You’re a tech-savvy professional who realizes the potential video calling holds for creating better communication at work.
And now you’ve earned a big online interview that could do wonders for your career. But no matter what kind of call it is, the etiquette is the same. Be it a job interview, a private meeting with the boss, or an introduction to a new client, making a good impression over video conference doesn’t require a big budget, just common sense.
Check Your Username and Profile Picture
Before a caller meets you, they meet your username and profile picture. On a service like Skype these two things fill the screen as a connection is being made, and if the visuals drop out they’ll come to the front again.
So ditch the iLoveGetting.Wasted handle, and replace the shot of you doing the limbo with a smiling passport-style image. Set up a new account if you have to; it’s better than being the DaddyLovesBacon guy.
See Yourself As Others See You
This isn’t a self-help evaluation of your self-worth, it’s a practical matter of making sure there’s nothing in your teeth, and the camera isn’t aimed up your nose or right at your bald spot.
The self-view screen on your connection shows you exactly what those on the other end will see, so make sure the camera is at head-height and centered, there’s no lunch lingering anywhere on your face, and your neck and shoulders are visible. Disembodied heads don’t win friends.
Wear Plain Colors
As in a real-world interview, you want the attention to be on your face, not your wild, spring break shirt.
In a video call that becomes as much a technical issue as a fashion one, as bold stripes, crazy check patterns, and wavy designs can create all manner of distracting and disorienting visual effects over a digital stream. ‘Professional’ clothing should do the trick here, and for gentlemen, a suit is always a safe choice.
Have Respect for Lighting
There’s no point rocking great hair and makeup if you’re shrouded in shadow or backlit with a ferocity that makes it seem you’re communicating from the spirit world.
You want to be lit from in front of the camera, and the soft light of a couple of household lamps will do a nice job of illuminating your face without bleaching it out or exaggerating the natural crevices and contours of your face.
Remove Your Background
Again, it’s you we all want to see, not the character-revealing stains on your wall or that Lord of the Rings poster.
There are web cams available that can digitally remove your video calling background, but if you have to go low-tech, sit in front of a curtain with a subtle pattern, a well-stocked bookcase, or a shuttered window. It’s best to avoid kitchen and bedroom settings that play up the “I’m at home” factor, or shots with other people or pets in them.
Get an HD Webcam
Okay, so you may have to spend a little money to make the perfect video calling impression. But it’s not nearly as much as you’re thinking.
For less than $100, you can get a portable, HD-quality camera with autofocus and a good microphone. The step up in video quality from your laptop cam or $20 clip-on device is clearly visible–it might be the first time you and your callers see your real eye color.
Use Headphones–the Right Headphones
Cool as they are, your bright red Beats headphones tend to dominate your face, and make it seem you’re listening to something much more exciting than your interviewer’s voice.
A subtle earpiece-style headphone will make it easier to hear what’s being said, and will eliminate audio loop and echo that occurs when speaker and microphone are close together. Earbuds also work if you’d rather not look like a call center associate.
Look at the Camera
Simple as this sounds, it is actually quite hard to achieve. Everyday etiquette demands we make eye contact during a conversation, but you’re better served staring directly into the camera when speaking rather than giving in to years of good upbringing and looking at the face on your main screen.
Place your webcam close to the central screen so you only need to adjust your gaze, not your head, to switch between camera and caller.
Cheat, Cheat, Cheat!
This is your one chance to use all those cheat notes and reminders you’d be secretly reading off your hand during an in-room interview.
Line your screen with sticky notes, plaster reminders on the wall in front of you, and leave a few key webpages open on your browser for quick reference. They can’t see anything that’s not captured by your camera, so take every advantage you can.
Practice the First 10 Seconds
I don’t mean prepare a Fallon-style opening monolog, just make sure you know how to give a good digital handshake. Look into the camera, have your screen set so you don’t look distracted, and give a firm nod of greeting and a simple hello when being introduced.
And whatever you do, don’t wave–you’re not a guest on Hollywood Squares.
Image Sources: Flickr CC Users Jaysin Trevino, Rick Turoczy, Riboassi, Office of Governor Mark Dayton & Lt. Governor Tina, theterrifictc, isabelundurraga, Malk Meld, abstrtk.ch, Jon Rawlinson, AbbyD11, David Orban