Video conferencing is a learned skill that can and must be mastered in this age of the virtual “global grind.” It has become evident since the COVID-19 pandemic that video conferencing flows and functions differently than meeting in person. Harvard Business Review observed that “communication tactics that work well among colleagues in a conference room may not translate seamlessly to a virtual meeting.” In video conferencing it is so much harder to establish presence and connection as social cues are missed, side interaction is no longer possible, and there are opportunities for participants to sit back as solely observers. With the right tools and techniques, we can equip our teams with the skills to conduct successful video conferencing in a pandemic work culture. Here are eight ways we can step up our video conferencing and encourage our teams to do the same.
The Right Video Conferencing Software
Use Video Conferencing to Your Advantage
There are tools within video conferencing that can help your teams win. Are you using the video conferencing “chat” box to your full advantage? If not, try responding to questions, posing your own, or sharing links during a presentation directly through the “chat” feature. Does your video conferencing have a side-bar feature? Side-bar makes it easy to step aside and ask a team member for an update before presenting.
The Four Quick Checks Before You Start Any Video Conferencing Call
We have all seen or heard of the horrors of video conferencing gone wrong. Avoid joining the ranks of video conferencing fails with these quick checks:
1. Clear the tabs of the web browser and make sure there is no private or sensitive information on the computer in case screen sharing is utilized.
2. Take a quick look in the mirror for a “hair and teeth” check.
3. Lock the door so your toddler doesn’t bust in while you’re trying to close a deal.
4. Check your bandwidth, audio, and video quality.
Get Creative About a Dedicated Workspace
Most of us probably didn’t have a dedicated workspace at home until COVID-19 hit. Even then many were working from their bed or kitchen table. Ease and confidence is hard to achieve if we are nervous about kids running in. Make sure you have a space—even if it is small—where the door can be closed and locked. In addition, take some time to make sure your background isn't distracting for other participants.
Show Up with a Plan
Regularly showing up on time is a statement of how important the video call is and will create buy-in with the rest of the team. While connecting with employees is important on a personal level, it is just as important not to waste their time with pointless calls. If you plan a meeting, have a plan for that meeting. Try to stay on topic and focus on issues that are related to multiple people on the call.
Foster Connection and Engagement
Team check-ins don’t have to be long but can be critical to getting your team off to the right start. Regular one-on-one video calls to connect personally, as well as supporting team members in hitting their professional milestones, can go a long way in bridging the gap when working remotely. Help each team member to build a work-from-home strategy and to troubleshoot barriers. Be present and engaged on these calls—even when you are muted. If you are having a hard time with team building remotely, think about a team-building ice breaker to kick off morning calls. Harvard Business Review reminds us that the “biggest engagement threat in virtual meetings is allowing team members to unconsciously take the role of observer.” Create opportunities for team members or call participants to engage by asking questions and delegating aspects of the call.
Instill Confidence and Presence
It is tricky to have a commanding presence in virtual meetings. It is counterintuitive but critical to stare at the black dot of the camera and not people’s faces on the screen. A conversational tone of voice isn’t enough to lead a video conferencing call—we have to speak up and use a stronger than normal tone in order to communicate effectively. Framing ourselves correctly on the screen will help participants not to feel overwhelmed with a partial frame when up too close, or disengaged by sitting too far back from the computer.
When It All Goes Wrong...
Set an example of laughing, putting your kids first, and not being embarrassed when something goes wrong while video conferencing. Taking this approach shows your human side while also demonstrating your values. There is nothing worse than the parent that yells at their kid for walking in, or who gets flustered when something embarrassing happens.
Video conferencing requires us all to adapt how we relate and communicate. Find unique ways to overcome the challenges of video conferencing by leading with connection and confidence. Taking video conferencing seriously (but not too seriously) day after day will pay off in the long run.