The do’s and don’ts
of video conferencing
As more and more places of work move to being online, we are learning how to digitally access all aspects of working. Meetings pass entirely online, which means we have a lot of video conference calls to attend. If you don’t have a lot of video conferencing experience, it may take some getting used to it — especially when your entire team is working remotely now. Although approaching it as an in-person meeting is helpful, there are also a few things you need to remember when you’re on a video call. Here’s a guide to video conferencing do’s and don’ts.
SET UP YOUR SPACE
Find a private spot to take the call, if you can. If not, using headphones to keep background noise to a minimum. If you have roommates, friends or family members who often work from home (or are always stuck at home), let them know in advance that you will be in a meeting to avoid interruptions.
Set up your camera or computer so it has a simple, unimpeded view of you. Don’t sit too far (or too close) away from the camera. Place it near your phone if you are using a different camera — it is better to place the camera at eye level so that when you look at the screen, it looks as though you are looking at the person you are talking to.
See to it that your face is well lit. Natural lighting and side lighting work best but overhead lights are also going to work well. Backlighting will also make it difficult to see; if you can’t adjust the backlighting, try to place another light in front of your face and to the left.
Clean up the surrounding environment. Open the camera on your monitor or turn on your external camera to see what’s clear in the background before the call, to verify if you’re confidently displaying it on a video call (so put away your laundry and make sure it’s work-appropriate on your walls). Oh, and if you don’t have time to tidy up your room, you might want to set up a virtual background too.
CHECK YOUR APPEARANCE
One of the best things about working from home is having to wear all-day sweatshirts and sweatpants, but that may not be the right choice for a video call. Dress up like you would for an in-person meeting, and follow the dress code of your workplace. You don’t need to do anything special, like putting on lipstick if you don’t wear it regularly, but having a fairly good appearance is a good idea.
It is best to avoid patterns or lines that might interrupt on camera. Wearing a bright white or black shirt will auto-adjust the brightness of your camera and make it difficult to see your face, so wear a less intense colour. Getting good posture does not hurt, either.
STARTING THE CALL
Checking your video conferencing program before the call is a good idea, particularly if you’ve never used it before. Also, make sure you have a good Wi-Fi link, and your computer is either plugged in or charged in full.
Give yourself a few extra minutes to set up before the call and, if possible, log on to the call a little early, particularly if you’re not familiar with the software your host is using. Check to see if everyone can hear and see each other once the call has begun. A quick way to do this is to make everyone sign in or introduce themselves.
KNOW WHEN TO TURN OFF YOUR AUDIO AND VIDEO
Mute your call hand, if you don’t talk. Your microphone will pick up a lot of background noise so muting makes it easier for you to hear who’s speaking on the call. Also, if you need to get up or walk about or do something else during the call (or if your baby unexpectedly appears), turning off your video is a smart idea to prevent distractions.
SIGNAL WHEN YOU WANT TO TALK
You will pick up on visual reminders during in-person meetings to help you find the right time to talk. In a video call it is much easier to interrupt inadvertently. Wait a few moments of silence before you speak up in case there is a pause in the background.
If your organization or team has daily online meetings, it’s a good idea to agree on a method to ask questions, like raising your hand or talking to ask a question. When you are organizing the meeting, then calling people by name is also helpful.
Speak plainly and watch your speaking time (and don’t forget to unmute yourself!). But talk at your usual volume — no need to yell, because if you do, your colleagues will lower their volume, and then miss anything else.
Be alert and engaged throughout the call. Seek not to do any other job or read posts or send e-mails, as tempting as it is. (Don’t look at your phone and don’t eat!) Try looking at your camera while you’re talking. When you look on your computer at yourself or others, you can look at something else. If you’re not talking, make sure you pay attention to whoever talks or shows their phone, and look at any documents you may need to reference. (Others may see where you’re looking again.)
If there is a conversation pause because, for example, you need to pull up an email or reference a text, make sure that you communicate this. Delays or long periods of silence might make it seem like you’ve lost touch, so this just keeps you on the same page.
Keep in mind that you are more noticeable on video calls than in offline meetings, because you get to see close-ups of everybody’s face individually rather than a whole group of people at once. Holding your own face clear on-screen is always useful only as a reminder you’re on camera, and that you can see what others are doing.
SHARING YOUR SCREEN
If during a video call you need to share your computer, take a few seconds to plan before hitting the sharing button. Clear your screen from any extra tabs or programs that you might have opened, and make sure you conceal any private or confidential information.