Work-from-home has changed how many businesses operate to the point where people today can travel the world while working remotely.
In this environment, companies rely on video calls to bring teams together and maximize productivity. However, effective video conferencing requires a great deal of flexibility, planning, and effort.
After all, examples abound of coworkers and colleagues who come unprepared for that important online meeting, only to make mistakes like interrupting the call with unprofessional comments while thinking they’re muted, forgetting important details, or goofing off in front of the camera while everyone can see.
Like with any meeting, mistakes can happen. But there are some techniques and strategies you can follow to minimize and prevent potential problems ahead of your next video conference, and that’s what this piece is all about
Join us as we go over ten ways you can improve and standardize your video conferencing pipeline so you can master your internal communications the way that experienced video industry pros do.
1. Anticipate and Avoid Potential Technical Problems
Technical difficulties are one of video conferencing’s greatest enemies. Poor video quality can ruin a meeting, making the user’s experience unpleasant and preventing participants from focusing on what’s relevant. Luckily, there are ways to anticipate and avoid a lot of them.
Pixelated video feeds and delayed audio often stem from having a subpar wireless Wi-Fi setup. Occasionally, other devices’ signals interfere with your network, resulting in sluggish service. You can prevent that by using an Ethernet cable to connect your PC straight to the router.
You can also check your CPU. When the processing unit runs too many programs simultaneously, it overworks, slowing down considerably. By clicking CTR+ALT+DELETE on a Microsoft computer, you can check the task manager, which shows what applications are using up the CPU. For Mac users, open the Activity Monitor app and select “CPU”.
Whenever you notice a lot of processing power being used, try shutting down any problematic apps and see if the quality improves.
2. Plan Ahead with an Agenda
As virtual meetings become increasingly crucial in our daily operations, giving them some proper planning becomes essential. When you don’t give them enough forethought, your conferences can quickly become monotonous, one-sided expositions or get easily sidetracked by random topics.
To prepare for a virtual conference, ask yourself: What are the goals of this meeting? Who needs to be on it? Who will be talking about what? These questions will help you prepare a well-defined agenda to keep things on task and a well-thought-out guide on how to cover all of them.
You can also share the plans with all participants ahead of time. That way, everyone who plans to attend will know the topics you plan to cover so they can prepare around them.
3 Avoid Distracting Elements in the Background
In a video conference, your background can quickly distract attention from the discussion.
Try to remove any clutter, distracting objects, and furniture that stand out too much, and it’s best to close the room to visitors and pets.
Humans are curious creatures, so we are naturally drawn to other people’s lives—especially if you’re in the middle of a long work meeting. Removing eye-catching elements from the background helps avoid drifting eyes, keeping the focus where you want it.
Even if you will not be the one presenting, this advice still holds. Before a meeting, clear your desk of any distracting elements, like trinkets, texts, and, yes, your cell phone. If you have it within your reach and can see it, you’ll likely want to use it.
4. Make a Test Call
You can and should make a test call before your online meetings to identify any lingering technical issues. Most conferencing solutions offer this feature, which allows you to test your microphone and cam and see if your audio and video are connected and working correctly.
For example, you can check your setup on Zoom while on the waiting list.
Don’t be shy and talk out loud to test your settings appropriately. When you do so—and this is good advice for when you speak in the call as well—place both feet flat on the ground, as this helps avoid movement in your upper body, making your voice steady and with a slightly slower cadence. That way, you’ll sound like a professional voiceover artist for an animated video or a radio broadcaster.
Furthermore, test if there appears to be any delay between your audio and video feed, as synchrony is vital to avoid accidentally interrupting or speaking over other conference participants during your meeting.
5. Keep an Eye Out for Verbal and Non-Verbal Cues
Video conferencing certainly brings many benefits to remote work, but it also has limitations.
Online, it’s harder for team members to read facial expressions and body language, and that lack of direct personal contact can make your brain work overtime trying to interpret others.
As an interlocutor, you must be aware of your body language to compensate for the lost communication. After all, non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, gestures, and posture, are also crucial to conveying your message accurately.
If you want to give viewers an easier time, place your laptop or camera at eye level by setting it up on a stack of hardcover books or a shelf. People will interpret your words better if they can see your face directly alongside a bit of your upper torso.
