Professionals in most industries are likely going to be expected to participate in virtual meetings for the rest of their careers — opening up exciting opportunities to chat with clients, coworkers and leaders regardless of physical proximity.
In this article, we’ll explore the explosion of virtual conferencing. Then, we’ll break down actionable steps for making your at-home or in-office video setup crisp and professional.
Video meetings are here to stay
Virtual conferencing was already a growing mainstay in modern workplaces, but the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the trend to an astonishing degree. Even after this initial explosion of growth, market research indicates the video conferencing market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 15.5% by 2028.
Video conferencing has even touched industries where professionals traditionally privileged in-person interactions. For example, virtual touring in real estate has quickly acclimated customers to interactions conducted solely online. In late 2020, 42% of millennials expressed a willingness to buy a house solely based on virtual touring.
Healthcare is another industry that has had to adapt quickly to virtual interactions. Telehealth is not a new trend, but usage has increased to be 38 times higher than it was before the pandemic — and experts predict this usage rate to remain fairly stable even as in-office visits become more accessible.
Clearly, professionals in the majority of industries can expect virtual meetings to be a mainstay at work. With that in mind, here are three essential tips workers should follow so a video meeting setup can work smoothly and make them look professional.
1. Invest in the right tools
People should invest in these state-of-the-art tools that will improve the four main attributes of a successful video meeting:
- Video: Workers should purchase a laptop with a high-definition camera or buy an external USB webcam to connect to current devices. They can also use their smartphone camera.
- Audio: Most built-in microphones on laptops don’t have quality audio and can echo. New headsets allow people to hear and communicate with their peers more effectively.
- Connection: A home’s Wi-Fi connection must be stable and secure. People can run a speed test to determine if they need to make an upgrade and keep a hotspot on hand in case their main Wi-Fi experiences technical issues.
- Productivity: Sometimes, a standard desktop setup won’t suffice for certain tasks. Employees might need a second monitor to have all necessary files and programs open during video meetings. One monitor can run the video while the other presents information.
Reliable video and audio combined with a strong internet connection and the right office setup will allow video meetings to flow seamlessly.
2. Set the scene
Lighting is the first key aspect people should focus on when setting the scene for their video meeting. They should experiment with their home office’s lights to find the balance that looks most crisp and professional.
Ideally, the primary source should sit in front of the camera to give their face the most direct exposure. It should not be too bright or too dark. Aim for a happy medium.
Framing should also be taken into account. The camera should not look down on a subject or up their nose. Instead, the device should look directly in their face. People should also keep themselves centered in the frame.
Sitting too far to the left or right irritates the viewer and will make peers feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, a fully centered frame makes someone appear competent and professional.
People should always check their appearance before starting a video meeting. This can be easy to work into your process — most remote conferencing tools offer a test call feature that previews what the screen will look like.
This should be conducted before every session to make sure everything looks okay — and there aren’t unaccounted for objects or people in the frame to distract from the purpose of the call.
3. Use the right settings for the occasion
Workers must be proficient with their business software to know what settings are suitable for a video meeting. Professionals should take the time to master the different presentation tools and practice troubleshooting the problems that might happen during the meeting, such as a faulty mic or a slow internet connection.
Once comfortable with the software, they can confidently experiment with visual settings like filters and backgrounds. The background should have no windows or distracting artwork. Most video meeting platforms have blurring effects that allow people to effectively censor their background, but this solution isn’t always appropriate.
If none of the available background options fit what someone’s looking for and they can’t move to another location, they can create custom backgrounds and download them onto their computer. Alternatively, they can buy a vinyl backdrop or a green screen, which also allows for customization.
Video meeting software also provides an array of filters that can change a video’s brightness, exposure, skin smoothing and other effects. Applying the right filter can help if an office’s natural lighting is insufficient.
Some backgrounds and filters aren’t fitting or relevant for every meeting. When in doubt, people should read the room. If someone plans on discussing a serious issue, they should avoid comedic backgrounds and filters. If the video is a simple meet and greet, they can show some individuality.
Here are some other tools and settings that can be used to enhance a video meeting experience:
- Screen sharing: A necessity for most professions, this tool allows people to present their device’s screen directly to the rest of the meeting. They can see everything that's done in real-time.
- Group chat: It can be difficult for someone to get their two cents in during a video call with many participants or limited time. They can make their voice heard with the group chat feature.
- Mute/remove screen: The meeting’s host or moderator can mute or remove screens from the video call on command.
- Background noise suppression: People can stifle outside noises that interfere with the video call.
- Reaction images: Presenters can send reaction images to the video’s group chat throughout the meeting to keep everyone engaged.
- Breakout groups: People can separate their meetings into multiple discussion groups.
Run a video meeting with confidence
The environment of a video meeting varies from an in-person meeting in many ways, but it shouldn’t handicap someone’s ability to present information and communicate effectively with their peers.
Presenters should purchase the right tools, present themselves in a professional light and become familiar with their business’s video software so they can run their next meeting with confidence.