Video conferencing has truly changed the way that people communicate throughout their business and the world. The technology brings people together while providing significant cost savings and productivity gains. But, like any other technology there are always some things to watch out for and some common mistakes or “blunders” that can be made that make you look, well, terrible.

Recently I was presenting to our sales team and quickly came face to face with some of the blunders I’ve experience in the past. While I am proud to say that I did not experience all of these in this single meeting, I came close!

Here they are, in no particular order:

1) The Powerful Forehead: Video conferencing is all about seeing the other participants. When you setup for a call, make sure you have your camera positioned well.  As lovely as it is, the other side is not particularly interested in your forehead. Focus on positioning the camera as if you were a newscaster.  Get your face in the middle of the frame; keep the upper part of your shoulders visible and make sure you don’t put too much space above your head.  You don’t want to cut off your hair, but you also do not want participants to be able to see the taxidermy moose you have hanging behind you.

2) The Background Joke: What’s going on behind you in a video conference can be just as important as your personal appearance. Make sure your background is as minimal as possible. A solid color wall or sheet is a great way to avoid an unsightly distraction. If you can’t have a totally clear background, make sure you do your best to keep background items to a minimal. If you have book shelves behind you, make sure your HD camera is not picking up book titles you wouldn’t want people to see!

3) Can You Hear Me Now?: Sometimes when you’re on the phone you need to mute to avoid others hearing background noise or other side conversations. Video is the same. But what is important to remember is that while you may mute audio, people can still see you. If you are muted, make sure you unmute before proceeding. Nothing is worse than waxing prophetic about the latest company initiative or introducing a great idea, only to have your colleagues see your mouth moving and nothing coming out!

4) Johnny Come Lately: With a video conference, you might be connecting from your house, your office, or other remote location. Make sure you are on time! In fact, get yourself setup in your meeting environment a few minutes before the beginning of the call. This will allow you enough time to make sure your camera is positioned, your background is clear, and you have all notes/materials you need to work through the meeting.

5) Keep Your Eyes On The Prize!: As we’ve mentioned in other articles, it is important to remember that a video call requires you to be fully engaged and ready to speak/participate. Don’t let yourself be distracted (like my 3 month old who is so fascinated with our ceiling fan that he stares at it and forgets he’s hungry) and make sure that you do not let yourself wander off into other activities such as checking your email on your phone or worse, grooming!

These blunders can not only contribute to an unsuccessful call but can also negatively hurt your image with your colleagues. Don’t do that!

It’s no secret that body language provides visual clues to the people you are speaking to; both positive and negatives signs of approval, engagement, confidence and more. Lately, the importance of body language during a video call has been lost in a sea of texts, emails and phone calls. 

It is extremely important to be cognizant of body language during a video call to avoid giving the wrong impression. Body language is a major sign of whether a person is actively engaged in a conversation or words are simply going in one ear and out the other. 

Everyone has shouted you’re not listening to me only to have the other party repeat verbatim what they just said. This is because there a difference between hearing what someone is saying and actually listening to what someone is saying.   

Show others you are actively engaged and listening by not fidgeting; this includes twirling a pen or your hair, rubbing your hands together incessantly, or picking at your nails.   Also make sure to avoid the following:   

  • Propping your head up with your hands as this just screams boredom
  • Checking your phone which conveys it is more important than the person speaking
  • Tapping your fingers repeatedly as it suggests you are in a rush to move on

Additionally, in business it is important to convey both confidence in yourself and your ideas, as well as, openness to others and their ideas.  This should be expressed by maintaining good posture; sitting up straight with your shoulders back and head up.  A closed body or defensive position can lead others to discount your idea or keep them from revealing their real opinions.   A few things to avoid are:

  • Narrowing your eyes as it gives the impression you do not like a person or an idea
  • Crossing your arms as it is a sign of resistance but can also be interpreted as egotism  
  • Holding a coffee mug or notebook in front of you, indicating shyness
  • Playing with your collar or necklace, showing doubt or uncertainty 

The bottom line is, pay attention to what your body is saying about you.  Showing confidence and openness can help your career as much as boredom and uncertainty can hinder it.

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” - Lee Iacocca

The Overlooked Benefit of Video

As a manager in the marketing department I have the opportunity to oversee a team of people who are all dedicated to helping push the power of video and its advantages across several industries.

