Videoconferencing (VC) should feel like an ordinary conversation but it’s amazing how often it seems awkward. We’ve put together a few tips to improve your next VC so you can be sure of a smoother meeting that is more satisfying for everyone.
Has anyone ever taught you how to behave in a meeting? Probably not, because walking into a room and interacting with other people comes naturally to most of us. But what about online?
When participants are faced with a screen and a microphone, the session often feels different. We don’t get the rapport we are hoping for: the agenda or lesson plan goes out the window, we can’t see or hear properly, the gathering feels awkward or we wish we’d met face-to-face.
Ahead of time
1. Use a headset
If you are using a desktop client or browser to videoconference it will provide much better audio quality. Although you may not notice at your end, using integrated laptop mic and speakers in a conference, rather than a headset, can cause some awful feedback heard by other participants.
2. Consider your clothing
If you can, avoid clothes with tightly spaced striped patterns as these can sometimes create a distracting strobing effect in video.
3. Allow time for set up
Arrive early to turn everything on, or test, especially if you don’t use VC regularly or it’s an important session. Our videoconferencing solution, Vscene, gives you the option of automatically testing everything before the meeting. Remember that rebooting your system could take longer than you expect, especially if the hardware has been totally switched off.
4. Get your camera position right
For the best picture, keep your camera angles simple and try not to show parts of people if you’re in a group. If it’s just you in the room, ensure you are positioned squarely in the middle of the screen like a newsreader, with a neutral backdrop behind you.
5. Think about lighting
This has a huge impact on your camera’s ability to focus. If it’s taking a long time to focus, try lowering the camera angle to point away from the ceiling lights, or close the blinds to stop strong sunlight entering the room.
6. Be prepared
Keep the phone number for VC support at hand in case of any problems. Before you start the conference, check with other participants that your audio and video is good enough – they may be too polite to tell you that the sound is muffled by your papers near the microphone, for example.
During the meeting
7. Keep a balance of voices
Appoint a chairperson if there are multiple participants and introduce everyone present. Each individual has a responsibility to avoid side conversations and frequent interruptions. Bear in mind there may be a transmission delay and allow others time to comment.
8. Develop rapport
Looking straight into the camera gives the impression of eye contact. It can also help to place any on-screen documents you are using in a small window as close to the camera as possible, so that you are still looking directly into the screen. Remember that you can be seen at all times! Talk naturally yet clearly, smile, relax and enjoy the experience.
9. Remember your microphone
Your microphone is sensitive so don’t rustle documents, or tap on your keyboard near it. If you mute your microphone when you are not speaking, remember to unmute again when you need it.
Ending the meeting
10. Limit the time on the call
Avoid long VCs where possible as these are very tiring.
11. Consider the next user
At the end, hang up the call to disconnect from the VC site. If you’re in a shared space, leave the system as you found it.
I hope you find these tips helpful.
If you’d like more information on Vscene, you can email the service desk or call us on 0300 300 2212.
And I’d love to hear your own advice for helping VCs run smoothly in the comments below.
Come along to our annual conference, Digifest, 2-3 March 2016, where our staff can provide more information and advice on using Vscene during our parallel sessions in the afternoon of day one (see full programme).
Our guide explores how you can promote videoconferencing in your organisation as a way to meet your green targets, reduce travel and save time and money.
You can also look back at Mark O’Leary’s blog post, which outlines how we've rethought videoconferencing, and introduces our Vscene service.