My 6 Tips for better video conferencing
Updated from March 2020
After 15 video conference (VC) calls in the last 3 weeks, I’ve been thinking about ways to improve my video presence. Here my top 6 tips or maybe reminders.
Keep your cursor hovered over the mute button and keep your microphone (mic) muted when you are not talking. Many VC systems switch the camera to the person speaking. If your mic is picking up background noise, then the camera will constantly be switching to you. Whenever you move something on your desk, or your phone vibrates, the mic will pick it up.
If I’m the moderator I will use the mute-all feature when people enter. I’ve muted people myself when it became really disruptive.
Be mic aware. People can hear you sipping your morning cup of coffee! If I have to cough, sneeze, or leave my desk for a second, I mute both my camera and my mic. People appreciate it. Muting is especially important in your car (road noise is louder than you think). If you’re walking, the wind blowing on the mic or your heavy breathing can be really annoying.
Here is one of my favorite YouTube videos. It’s about voice conference calls but applies to video conference calls as well.
Most VC services let you send chat. it’s a great way to let the moderator know if you need to step away for a minute. It’s also handy if you need to send a quick question or comment to someone else in the meeting. Just don’t overuse it. Constant chatting is a distraction to people trying to stay engaged.
- 94% of businesses that use group video chats say it increases productivity. (Wainhouse)
Turn your video on! A lot of people don’t use video, maybe they don’t like how they look on video (like me) but remember the importance of the non-verbal part of a discussion. You will have better communication in a meeting if all pathways are open!
- Nearly 90% of remote employees say that video helps them feel more connected to colleagues. (IMCCA)
Here is another YouTube video by the same folks that did the one I mentioned earlier. It shows how just being able to see the person helps. Sorry for the Zoom commercial at the end. Zoom must have hired these guys.
I’m talking about both visual and audio backgrounds. If things like construction or leaf-blowing are happening nearby then muting helps. Just remember to unmute! Look into a noise dampening headphone/microphone combination. This is the one I bought on Amazon (Link).
Take notice of what people will see in your background. Kids, dogs, family pictures may be entertaining, but they are also distractions.
Some VC services like Zoom and Webex (mobile app only) give you the ability to add a virtual background.
Do what you can to make your audio and visual background as benign as possible. It also helps to reduce backlighting and have your face lit from the front.
Don’t let your VC meeting become…
Video conferencing in conference rooms
Do not have people within hearing distance attending on their own laptops. It’s best if everyone goes to their own office and shuts the door. If you are in the same room then set a laptop at the end of a table. Microphones will pick up sounds from other nearby laptops and you get that horrible feedback. This tip is less important now with fewer people meeting in groups.
Be aware of your frame.
Anyone in broadcasting is aware of this issue. What is the view from your camera? Are people looking up your nose? Do they only see half your face? Also, remember that they are seeing a large image of you. Your frame should be from your shoulders up. Keep your head and shoulders in the frame and you won’t be too close or too far away. Don’t move around a lot and it’s best if you have your camera aligned with your screen.
People tend to look at their screen (the people on it) and not their camera when they’re talking. If your camera is off to the side everyone will end up looking in your ear.
You can keep people’s attention if you talk directly to the camera, but you may miss picking up the non-verbal cues of your audience, if you aren’t looking at them on your screen.
Also, always remember that you are on camera. You may have other documents open on your screen that cover up your camera-view window. Make sure the window that shows your image on the camera is always on top.
Test your internet speed before the call. We’ve all seen and been victims of the frozen screen and it always seems to freeze at the worst possible facial expression. Muting your video can help or call in from your phone.
If you call in on your phone and use your PC for video, then your voice and image may be out of synch. Just let people know what’s happening.
Here is a link to test your connectivity and speed: Speed Test. Here are the results from my latest test.
If your local speed is bad you might try using the Personal Hotspot feature on your phone. You can find it under settings in iOS or under Wireless Settings on Android.
Ad hoc stuff
I put my phone in airplane mode so it’s not buzzing and vibrating on my desk.
Close your email, chat, and other communication apps. This will keep you focused as well as lessen distractions to others.
If you are sharing your screen be aware of what else is open (another reason to close email, etc.). I’ve seen some embarrassing things open on people’s desktops like job search sites, resumes, and Amazon search results, just to name a few.
Ready, Set, Conference!
It may seem like a lot of things to remember but most of these are set-and-forget. The goal is to get as close as possible to an in-person meeting with the fewest distractions. I’ve seen many cases where video conferencing is more effective than face-to-face. People tend to be more focused, there is less chit-chat, and not as many interruptions. Keep fine tuning your virtual communication skills. This level of remote collaboration may be the new normal!
- Remember to mute (and unmute)!
- Turn on your video
- Use Chat features when appropriate
- Be aware of your frame and your background
- Test your internet speed