Meetings are an everyday part of work life, and communication technology has developed to the stage that often times we will now choose to hold our meetings over Skype or other video conference apps for the sake of convenience and ease of access.
With a recent survey from Powwownow showing that an enormous 70% of SMEs would rather have a video conference than travel to meetings, one might justifiably argue that video conferencing is only set to grow; the video-call industry is worth a mighty $26 billion, according to MarketsandMarkets.
Sebastian Reiche, Professor of Managing People in Organizations at IESE Business School, offers guidance on how to get the most out of online team meetings and is a a strong proponent of the virtual boardroom.
Technology now enables individuals in different countries and time zones to come together in an organized, viable and effective way which ultimately produces results.
However, do not let the potentially informal nature of your ‘real’ surroundings distract you from the fact that video conferencing is as formal and professional as any face-to-face meeting.
In this article we will take a look at several tips to help you hold a professional video call and avoid often overlooked pitfalls. Read on to find guidance on:
- How to conduct yourself in a professional manner over video
- Why the setup of your device can determine the outcome of a meeting
- The importance of good preparation
There’s nothing worse than making an effort to create the perfect presentation or pitch only to get stuck with a bad line or faulty image. When preparing for your video conference, it’s always worth taking the time to check that everything is in working order, particularly if you’re working from home.
Call a friend or colleague to check that your mic volume and quality is clear, your image is sharp and that the lighting is sufficient. If problems arise it can be extremely distracting, and having to play around with your settings to fix the issue could derail the meeting and make you look unprofessional and unprepared.
Just because you aren’t meeting someone in person doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort. Dress appropriately, make sure your work space is clean and tidy, and that any posters or pictures on the walls are work-appropriate, especially if you are calling from home.
Treat the video conference as though you really are meeting in person because you never know what will happen. For example, if you’re wearing a work shirt but are wearing casual shorts but have to get up, your client or colleague will see; treat it as you would any regular meeting.
It may seem obvious but clear and concise communication is essential. Speaking via the internet can have a tendency to give a sense of disassociation between the speakers, but 55% of message interpretation comes from facial expression and 37% from tone of voice so it’s important to communicate as clearly as possible.
Again, remember this is a formal meeting - make sure that your meeting will not be interrupted, be as polite and courteous as you would in person, and make sure that you can be clearly heard. It’s likely that the reason you are video calling in the first place because the individual you are speaking with is too busy to meet in person, so this is worth keeping in mind; be concise and don’t waste words or the time of the person you are calling.
Don’t cause distractions
Noisy jewelry, excessive hand movements, and excessively boldly-colored clothing, are some of the many things that can be distracting or even annoying to your audience. If you are pitching an idea or conducting an important meeting, you need your audience to be able to focus on what you have to say. You should also be considerate of your audience – don’t rustle papers, text on your phone, or tap your hands near the microphone as this will appear rude, loud and distracting. They are giving you their full attention: you should reciprocate.
Make eye contact
You want your audience to feel like they are in the room with you. Eye contact is an important part of body language that communicates a lot to your audience. When talking, look into the camera so that your audience feels you are looking directly at them. Try to avoid looking elsewhere, for example if someone in the room with you starts talking to you or if you are typing as this can appear rude; you want to give the impression that you are speaking directly to your audience.
Video conferencing is a time-effective and efficient way of dealing with clients, customers and colleagues, but it can be easy to get it wrong and act inappropriately. Remember, you want them to feel they are in the room with you; factor this in every time you have a virtual meeting and be prepared.