Video conferencing is becoming increasingly prevalent due to more people working remotely. Whether you’re temporarily telecommuting, working from home permanently, or planning video conferences from an office, it’s important to come off as professionally as possible during these video calls. Here are some tips to help you make the most of this communication style.
Conferencing from Home
There are three areas that need to be addressed when you are conferencing from home:
- Looking Professional – One of the first things people will notice when you speak with them on video is your appearance. Whether it’s light, sound, or dress, your visuals need to come off as a professional.
- Acting Professionally – Video conferencing is a work-related activity. So even if you’re at home, you should prepare like you would if you were in the office. Avoid multitasking or sifting around your desk for materials. If you need to talk to a family member or make any unrelated noise, make sure to use that mute feature!
- Avoiding Distractions – Video conferencing with family, pets, and doorbell ringers in the background can be tough. However, it’s important to try to limit these distractions while you’re on calls with colleagues or clients.
Looking Professional on a Video Call
Looking and sounding professional on video calls means taking control of your environment. It’s not just about your individual appearance; it’s also about getting the best look and sound in your surroundings. Here are some of the most important areas to consider.
Nobody wants to look like they’re sitting in a cave. Here are some tips on how to optimize the light source for your video calls.
- Face Your Light Source: When light is coming from behind you, your background gets illuminated but your face ends up dark. People on a video call want to see you, so position your light in front of you or put your laptop in front of a window or lamp for the best image.
- Include Multiple Lights: A single light source can create a ton of shadows, which may be distracting during a meeting. If possible, go to a room with multiple windows or use an overhead light and lamp so you get light from multiple directions.
- Use Natural Light When Possible: Sunlight tends to look more even and less harsh than artificial light. So if you’re having a video conference during the day, try to find a space with plenty of windows to take advantage of the best natural light.
- Consider a Ring Light: Sometimes, natural light isn’t an option. If you tend to video conference in the evening or if your home office is in a basement, a dedicated light source may be beneficial. A ring light provides the best, even coverage right in front of your computer.
- Test Your Lighting: Simply looking at yourself on camera can help you determine if you need more or less light, or if you need to change direction.
Dressing up on a video call is just as important as in-person, so make sure to look your best. Here are some tips on how to dress appropriately.
- Don’t Wear Checks or Pinstripes: When you wear these patterns on a video call, the movement can create a distracting visual for other participants.
- Stick to Moderate Shades: Black and white may be professional when you are at work in an office environment, but they can impact the light settings of your video call. If the camera detects tons of bright white, for example, it may adjust and make the rest of the screen seem darker.
- Dress Business Casual: Even if you spend most of your days working in sweats, a video call requires some professionalism. Don’t wear something if you wouldn’t wear it to meet with clients or colleagues in person.
- Get Dressed Fully: You may be tempted to only get dressed from the waist up since that’s likely the only part of you people will see. However, you never know if you may have to get up to get presentation materials or something else. Stick to full business casual outfits, to be safe.
- Wear Something That Makes You Feel Confident: Though professionalism is important, you still want to feel comfortable and confident. Wear the items that make you feel ready to communicate freely and focus on the content of your meeting.
Your camera is what enables you to actually connect with other participants visually. Use these tips to ensure a smooth connection.
- Put the Camera at Eye Level: Placing the camera below or above you can create a strange angle for video. Additionally, you’ll be more likely to actually look into the camera instead of at yourself on the screen if it’s at eye level.
- Find the Right Position: Ideally, your camera should show your head and shoulders, or perhaps the top half of your torso. Experiment with your computer and chair placement to find the right distance.
- Use a Neutral Background: Tons of clutter in the background of your office can be distracting and unprofessional. Find a spot that looks tidy and doesn’t include anything potentially sensitive or embarrassing.
- Consider a Virtual Background: Some programs like Zoom offer the option to use virtual backgrounds, so you can choose to have your meeting in front of a skyline or another photo of your choice. You’ll need a plain background for this feature to work. And you should only use this option if it’s not going to distract participants or seem unprofessional.
- Limit Lag: Your camera can sometimes delay movements or freeze if there’s a lot of strain on your internet connection. As much as possible, close other tabs on your computer and disconnect other devices while you’re on calls.