Additionally, set a sticky note next to the camera hole with an arrow reminder to focus your eyes on the camera rather than how you’re looking at the screen; that way, people watching will have an easier time connecting with what you say.
6. Start the Call By Asking Questions
Have you ever hosted a meeting where the other participants weren’t actively engaging in the dialogue? Chances are high that your answer is yes because, surprisingly, even people who are very open and outgoing in real-life conversations can get camera-shy during virtual meetings.
We are used to watching video content passively, which makes it easy to tune out of a meeting and let the speaker go on until the end without much interaction, which isn’t conducive to excellent video conferencing.
To avoid that, you can start the call by asking questions directly to other participants, prompting your counterparts to interact right from the start.
How was your day? What did you do on your weekend? Did you see what’s in the news? Simple questions like these work as conversation openers that encourage participants to talk. This makes them aware that the meeting isn’t a one-dimensional speech but an exchange, and it will help them deliver contributions or express their opinions confidently.
7. Have Someone Else Manage the Call
In a video conference with multiple participants, background noise from users with an open mic, interruptions, and people talking over others can make it devolve into a chaotic and unintelligible mess.
To ensure an organized meeting that flows without these issues, you can put someone in charge of managing the exchange. Such a person is usually responsible for muting open microphones and managing speaking turns by seeing who has something to say and who should speak first.
That said, this usually should be someone other than the person who hosts and conducts the meeting: We have all been in calls where the speaker had to pause their speech every second to mute another participant, interrupting the flow of the conversation.
To avoid that, delegating this task to a colleague familiar with the program tends to be better. Just make sure to coordinate with them beforehand so they understand the job they’ve been assigned to do.
8. Active Cameras Are A Must
Too often, video conference participants avoid turning on their cameras during meetings.
Not everyone is a fan of cameras, and that’s understandable. However, the whole conversation changes when your face is in the picture. It’s easier to feel part of the conversation when you can see each other’s expressions, fostering an environment of trust and openness.
Additionally, open cameras will prevent most people from trying to multitask. It’s easy to have some meetings that start to feel like background noise after a while, which is when your remote workforce may also be tempted to start checking their emails or tweaking a spreadsheet.
This has negative consequences in two ways: the meeting may not reach its objectives when some participants aren’t entirely on board, and the work done this way is often half-hearted.
Require active cameras as you will keep people’s attention on the meeting if everyone is watching—just like in an in-person meeting!
9. Summarize and Follow up
Once, a wise coworker told me that if a piece of work isn’t documented, then there’s no work at all. Leaving discussed topics and conclusions in the air can lead to misunderstandings, inaction, or forgotten tasks!
At the end of your video conference, it’s essential to summarize all the content addressed and follow up with all the participants. Go over the starting goal and how it was achieved, highlighting critical takeaways for your busy teams to go over without much effort.
Moreover, thank your audience for their participation and cooperation and ask them for feedback. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for conferencing systems: feedback can help you adapt and improve your meetings based on your team’s preferences.
10. Be Aware of Zoom Burnout!
Keep in mind that videoconferencing too much can hurt productivity instead of improving it. Zoom burnout happens when people experience tiredness and fatigue due to the overuse of online communication platforms.
Today, as more and more work gets done remotely, people are attending more meetings than ever. This leads to various factors that make people feel burned out.
Since most of us spend several hours a day in front of our computers, the constant light from screens causes eye strain. Moreover, staring at your face on the screen can make anyone feel self-conscious, and sitting still in front of the camera causes sore bottoms and stiff shoulders.
These factors contribute to the work-from-home blues and undermine your workforce motivation. You can avoid exhausting your team by adequately scheduling your meetings and setting them in a way that’s manageable.
Let’s be honest; getting used to virtual conferences takes a while. A lack of familiarity with these technologies leads to embarrassing moments, and an overuse of them causes fatigue and decreases motivation. But as tasking as they can be, meetings get the work done.
New realities create new challenges but are also opportunities to improve and grow. It’s okay if you don’t ace your first video conference. Just follow these best practices and work to create a set of standards and uniformity for your organization that will enhance your internal communications and conferencing pipeline.