Video Conferencing in a Coronavirus World
Updated: Mar 31, 2020
Do I really have a double chin? You know the feeling. That little box in the corner of the screen that shows your own image can be so distracting! Here are some tips if COVID-19 cancelled your business trip or encouraged you to telecommute. The good news is Microsoft, Google, and Zoom are making their video conferencing technologies available for free.
When a face-to-face meeting is impossible, a video conference can be more effective than a phone call. Robert Glazer, CEO of Acceleration, said, “People want to see the people they work with, and if your employees can’t interact in an office, this is the next best thing.” If you are foregoing a flight overseas or a trip to the office, consider your space, your self, and your team.
PREPARE YOUR SPACE
Whether you are joining in from your work or your home, check your surroundings. Make sure your lighting is right at the time of day you hold your video conference. Unless you are conferencing with your everyday colleagues, dress as you would for a television appearance. Avoid wearing black, white, busy patterns, and distracting jewelry because they may not show well on the screen.
Your background should be neat and professional. You are welcome to feature a conversation starter, such as an award, a diploma, or a unique item from your travels. Depending on your context, you may want to place your organization’s logo strategically on the wall behind you. In my diplomatic career, we had frequent video conferences with multiple agencies. It was particularly helpful to see the agency’s logo so we knew who was “in the room.”
Decide how close you need to sit to the camera for the best view. Adjust your computer to hold the camera at eye level so you can look directly at your colleagues. Projecting your professional image by video takes some preparation. If you have the opportunity, push the record button on a practice video conference and review it to see how you look and sound.
PREPARE YOUR SELF
You have heard about a hot mic. Let’s call this a hot camera. Assume people are watching even when you are not talking. That means no eye rolling, checking your phone, or multitasking. Act as you would if you were in the room with your colleagues or clients. Turn off your ringer. Speaking of that hot mic, use mute when you are not speaking. It improves the conference’s sound quality and saves you from being heard making an unfortunate comment. Don’t make me tell you the story about the phone that was still live in the restroom. Anticipate possible disruptions from children, dogs, and significant others, and take steps to prevent them.
Set up your connection early so you don’t spend conference time trying to log in. Have a backup plan to share documents or slides in case your technology fails. If you are making a pitch or leading a webinar, practice ahead of time. Stand up and say it out loud on your own and with your colleagues. Treat it like any public speaking event. Every engagement is an opportunity to establish credibility and advance your message.
PREPARE YOUR TEAM
If the video conference is anything more formal than a team check in, you may want to choose a moderator. This might be the big boss, or not. A moderator will make sure participants on all sides have a chance to talk and will direct questions to the right person. This is particularly important if your team members are not located in the same room when you are presenting to a client or other organization. Sort out a way for your team to signal when they want to talk, either in person or through technology, so everyone has the opportunity.
Develop an agenda with your colleagues ahead of time. Determine how much time you have and make a plan to stay on track. Designate a timekeeper if that will help. If you are presenting to a client or making a pitch, when one team member is speaking, the rest of the team members should look at the speaker with agreement and enthusiasm. Body language and facial expressions make an impression across the miles.
There is no substitute for being in the same room with your colleagues and clients. When you can’t be together, you can make the best of your situation through a well-prepared video conference. I love using the technology to extend my reach to coach clients as far away as Brazil and Rwanda. What’s best is, even a computer virus won’t land you in quarantine.