Other participants also need to be able to hear you when it’s your turn to share. These tips can help you get the message across clearly.
- Watch Out for Sound Delays: Sometimes sound lags during a call, which can cause participants to try and talk at the same time. Make sure to signal that you wish to speak before jumping in and talking over someone.
- Consider Purchasing a Microphone: If you have video calls regularly, the built-in sound on your computer may not be up to your quality standards. You can purchase a separate microphone and connect it to your computer so people can hear you more clearly.
- Use Headphones: When sound comes from your computer speakers, it can sometimes loop back into your microphone and create an echo. Avoid this by using headphones.
- Find a Quiet Spot: Some parts of your house or office are likely quieter than others. If possible, find a place with a door or some insulation to limit extra noise.
- Speak Clearly: When it’s your turn to share, enunciate and project so people can hear you clearly, just as you would during an in-person meeting.
Before your meeting, test your camera and sound quality to make sure you have a strong connection. This prevents delays and confusion during the call, which can seem especially unprofessional.
Acting Professionally on a Video Call
Following proper video conferencing etiquette helps meetings run more smoothly and assures you are not rude. Keep these factors in mind on your next call.
Don’t multi-task during a call. Even if people can’t see you, it’s pretty obvious that you’re not paying attention. Keep in mind some software can show the organizer of the meeting if the call screen is the one in front or if something else like a browser window is taking your attention.
Aside from being polite, muting your audio helps you avoid saying something that everyone on the call overhears. It also makes it easier for attendees to hear the current speaker without interruptions.
Use an Agenda
Just as you would during a normal meeting, having an agenda keeps you on track and ensures there’s a purpose for every meeting. If you’re organizing, create a list of talking points and send it to your team before meetings.
Keep Materials Nearby
If you need any notes or presentation materials for your call, keep them at your desk or within arms’ reach. This helps you avoid delays and seem prepared.
Clear Your Screen
If you plan on sharing your screen during a call, close any tabs that aren’t relevant. You should also use do not disturb features or turn off notifications so nothing pops up while others can see.
Be on Time
Showing up late to a video meeting tells other participants that you don’t value their time. If you wouldn’t do it for an in-person meeting, don’t do it for a video meeting.
Make Eye Contact
It’s tempting to look at yourself or other distractions on your screen. However, try to focus on your camera or other people talking during calls. This helps them feel like you’re actually focused on the content of the call.
Avoiding Distractions on a Video Call
There are tons of potential things that can pop up during a call, especially while so many are unexpectedly working remotely. Here are some potential distractions and tips for dealing with them.
Kids and spouses may walk into your office or make noise outside. Though you can’t help if there’s an emergency, let them know about calls beforehand so they don’t interrupt for less important issues.
Pets can’t understand that you’re on a call and can’t be bothered. If you have a dog that’s prone to barking at trucks that pass by or a cat that loves to crawl across your desk, find a quiet spot in your house where you can close the door, or ask a family member to take them for a walk.
Loud landscaping equipment or package delivery drivers ringing your doorbell can add tons of extra noise that you don’t have much control over. Aside from using mute when you’re not talking, keep windows closed, or consider a basement or upstairs location for meetings.
Phone calls or text alerts that pop up during a call can make you seem unprofessional. Turn off ringers and alerts during meetings to prevent interruptions.
Even alerts that pop up on your screen during calls can be distracting. Close your email tabs and turn off alerts from chat programs so the sounds and pop-ups don’t steal your attention.
Currently, you may not be receiving a lot of in-person visitors. But in general, neighbors and family members may stop by unexpectedly if they know you’re home. Let them know you regularly have video meetings as part of your work and ask them to notify you before stopping by.
Distractions don’t have to come from your physical surroundings. Chatting with other participants about the weekend or other issues that are unrelated to your agenda can alienate others on the call and waste time. Save those items for a one-on-one chat.
Conferencing from home with video is a great way for small businesses and their employees to stay in touch while working from home. With these tips, you can be your best and appear more professional while getting more accomplished during every session.
This article, “Video Conferencing from Home: Tips to Become a Pro” was first published on Small Business Trends