Part of the marketing process includes coordinating campaigns and messaging across multiple locations. Creative ideas also need to continuously flow back and forth.  As a result, I am on video with several of my remote team members multiple times during the day.

What struck me this week is that I don’t even realize that I am speaking to someone who is thousands of miles away.

The power of video has made it possible to bring the entire marketing team together (located across three time zones and four states) and brainstorm ideas as if they were all sitting right next to me.  I can’t count the number of times a light bulb has gone off for me or a member of the team and I’ve seen that “AH HA” moment right in front of me, in glorious HD video.

It is very easy to get lost in the technology and its practical use cases; such as capturing a remote deposition, monitoring a manufacturing line, or managing a sales team. But what we cannot forget is the power of video to unify people and ideas.  When a team is able to come together and share their ideas there comes a point when a great idea or thought can take on a life of its own.  The idea itself becomes something even more powerful when everyone “gets it.”

Calculating the financial ROI of a VC/UC investment is certainly important. But when thinking about what you currently get out of your video conferencing investment or what you could get out of the technology, do not forget to include the human factor. This technology can break down barriers for your remote teams and allow them to work as a collective unit, in a way you never thought possible.

Using Video to Improve Work/Life Balance on the Road

You’re sitting in your hotel room and sigh: another missed baseball game. You start thinking of all the defining moments you’ve missed in your child’s life.  From the first words, to the first day of school, to a straight A’s report card; you can’t help but feel you’re missing out. 

Even though travel has been reduced through visual collaboration solutions at work; you still travel frequently because, let’s face it, you can’t do everything over video. Sometimes a firm handshake is necessary to close a deal or unique technical expertise requires your presence.  How can you stay involved in your personal life without sacrificing your job? 

Video Conferencing. 

You use it frequently to conduct business with colleagues, clients and partners so why not use it to stay involved in your children’s lives? Instead of calling home every night, video home.  Read a bed time story, watch the baseball game in real time, or even express your disappointment on a bad choice, the possibilities are endless! With video, you no longer have to forfeit your personal life in the name of business or see the disappointed looks when you leave for yet another business trip. 

Face time is just as important in strengthening personal relationships as it is in developing business relationships. As the saying goes, eyes are the gateway to the soul.  It’s nearly impossible to establish an emotional connection or tell what someone is thinking without looking someone in the eyes. Phone calls and text messages while traveling just don’t cut it anymore; buy a webcam or an iPad and check in with family while on the road. 

Then, the next time you are traveling, you can sit around the dinner table, hear about your spouse’s day and even kiss your children goodnight…virtually.

There are several components that go into designing an optimal collaboration: space, displays, speakers, microphones, video switching, control systems, the list goes on. But what about the lighting; how does it fit into the mix? Believe it or not, room lighting plays a dramatic role in the image quality being displayed to remote conference participants.

Amount of Light:

Remember, there is such a thing as too much light. Meeting participants do not want to feel like they stepped into an operating room any more than stepping into a romantic restaurant. In addition to being uncomfortable for local participants, too much light can leave remote participants communicating with washed out, ghost-like figures. Conversely, not enough light can cause dark shadows and possibly distorted images for remote viewers. Finding the perfect balance of lights is imperative for displaying crisp, clear images over video.

Direct vs. Indirect Light:

Simply put, direct lighting is where camera can see a hotspot or the light causes sharp shadows or highlights, is directed toward the participants. Indirect lighting will fill or flood the space with light, prevents excessive brightness or contrast and prevents casting shadows on the participants. Indirect lighting is often configured with reflectors that direct the light toward participants faces creating a more natural appearance by defining facial features.

While indirect lighting simulates a more natural view, it can be problematic when projected displays are used in the video conferencing environment as it may put too much light on the display if not configured correctly. In these instances more controlled, direct lighting fixtures should be used.

Other Tips:

  1. All lamps should be changed at the same time for even light color distribution and to maintain consistency
  2. Down can lighting should be avoided as it causes shadows on participants’ faces.
  3. Recessed lighting on walls within camera view can help differentiate between the participant and the background.
  4. Use neutral non-white wall colors, such as light blues or grays, with a satin or flat finish to disperse the light evenly.
  5. If there are windows in the background use vertical blinds over horizontal blinds as they have a lesser effect on the transmitted camera image.

Learn more about creating an optimal collaboration environment from our Audio Visual Buyers Guide.

Related Articles:
Can You Hear Me Now?
Top 5 Conference Room Considerations