If you haven’t had at least one video call in the last eight months, maybe you’ve been in a cave? 2020 will undoubtedly be a year for the history books, and one of the things we’ll probably all remember is the joys (and sorrows) of the many video calls we’ve attended. Meetings of any sort usually aren’t a favorite activity, and if you’re reading this, you’ve likely been on a video call before and have an opinion on them.
The “Zoom Call” has become part of the collective vernacular, with some praising it and others condemning it. Those who criticize the remote work ritual of the video meeting aren’t looking at the big picture. Sure, meeting in person can help boost your mindset and spur creativity, but to admonish remote work as “unproductive” after less than a year of data during a global pandemic is myopic. (Read our blog on WFH best practice in the “before-times” here!)
For some, video conferencing is old-hat, especially for veteran remote workers. Others who have had the WFH world thrust onto them since March have had to accept a new pace of life for the foreseeable future.
We at Crowned are pros at conducting remote meetings with video conferencing tools, and we’re here to make your new WFH routine a little easier. Let’s dive into some of the caveats of video conferencing and best practices of how to stay professional while probably still wearing slippers.
Video Conferencing Best Practices
1. The right software
There are loads of free video conferencing tools to choose from, and selecting the right one for your team can be daunting. Zoom seems to have become the “Google” of video calling in 2020 (remember when everyone called video calls “Skyping”?). Zoom is a popular choice for many reasons, including for security purposes and for meetings that require more seats. However, unless you have a paid plan, your sessions will get cut off at the 45-minute mark. While you can always sign back into the same link to resume the meeting, that’s not the most professional look for most.
We at Crowned us Google Meet for most of our smaller team calls. Most video conferencing software has similar tooling, save for the few pitfalls of the Zoom free-plan. Make sure you try out whatever software you end up using to familiarize yourself with the mute, share screen, chat window, and hide yourself buttons before you’re live on a call.
2. Camera Angle
No one wants to see up your nose. Position your webcam to be level with your eyes, and be sure that you look at the camera while presenting and not the screen. It can be hard to remember to look at the camera when you can see yourself, and turning off the view of yourself can help with this.
3. When not presenting, mute!
Don’t t be afraid to use the mute button! It’s polite to mute yourself when you aren’t presenting or speaking. It may also be appropriate to disable your camera as well. Doing so allows you to grab a snack, type out notes without the annoying clicking sound, sneeze, and tend to your kids or pets who might interrupt your meeting. Muting yourself is a professional courtesy on many levels.
4. A Strong Internet Connection
With the state of broadband infrastructure being suboptimal in most places, it can sometimes be challenging to have a seamless connection during a video call. There are a few things you can do if your internet connection isn’t great. You can tether to your cell phone and use your mobile data if it’s faster than your wifi connection, or you can use the hardline to your modem if your wifi router is a little on the slow side. Either way, if your connection is subpar, do everyone a favor and turn off your video because audio-only calls are a million percent better than a bad video connection.
5. Respect Timing
As a rule of thumb, respect your client’s and colleague’s time and do not go over the allotted meeting time on your call. If you have a tight beginning and end time set, you may need to make the meeting longer, because inevitably the beginning of meetings involve a few minutes getting everyone connected. Set a 5-minute warning timer for yourself if you tend to stray off topic during sessions. If you use the free version of Zoom, there is a 45-minute max meeting time for any call. The call will automatically disconnect after a pop-up warning after 45 minutes (as mentioned early, you can always sign back into the same link). If you want to have more extended and uninterrupted meetings, use a free tool without the time constraint, like Google Meetings, WhatsApp conference calls, Skype, or one of the many other free tools available. If you need the ability to have a large audience, Zoom is still our favorite.
6. Hardware & Permissions
Computer speakers are usually not the best, and, most annoying of all, they can cause an echo on a video call. The best way to mitigate this is with a good pair of headphones. Wired is best unless you have Apple products (both computer and Bluetooth headphones). It’s worth investing a little bit in some nice ones, especially if you’re a heavy meeting person. Either way, I’d recommend noise-canceling headphones, especially if you have kids, pets, or a partner also working from home in the same room or area.
A good mic is also crucial. Most good headphones will have you covered here. If you present a lot and work with higher-end clients, invest in a high-quality mic. It will make you sound like you’re in the room with the person on the other end and filter out any distracting background noise that can make you sound less than professional.
You’ll also need to make sure your computer or phone has the proper permissions set for access to your webcam and microphone on your call BEFORE you get on your call.
Natural lighting is always going to make you look your best on a video call. If you don’t have access to a window, buy yourself a natural light lamp or a selfie ring light. You’ve probably noticed these on the news lately, especially in the reflections of people’s glasses! Thankfully, you can get a good one without breaking the bank, and they’ll make you look fresh and not like a quarantined couch-slug.
8. A Quiet Space
I realize that this can be a tough one, especially with partners or roommates working from home, kids doing online learning, and just life happening, but there are some ways to make this happen. If you don’t have a room you can dedicate as an office, try to carve out a little nook to make into your workspace. I’ve seen many creative workspaces with the uptick in WFH, including a closet-office, working from inside a bedsheet tacked up around a desk, and even working in a bathroom! If all else fails, getting a good set of noise-canceling headphones and a good mic will help you and your clients in the case of any occasional background noise. Also, never forget that mute button!
9. Etiquette: Food, Bathrooms, Attire
I know it’s hard to work from home; I get it. Sometimes we miss lunch or break time, and you just gotta wolf down some Doritos or take care of personal business during a meeting. If this is you, do your audience a favor and mute yourself and turn off your camera. No one wants to see you licking your fingers while going over KPIs, or hear the flush of a toilet whilst discussing Q3 goals.
The same goes for your appearance. Dress as you would for the office in most cases and avoid wearing shirts with writing on them. If you wear a shirt with something like a band name or political message, angle your camera so that it’s not in view. The same goes for your background. If your space is cluttered or busy, use a simple background in Zoom to hide it.
10. The Chat Feature
All video conferencing software has a chat function. Use it! It’s a great way to ask a question without interrupting, or you can have your attendees post a hand raise to get in the queue to ask a question verbally in an organized way. For meeting notes, I usually take notes on meetings in Slack in my own direct message window and also type out any questions I have before a general post to a public forum.
The Future of Meetings
Meetings are likely forever changed, along with many other aspects of working, due to the pandemic. But it’s not all bad! Hopefully, this new normal of video meetings will make many folks see the need for fewer meetings. As the adage says, “That meeting could have been an email.”