Ah, yes, the magical world of video conferencing. 15 years ago the idea of beaming our faces across cities, states and nations so easily would have seemed crazy. Now many people have found themselves jumping into this format to stay in touch with their teams during this time of social distancing and working from home.
Just like during in-person meetings, mishaps can also happen digitally – the landscape just happens to be a little different. Read on to learn some tips to navigate your professional world from your personal space.
Treat this like any other meeting
- Be punctual. Even though you may have more time on your hands these days, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t respect the time commitment others are making. Don’t make your team wait for you. Log in a few minutes early just in case you run into technical issues.
- Prepare. Gather any documents or information that you need before you begin – no one wants to watch you click through your folders to find those notes you wanted to go over.
- Have an agenda. Are you in charge of the meeting? Make sure your attendees know what to expect. Not running this one? If you haven’t received some notice on what will be covered ask the appropriate person.
- Dress appropriately. Yes, one of the benefits of working from home is wearing pajamas or yoga pants approximately 97%* more than you used to. It’s not asking much to dress appropriately for one meeting, right? You don’t have to wear a suit, but make sure you at least have a top that is appropriate for the meeting (pay attention to where that camera points). And wear pants.
- Plan to stay seated. Go to the bathroom before you start. Make sure your coffee or water (wine, whatever) is ready to go. Switch your phone to silent. It’s distracting for everyone if you are getting up and down during the meeting… which leads us to the next point:
- Keep your screen stable. Make sure your screen is on a stable surface, if possible. Your lap does move – no matter how still you are sitting. And, please don’t walk around with your screen during the meeting. You don’t need to make your co-workers nauseous and lose control of your environment. If you’re heading to the kitchen for a snack and your roommate walks by in her underwear, you are suddenly in a very different business (and she will not be pleased with her 15 minutes of fame).
- Manage interruptions. Remind anyone around you (family, roommate, cat) when you’ll be on a video call. This can help avoid those “I can’t unsee that” moments.
- Be professional. This is not the time to send virtual notes to your friend about the state of so-and-so’s hair during the quarantine. Remember, anything you type in Zoom can clearly be seen if your company downloads the meeting to have on file. This includes direct messages (they may seem private, but they aren’t). If you wouldn’t say it out loud at work, keep it to yourself.
- Don’t multi-task. Just like an in-person meeting, it will be apparent when you are not focused on the task at hand. Refrain from writing emails or sending texts while your attention should be in the virtual room.
Learn how the software works
- Practice. If you can, set up a practice call with a friend so that you are comfortable with how the program loads and where options are on the screen.
- Test your audio beforehand. It’s frustrating for everyone when you have to do that whole “can you hear me?” mime act on-screen.
- Make sure you have a stable internet connection. Sometimes this might mean moving to a different room in your house or hard-wiring your device rather than relying on wi-fi. It may be an inconvenience, but it’s better than having your co-workers stare at a frozen screen while your connection tries to catch up. It’s frustrating, wastes time, and it gives them a lot of time to take screenshots of your weird frozen faces (I’m talking to you, Chantelle).
- Utilize the mute button. This is such a useful feature! Learn where the mute button is and be ready to press it if the need arises. Toddler meltdowns and skittish dogs wait for no one. If you are quick on the trigger, the rest of your team will be spared the interruption while you take care of things on your end. It can also be helpful to mute yourself when someone else has the floor – that way background noise won’t distract from what they are saying.
- Screen Sharing. Sometimes sharing your screen can be an effective tool. For example, we often share our screens in order to critique design projects that are in process. If you are going to share your screen, make sure you are aware of what you are sharing. Close email and anything personal and pay attention to your desktop. If your desktop background is a questionable photo from spring break 2003, we suggest changing it to something neutral before you show it off.
Pay attention to what is visible around you
- Check your background. Make sure there is nothing within view that you are going to have to explain. If you have two monitors, double-check that the view from both is in the clear as sometimes the default camera can change. Not everyone will be impressed with your collection of beer posters. The fewer surprises the better!
- Be smart with lighting. Unless you are recording content that is being released out into the world, you don’t have to worry too much about lighting. You can, however, be smart in the space you have. If able, sit in an area where there is light in front of you. Sitting with your back to a bright window will make you look dark on-screen to everyone else. Sometimes a small shift can take you from “I’m joining you from a dungeon cell” to “oh, look, there’s my face.”
Transitioning to video communication can be a really great experience. It gives you the flexibility to log in from your home and keeps you connected with your team. Emails and chats are great for day to day activity, but face time is a necessity to keep morale up and make sure everyone is on the same page and working toward a common goal. We all need to be reminded once in a while that we’re working with actual human beings and not just usernames on a screen.
Not sure how video communication can fit into your business? There are a lot of ways it could enhance your workflow. If you’re unsure of how it can integrate into your brand, give us a call and we’ll see if we can help!
Having trouble transitioning to working from home? Read our tips here!
*Statistically determined by interviewing a sample of at-home workers on clothing preferences. A small sample. Okay, the sample was us.