During our Covid-19 work-from-home lives, chances are most of your in-person meetings have been changed to video conference calls. Whether you’re a veteran of online meetings or a first-time user, a large portion of the workforce is now expected to be skilled at video conferencing. But as A Conference Call in Real Life by Tripp and Tyler demonstrates, not everyone is well-trained or skilled when it comes to video conferencing.

Why do we need video conference calls?

When working remotely, using email, phone, and Slack as your only communication tools is insufficient.

Now, more than ever, video conferences are part of everyone’s communication tool kit. Video conferencing keeps employees informed, builds relationships among co-workers and with clients, helps reduce the isolation among teams, and promotes a sense of belonging. If done correctly, video conferencing helps create a healthier work environment.

We’ve all heard the adage, “A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours wasted.” This can apply to onsite as well as virtual meetings, particularly when it comes to technical issues, as this bingo card illustrates.

So, let’s look at some best practices that you, as a participant, can employ to save time and positively affect communication during a video conference.

Preparation Before The Meeting

  1. Test Run: Do a test run beforehand to make sure that everything is working correctly.
    • Software: Download and test the functionality of any needed software or browser system in advance – don’t wait until the moment the meeting starts.
    • Basics: Know the fundamentals of using the video conferencing platform (e.g., sharing your screen, writing in the chat box, raising your hand, muting/unmuting, etc.).
    • Hard Wire: Connect via a wired ethernet jack, if necessary. This prevents WiFi dropouts and speed issues.
    • Audio and Video Quality: Position your camera at eye level and test your microphone. (Earbuds or headphones are preferable to avoid audio feedback and echoes.)
    • Background: Make sure the room is well lit and your background conveys professionalism. Use good judgement about inserting virtual backgrounds, like beach scenes, the galaxy, or the Golden Gate Bridge. The general rule is you don’t want your background to be distracting. And plan to be in a quiet place—no sirens, traffic noise, dogs barking, etc.
  1. Attire: Dress as if you’re meeting face to face—at least from the waist up.
  2. Materials: Assemble all needed information such as details for login and participation, agenda, and documents.

During The Meeting

  1. Arrival: Enter the meeting a few minutes early in case you confront unexpected login steps or software updates.
  2. Noise Reduction: Close background applications on your device, turn off notifications, and silence your phone.
  3. Sharing: No lurkers—share your audio AND your video. Video conferences are more effective when people can see each other’s facial expressions and body language.
  4. Muting: Mute yourself. Only unmute while speaking, and quickly mute again immediately afterwards. Avoid hot-mic moments by never assuming your microphone is fully turned off. And use the chat box to submit questions and comments.
  5. Procedures: Follow the facilitator’s protocol (e.g., how and when to ask questions).
  6. Speaking: Speak clearly and look into the camera rather than watching your own image on the screen. Be a responsible, engaged participant. Don’t dominate or tune out.
  7. Focus: Center your attention. Don’t multitask: no texting, reading, or checking Instagram and email messages. Yes, people’s attention spans are evolving, but it’s still our responsibility to stay on task. Make attending to the actual meeting content a bigger piece of the pie.

 

Your behavior will vary depending on the facilitator’s guidelines, size of audience, and your familiarity with the audience. However, these ten best practices will guide you towards being a professional participant during video conference calls. Bottom line: remember the three key components of onsite meetings that also apply to video conferences: preparation, respect, and engagement.

You got this!

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Conference Call Bingo source: E. Gilliam

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