I’ve been working for over five years on virtual teams. It’s different from working in a traditional office. With a lot of trial and error, I wanted to share my top five list of video conferencing non-negotiables. I’ve also written up a quick post with the specs of the tools I currently use for reference.
Maintain eye contact – Â Use front-facing camera
I’ve known a handful of people who have a legitimate illness with their eyes which sometimes makes them appear to not be looking you in the eye. Ever met someone like that? You try to pay attention to them but you’re distracted because you don’t know which eye you’re supposed to look at. How distracting is it when your camera is to the side of you or on some weird angle? Put your webcam at the same height as your head if possible – literally “head-on”. Then, when you’re talking, try to not look at the screen but look at the camera lens. It will help the other people in the conference feel more connected to you. I use a Logitech Pro 9000.
Have earphones with a mic as a backup
Audio is killer in some video conferences. Sometimes there’s feedback or echo. This is common. The way to troubleshoot this is to have headphones handy with a mic and plug in. Many times it’s a speaker/mic configuration that is the culprit. If possible, plug in a nice USB mic. I use a Blue Mic Snowflake. It works very well. If there’s feedback, I just pop in my Apple earbuds.
Be early and test
It’s hard for people who aren’t remote staff to empathize with us. Let’s not give them a reason to. Make it easy for those in the “main office” to connect. Be early. Have your mic and your camera tested to make sure they work. Before the meeting starts, offer a quick “can everyone hear and see me?”. It’ becomes a courtesy and honors the folks you are connecting with.
Mute your audio
This is a biggie. I just spoke to someone last week about “that guy” who attends meetings but doesn’t mute their audio and works during the meeting. Not only is this disrespectful, but because they don’t mute their mic, the rest of the participants hear him typing – constantly. My rule of thumb is you’re on mute by default. If you want to contribute, un-mute and jump in. Less opportunity for feedback, audio glitches, and others being annoyed at that email you’re responding to in the background.
Most people who use cameras get this. Light behind you washes you out to someone viewing you. Light in front of you lights your face and helps viewers see you. To sit in a meeting in front of a big window behind you will make you look like a shadow. Most places it’s easy to reposition yourself so the light hits your face – not your back. If you have to be in a space where a window is at your back, look to either use a lamp or other light in the room to try and get on your face. I use my “Luxo” lamp – inspired by Pixar. I don’t turn it on my face. I turn it on the wall my computer is on and it bounces off the wall and gives my face a little light.
Put into practice
With some of these simple principles, you can begin to become a rock star on video conferences. Â For more, check out this helpful infogram from @lemonly