Our family, social and working lives have all undergone such dramatic changes in recent months.
For those of us fortunate enough to still be working, our workplace has changed beyond recognition. Face-to-face meetings, handshakes, and quick catch-ups over a coffee have been replaced by the video conference call.
Detached yet connected, video conferencing is uncharted territory for many and just as you’re getting to grips with it… a new update is installed on your laptop which throws your newfound skills out of the window!! (She says talking from experience!)
With no rule book or established etiquette, video conferencing can feel like a professional and personal minefield. Many of the systems out there offer a huge range of training webinars but frankly fitting that into daily life amongst home schooling, work and maintaining your sanity isn’t easy.
Whilst there are no hard and fast rules to this new way of working, the following simple guidelines will help you to present yourself as professionally as is possible in these ever-changing times.
Treat your call as you would treat a meeting.
AUDIO V VIDEO
Everyone may be jumping on the video call bandwagon these days but is video really necessary or appropriate for the type of call you’re about to make? Would a straightforward phone call suffice?
Regular telephone calls are still perfectly acceptable for the majority of one-to-one catch ups, plus it’s a lot more relaxing knowing far less can go wrong!! But if you’re looking for an in-depth, meeting-like experience (potentially involving several people) then video is definitely the way to go.
Using a good microphone and a set of headphones will make all the difference for your listener.
We talked to Colin Gray, The Podcast Host – THE expert in this field and he recommended checking out his website articles for load of great tips on the best and affordable kit:
Software & Tools for recording and editing:
It is essential you run audio/video checks before you start, give yourself a minimum of 15 mins before the call to make sure everything is working. Any slides should be ready on your desktop.
It’s worth noting here that if you use presenter view in PowerPoint, the screen sharing options mean the listener will also see your presenter view, not just a PPT slideshow. You can get around this by having a second screen.
You know what they say…failing to prepare is preparing to fail so make sure you prepare ahead of time.
Here’s how to feel more confident, relaxed and make the best impression with some examples to illustrate:
* Your background – you may want to alter your background depending on your audience and the impression you want to make.
For an internal meeting or presentation a simple and undistracting background is fine.
Make sure there isn’t anything distracting like an unmade bed, laundry hanging out to dry or an untidy room behind you. Everything is more exaggerated on VC calls and if you have a busy background behind you this will be distracting for your listeners.
If you’re presenting to clients or investors think about how you can represent your brand and create a good impression. You may have something with your logo on it, or something that represents what you do on the wall behind you.
*Lighting – good lighting can make a huge difference to the listener’s experience of your call. Ideally set up with natural light coming towards you i.e. a window in front of you. If this isn’t possible a desk lamp shining towards you should do the trick.
It’s really good practice to set up a call with a colleague or friend and get feedback on what they can see. They are likely to spot things you won’t.
* Establish a time limit – ideally 40-60 mins max as anything longer can be a real brain drain.
* Prep bullet points and identify topics to remind yourself what needs to be covered. These work as your roadmap to keep you on track, keep the meeting moving and manage your time.
* If you are leading or hosting the call, set out clear parameters from the start so expectations are managed. Establish the aim of the meeting, introduce the main players and outline the anticipated structure so attendees know what is expected of them.
* If certain individuals are only required to attend for short periods then let them know. Don’t waste people’s time unnecessarily.
* If you anticipate any interruptions (poor internet connection or having to deal with kids etc) make sure you flag these up ahead of time or at the start of the meeting.
Repeat after me… “Be yourself. Be conversational. Look after your listeners.”
If you stick to this mantra, you’ll be well on your way to managing a great call.
Below are some examples of how to put these techniques into practice during a video call:
* Put Down The Sandwich – PLEASE, PLEASE don’t eat during a video call! Speaking from experience, it’s not a good thing to watch!
* Introduce Yourself – Say who you are when speaking and encourage others to do the same.
* Eye Contact – make sure you have your camera at eye level. This may mean you need to raise your laptop. A client shared a great tip with me: put an arrow next to your webcam so that you remember to focus on that point. This also means that your audience is looking straight at you and not looking up your nose!
I drag my Zoom window so that the listener thumbnail is sitting near my webcam which makes it easier for me to focus on them and use an appropriate amount of eye contact. Again, having a run through with a colleague or friend giving feedback on how you come across will help.
*Body Language – Whilst I strongly encourage you to ‘be yourself’ as much as possible, it’s worth bearing in mind that the nature of video calling means your movements and gestures will be exaggerated on screen. Habits such as twiddling pens, biting nails, and/or fiddling with your hair will be obvious to your audience.
* Speak Up – Consider using features such as ‘hands up’ or ‘chat’ if you’re in a big group meeting so you can easily alert the host and/or others when you want to make a point.
* Pace Yourself – Manage your pace carefully. Use pauses/gaps to allow people to jump in with their ideas when appropriate. It’s important not to be on transmit all the time or people will switch off. Keep talking sections relatively short and punchy and encourage interaction where possible.
* Keep Checking In – Check back in with your audience to make sure they’re still with you. Use their names.
* Mute the Mic – Sound is really easily picked up on video calls so be sure to mute your mic when you’re not speaking. Otherwise every time you put your mug down on the desk or tap your keyboard, Zoom will make you the speaker which could be a tad embarrassing but it’s also distracting for everyone else on the call!
Just because the call is over, it doesn’t mean your day is done!
* Follow Up – It’s essential to follow up on all the outcomes of the call so be sure to send a summary of what was discussed and a list of action points to attendees so that tasks are attributed and people are accountable.
* Make It Count – If you think the subjects discussed during the call may be interesting or helpful to others, why not record the meeting and reuse the information in a company or team wide podcast? This is a great way of sharing what’s been discussed with anyone who was not able to take part.
Maryanne is now running short, personalised 1-to-1 workshops with the flexibility to fit into your busy day. To find out more about our Pick & Mix Workshops, click here.
If you need support on playing at the top of your game on VC calls, please contact Maryanne here.
Check out our latest podcast on video conferencing with Colin Gray – The Podcast Host.
Article written in collaboration with Sophie Nicholson http://www.prettygrittygear.com