When working remotely, some of your most important communication moments may be conducted via video conference calling software. There are plenty of issues that plague these calls, but at this point, the software for multiple people to video chat at the same time is more reliable than ever before. That being said, as a remote worker, it is essential to put your best foot forward when performing video conference calls. Here are some of the most important ways you can promote a positive video conference call experience.
Make Background Visuals and Audio As Unobtrusive as Possible
When it comes to preparing for the video conference, recognize the typical situation will involve “muting” yourself until you plan to speak. This reduces background noise on the call and signals that you are in listening mode until it is your turn. Similarly, create a “mute” background – find a neutral spot of wall with either no art or neutral art that allows the focus to be on you. Don’t sit too close to or too far away from the camera; if you aren’t sure of the norms, start with being visible from the waist up, and adjust your closeness based on other members of the call. Do everything you can to keep the focus on the meeting itself, and you’ll create a professional atmosphere.
Dress Like You’d Dress for an Office Meeting
As tempting as it is to work remotely wearing you find most comfortable, a complete business-casual or other workplace-type outfit is the best bet for a video call, especially with people you have never met before. There should be no reason for people to comment on your appearance or ask where you are, so dressing professionally is an excellent way to keep the focus on the topic of the meeting.
Test Out Unfamiliar Software Ahead of Time and “Arrive” Early
If you don’t use a particular video chat platform frequently, see if you can either watch a tutorial online or jump in a practice call in order to evaluate how it works. Much like you wouldn’t willingly subject a whole office conference room to an ear-splitting sound or a fuzzy computer screen on the projector, work out all the issues you can before the live video conference. If this isn’t possible, at least budget to “arrive” in the video chat 10 minutes early so that you can resolve connection issues before the time allotted for the actual call. If you know that multiple members of the call will be new to this software, you can offer to “test call” ahead of time, emphasizing the value of devoting all the meeting time to meeting topics.
If Possible, Have Hard Copies or Separate Screens for Reference Materials
If you have paper copies of agendas, notes, or information you’ll be sharing, that will help you to continue to maintain eye contact and conversational flow while referencing items in your hands. Clicking around on your computer – unless you are sharing screens with the group – is a distraction and can be less engaging for the audience. If you need to use electronic resources, consider video chatting from one device, such as a laptop or desktop, and opening your reference materials on a tablet or other laptop.
Drop All Distractions and Close All Windows
As hard as it can be to resist the call of “one new email,” it just makes sense to close out your other browser and document windows before attempting to have a professional conference call. By closing out what you are working on, you avoid the temptation to click around and be clearly distracted during the meeting. If you will be sharing your screen, that is all the more reason to have nothing else open: you don’t want your personal email inbox or chat messenger popping up during your screenshare. This, like so many of the other steps to great video conferencing etiquette, is all about minimizing distractions and potential for unprofessional moments.
Make (or Follow) the Agenda, Being Concise and Clear
If you are running the meeting, be the proactive voice that asks for there to be adherence to the agenda. With fewer body language cues possible in video conferencing than in an in-person meeting, you don’t know who has another appointment right after this meeting or who may be constrained by other work or deadlines. By making the agenda solid, you will know for sure when all the objectives have been accomplished. This allows everyone to get what they need and then log off.
Being concise and clear and sticking to the agenda are some of the most under-rated qualities in a high-functioning remote work meeting. Simply coming to the meeting having read all the required information, formed an opinion, and being open to informed feedback can drastically shorten the time needed to “get everyone up to speed.” Much like in-person meetings, expecting the meeting itself to be where you learn information and process it out loud is less effective than planning ahead through preparation. Be the kind of meeting participant you want to see when you yourself are running the meeting, and you’ll be surprised how much respect comes your way.
Value No-Lag Speech Over Video Access
If the video call is malfunctioning, there is a fairly small window for participation before it becomes wise to simply 1. mute one’s own microphone permanently, 2. turn off one’s video feed, or 3. log out and join by traditional phone. By quickly resolving a technical difficulty, you avoid the unprofessional look of spending 15 or 20 minutes causing distractions in a meeting while you attempt to make your system work. At any moment of technical difficulty, weigh the benefits of continuing on the troubleshooting course against the potential to simply participate via audio only. This option may make you feel less connected, but it allows the meeting to go on and accomplish what it was meant to accomplish. This is a valuable option at your disposal in many video conferencing software programs.
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