slow Internet connection.
9. Be inclusive
It is easy to interrupt or talk over others while video conferencing, where visual cues are limited. Leaders can call on participants to avoid such interruptions, while making sure everyone, including the quiet introverts, get a chance to share their views or opinions.
10. Avoid unnecessary video conferences
When an email or Slack message can suffice, avoid holding unnecessary or pointless video conferences, to avoid technology-induced ennui and keep meetings effective.
It is advisable to hold video conferences when you find yourself writing multiple paragraphs or have a topic that would be easier to discuss face-to-face. If the issue is not pressing or does not require more than a couple of sentences for clarification, skipping the video call may be a good idea.
While substituting video calls for in-person team meetings could seem like a downgrade for business operations, following these simple tips could increase your employees’ productivity and engagement, and ensure your video meetings are effective and efficient.
New Zoom user? Check out our list of Zoom’s top interactive functions here.
Header Image by visuals on Unsplash