VIDEO-CONFERENCE LIKE A ROCKSTAR
You’ve had your whole career to learn how to interact well around a conference table. Video conferencing requires a bit of relearning.
“A video conference is definitely more taxing” than an in-person meeting, says Richard Taylor, who reported for the BBC for nearly 25 years before founding SuperRichMedia, a boutique video consulting and training company in San Francisco.
Video meeting can also be less effective, he says, “because you’re unable to scan the room in the same way, and get the feedback from other people. You’re absolutely aware that you are performing, even when you’re not speaking. Other people can watch you without you knowing it. People feel like they have to look at that camera for 45 minutes. It’s exhausting.”
Based on his online course in effective videoconferencing, here are some ways to be more effective in your video-conference:
Audio matters MOST
If your voice isn’t coming through clearly, you lose your audience!
- Find a quiet place for conferencing. You can work around the view behind you, but background noise undermines your presence much more. Air conditioners and refrigerators that you barely notice can mangle your outbound voice through a microphone.
- Noise reduction in microphones and video apps can be good, but it can also misfire and garble you. If that happens, look for an option such as Zoom’s to turn noise reduction off. Richard, a veteran of years of shooting news from noisy places, also recommends the Krisp app for noise reduction.
- Wired headphones and microphones beat wireless. They have better audio quality. They don’t drop out or sputter, or run out of battery in mid-call. “Unless there’s a reason to go wireless, go wired.”
- A low-cost USB mic will almost definitely give you more vocal presence than your computer’s built in microphone.
- Put away your AirPods. “They have a fairly awful mic,” Richard says. “They’re just not great.” And their built-in noise canceling often garbles speakers’ voices.
- Stay muted until it’s your turn to speak. Background noise disrupts others, and can launch you into the big window of everyone’s screen as the speaker while you’re laughing, talking to yourself, or blowing your nose. You’ve seen that guy. Don’t be that guy.
Optimize your video presence
It’s important that you appear to be looking at those you’re speaking to, and those you’re listening to. The whole point of video is to let humans see and read one another’s faces clearly. “A lot of the emotion comes from the eyes,” Richard says, something every TV reporter knows.
- Your phone’s camera may be better than your computer’s. This USA Today article lists apps and tips for using your phone as your computer’s camera. Richard suggests getting a small tripod that plants it firmly on your desk.
- Position your camera and onscreen participants as close to each other as possible. That way you’ll appear to be maintaining eye contact, as well as having a better peripheral view of everyone else.
- Place your camera at eye level. “Up your nose is not a good look,” says Richard. The underside of your chin isn’t what everyone wants to watch while you speak. You should appear to be looking at people eye to eye.
- Frame your head and torso. Humans pick up body language from a speaker’s torso and arms as well as their head. Think podiums, or TV news anchors.
- Look into the lens while talking. Eye contact is important. Don’t be the person who doesn’t know which end of their phone has the camera.
- Don’t get too close. Computer and phone cameras have wide angle lenses. This creates the “balloon head” look when your face is too close to the lens. If your camera has digital zoom, sit back for less distortion and then use the zoom to crop the view.
- Set up lighting so that your face is lit from the front, or at least not too far to one side. Others should be able to see your face clearly, not in shadow. Natural sunshine and amber LED bulbs are best for bringing out your skin tone.
- Virtual backgrounds: Please stop! Too many people use loud, bright, or distracting backdrops. They’re funny the first time, but can distract from your important message. Choose a neutral backdrop that lets your face be the star.
Do’s and don’ts
- Speakers and others are watching for your visible attention, and your facial responses to what’s being said. That’s what makes video second-best to meeting in person. Reading people’s on-camera faces is an important benefit to the format.
- People can tell when you’re distracted. You see it yourself: They’re typing. They’re looking at something in another window. They’re checking their phones. That’s what you look like, too.
- Anyone can watch you full-screen anytime. Always remember this.
- Show your facial responses as others speak. It’s a bit of acting into the camera, but remember that they can’t see you in their peripheral vision as in a conference room. It’s both effective and efficient. If speakers can tell you agree, or see you are skeptical, you’ll have given them the immediate feedback they need, rather than letting them drone on.
- It’s OK to turn off your video. Sometimes. Going audio-only can save a lot of your energy, or maybe just let you load the dishwasher. Every videoconferencing group has its own unwritten social rules. Ask the meeting’s leader, your manager, or fellow chatters if it’s OK to take a break from being on camera for an hour straight. Generally, starting with all video at the first meeting is good manners and first impressions. Once people have seen you for an hour, they’re more likely to be OK with you dropping to audio only in future sessions.
Do this now: Test your setup with a friend
Before your next round of meetings, start a one-on-one call with a colleague. Have them evaluate the quality of your audio first, and then your video. A few minutes of private fiddling will prevent you from being the hapless newbie whom everyone has to watch fumble with their camera and sound at the start of meetings.
You’ve had your whole career to learn how to interact well around a conference table. Video conferencing requires a bit of relearning. But a few minutes of prep, keeping these guidelines in mind, will let you make the most of the format you’ll be using a lot in coming weeks—and for many of us may be our new normal.
source – Paul Boutin