Video calls have become such a staple of the workplace, it’s hard to imagine that at one time they seemed like the stuff of science fiction.
Even so, it takes a little forethought and preparation to present yourself well over video. Are you making any of these missteps during your Skype video conferences?
1. Your equipment doesn’t work.
To get your video call off to a good start, you need a working webcam and microphone, as well as an acceptable Internet connection. Before your next call:
√ Check that your system meets the minimum system requirements. The person or people you’re calling will also need to meet these requirements.
√ Check that your webcam is working properly. If it’s not working, these tips can help.
2. You have mastered the art of darkness.
Bad lighting can set the tone of your video call right from the start. Dim lighting and screen glare can give you a less-than-flattering ghostly look. Skype power users say they use several lamps to light themselves and the background, and a white sheet over the desk brightens the face. Check out this discussion in the Skype for Business group on LinkedIn for great lighting tips from users Howard Ellison and Greg Bell.
3. You dress for distraction.
Busy prints and distracting jewelry don’t translate well over video. Your best bet is a solid color top and simple accessories. If you’re in a home office and thinking of wearing what we hear is the unofficial “work-from-home” uniform (business attire from the waist up, pajamas on the bottom), consider the potentially awkward moment when there’s an unexpected doorbell or other distraction you have to get up and address during a call.
4. You aren’t familiar with the mute button.
If you tend to take notes on your computer, remember to mute yourself as you type, or other call participants will be treated to a barrage of banging sounds. On a group video call? Be careful when making side comments, as microphones pick up more than you may expect. You can make muting easier when you’ve navigated away from the Skype client by using keyboard shortcuts.
5. You didn’t silence distractions.
While Skype notifications can be convenient during the workday, they may be an unwelcome interruption during video calls, especially if you’re screen sharing. Same goes for email notifications or other alerts, so remember to minimize these during your video call. On Skype, set your status to Do Not Disturb. Your contacts can still message you, but you won’t hear alerts or see any pop-ups.
6. Your office looks like – or is – a messy bedroom.
A cluttered office isn’t only a distraction, it’s a statement about you and your business. Tidy up before your video call, and remove any wandering pets or house-mates if you work from home. Consider what will be in view of the camera, and the backdrop you’ll be sitting against. Simple artwork or bookcases make great, unobtrusive backgrounds. You can give your setup a quick test run by checking Preferences > Audio/Visual – you’ll appear on the screen and can judge how well you’re lit and whether your background looks appropriate.
7. You forget to be you.
Even though you may not be in the same room as other call participants, you still want to build rapport and react physically to the conversation, just as you would if you were there in person. Look up at the camera rather than at your own face (not always easy, we know). Moving the video window close to your camera can help. We’ve also heard from folks who navigate away from the active call window or place a sticker near their webcam as a reminder. Smile, nod and use gestures as you normally would to show you’re engaged and to keep the conversation moving.
Do you have any video call tips of your own? Share them in the comments.