Video conferencing opens up a world of professional opportunities. Around the internet-connected globe, there are a near-unlimited number of potential colleagues, collaborators, clients, and career possibilities.
To take full advantage of this abundance, you have to be fluent in video conference communication. It’s no longer enough to be proficient in Microsoft Word or capable of writing a compelling email. Digital communication is instant and it is intimate.
Our video conference communication tips should help you reach the professional standards of communication that employers now expect from their team members. We are all digital citizens now, and video conferencing is increasingly becoming the common language that binds us.
Video Conference Communication Tips for Professional Success
Employers now expect advanced levels of tech-savvy among their staff. Recent research has shown that email and word processing proficiency are quickly becoming secondary concerns compared with the knowledge of social media, design, and digital communication. In fact, it is estimated that 86 percent of U.S. businesses now use video conferencing as a regular communication tool.
If you are going to make it in the marketplace, you need to know how to survive and thrive in a virtual environment. The following video conferencing communication tips can help:
- Get the right equipment
- Make the most of multimedia
- Look the part
- Be mindful of your surroundings
- Look them in the eye
- Don’t interrupt
- Be aware of your audience’s circumstances
Video is too often portrayed as a recreation of an in-person meeting. In truth, the two settings are vastly different, with video offering both advantages and disadvantages. The first step toward video success is adapting to this new environment.
1. Get the Right Equipment
The biggest difference between an in-person and virtual meeting is the location. You will be meeting your future employer, collaborator, or client in a wholly virtual space, and you are responsible (at least in part) for whether it functions properly.
The technology that makes video go is affordable and accessible, but you’ll need to make sure you have the basic hardware and software ingredients for a quality video call, including:
- A webcam with high enough resolution and framerate to offer a clear and fluid presentation
- Adequate microphone and speakers
- A broadband or mobile connection strong enough to support video
- A video conferencing platform with key features such as file sharing, screen sharing, and group participation
Technical glitches remain one of the biggest barriers to fluid video communication: don’t be the cause of a malfunctioning meeting.
2. Make the Most of Multimedia
Video conferencing can and should be more than a collection of talking heads. Embrace the digital possibilities of a virtual meeting and use every multimedia method at your disposal to convey your message and impress your audience. We have long since progressed from the days of slide shows and PowerPoint presentations. Modern equipment, including advanced presentation tools, can help you seamlessly incorporate video, music, live streams, and external websites into your video conference meeting to illustrate your point.
3. Look the Part
It should go without saying that it’s best to dress for the job you want. Meeting online, however, demands extra attention to detail. Make sure your video conference lighting is correct–place your primary light source behind your webcam and aim it at your face–and that the patterns and color combinations on your clothes don’t create distracting movement during the call.
Also, always check your appearance in your own video chat window before you launch a live call to be sure your body is visible down to the torso (your shoulders should be visible, at a minimum), your head isn’t too close to the camera, and your eyes are located near the center of the screen.
4. Be Mindful of Your Surroundings
Regardless of who initiates a video call, you are always the host. You are inviting your audience into a world of your own making, so take responsibility for the physical world around you. Remove any unwanted distractions such as posters, furnishings, or even open windows, and be conscious of what is on display around your body.
If you want to present an entirely monotone background, consider using a green screen or background replacement app–once the exclusive domain of Hollywood producers, these features are now so common they are included for free on platforms like Skype.
5. Look Them in the Eye
Perhaps the most unnatural part of communicating by video conference is trying to maintain comfortable and polite eye contact. While there are some digital solutions in the works that hope to make eye contact over video conference easier and more natural, most of your success here will come down to experience. This means that if you haven’t recently been part of a video conference, it is a good idea to make a few calls to your friends to get comfortable online.
The issue with eye contact during a video call is that your webcam and your screen are at different heights. As a result, to give the appearance of making eye contact with the other person, you have to switch your gaze between the screen that conveys your audience and the camera that projects your face. As a general rule, concentrate your gaze on the camera whenever you speak; it’s fine to look down at the screen when listening.
If you maintain focus on the video call in progress and don’t start interacting with some off-screen source, most people will forgive the awkward dynamics of making video conferencing eye contact and will ignore the times when your eyes don’t quite seem to be meeting theirs.
6. Don’t Interrupt
Your parents already taught you to listen carefully when others are speaking, but they probably didn’t realize how important this lesson would be when applied to a virtual setting. Group video calls can become chaotic when multiple endpoints are in play and several talking heads are scattered across your screen. Active speaker tech can help clarify who is currently doing the talking, but things can get confusing quickly if you’re not paying attention–or if anyone on the call has an unstable internet connection. Be especially careful about interrupting other speakers if you know you or other callers are experiencing lag.
7. Be Aware of Your Audience’s Circumstances
Finally, you should always be aware of your audience’s location while holding a virtual meeting. Being able to communicate face-to-face with someone halfway around the globe gives you common virtual ground, but it also means that the person on the other end might be in completely different circumstances than your own. Be aware of differences in time, differences in technology, and differences in language that can add variables or confusion to a meeting. While mass media has made shared cultural experiences possible, slang terms and cultural references vary widely between even seemingly closely related countries and locations.
With that said, perhaps one of the most important video conference communication tips is to just be yourself. As with any meeting, during a video meeting you are building a relationship that will thrive or perish on your compatibility with your audience. Video communication is just a conduit–the real communication is between people.