We all know that face-to-face meetings are the most natural and effective way to communicate. However, when you work for a global company with team members dispersed all over the world, video calls are the next best thing. As a millennial and a so-called member of the “selfie generation,” being on video has always been comfortable for me. With popular apps like SnapChat and WhatsApp becoming another regular form of communicating, video is an everyday part of my life.
But on my first day on the job, I realized how different it was to be on a video call when it wasn’t a casual encounter with my friends. I couldn’t help but continue to glance over at myself in the self-view window. How did I look? How were people reacting to what I said? Was I coming across as professional?
Flash forward six months and now I’m a mobile worker. I work from our headquarter offices, my home office, in coffee shops, or in the occasional a hotel lobby during a quick break at a conference. Even with all the benefits that flexible work and video conferencing has, it can be really easy to screw up.
Along the way I’ve picked up some quick and easy tips on how to set up a video call so you feel comfortable, confident and come across as professional. They are:
1. Get the right lighting.
Overhead lighting is the worst kind of lighting for video conferences because it makes shadows under your eyes and across the bridge of your nose giving you a tired look. Natural, soft light is best; ideally behind your web cam (directly behind it, or one on the left, one on the right) and one directly behind you.
2. Check your angle.
Are you using a web cam clipped to the top of your monitor? Chances are it’s not capturing you from the best perspective. If it’s angled down too much, you’ll put your fellow meeting-goers in the position of towering over you.
If you’re using the built in camera on your laptop, it may be too low--and looking up your nose. Adjust the height of the chair you sit in, or a good quick fix is to put hardcover books under your laptop until the angle is right. You want the camera to capture the triangle of your forehead to your left shoulder and right shoulder in the frame. A diagram here would be great!
3. Look presentable.
Even if only your face and shoulders are in the frame, you never know if you’ll need to stand up for some reason. It’s always best to be prepared! So look decent from head to toe. Wear flattering, solid colors near your face, just like television news anchors do. Make sure you’re sitting in a comfortable position so you aren’t moving and fidgeting throughout the call and distracting from the meeting. And, please, no pajama bottoms.
4. Look behind you.
Don’t forget that the people on the other end of the call have a “fish bowl” view into your environment. Junk and clutter is not only distracting, but it’s also unprofessional. Think of your workspace as an extension of yourself, how would you want to be perceived? Clean walls are best, but if you do have photos/posters in the background, make sure it’s something you wouldn’t be uncomfortable with your boss looking at. The best rule of thumb? If you wouldn’t want it in a live meeting, you shouldn’t have it in a video conference! If possible, a poster with the company logo is ideal. Would be cool to collage a few good examples. Think of folks who brand their backgrounds and ask them for a photo or screenshot them during a video call.
5. Minimize distractions.
If you’re working in an environment with other people around, creating an “On Air” sign for your office door when you’re live can help keep other people from walking in. A barking dog or a cat running through the background can be a big distraction, so it’s best to keep them out of room. If you’re working in a public area like a coffee shop, it’s best to work with your back to a wall so you don’t have “extras” walking through the background while you’re on a call.
6. Be prepared.
Video is closer to a face-to-face meeting than it is to a conference call, yet most people treat it like a conference call. Looking at your notes or squinting at your computer screen is just as distracting as if you were reading your meeting notes in front of someone face-to-face. Know your main talking points and look up, eye contact is important to show you’re listening and engaging with others in the meeting. It might feel awkward at first to stare directly into the camera eye, but alternating between this and focusing on the speaker as they talk is important to show you’re engaged.
And last but not least, be sure to turn your video camera on and preview your view BEFORE starting a meeting! Give yourself a couple extra minutes before each meeting for a test run in case you need to adjust things like lighting, the height of your computer, move anything out of the background that might be distracting, etc. Following these simple tips will set you up for a much more professional and productive meeting!
What other rules do you follow when on a video call? Have any quick tips? Comment below!