Video conferencing technology crosses geographical boundaries and connects participants all over the world with the click of a button. Many collaboration sessions with peers are informal gatherings where different ideas and concepts are discussed. However, what is perceived as a normal hand gesture in one country may be completely offensive in another. Colleagues should be mindful of their hand gestures during international meetings and specifically avoid the gestures below that have multiple meanings.

A-Okay
In the US and UK this gestures is often used to signify things are “a-okay” or absolutely fine but in Japan it means money or coins. This can become quite confusing to your Japanese counterparts when they ask you a question and you respond with coins. In a few European countries, such as France, this gesture means ‘zero’ and by responding to an idea with it you are essentially saying their idea is useless which can be quite insulting. Far worse, in Brazil and Germany the term is downright vulgar. 

Thumbs Up
In Western cultures this is a sign of approval or a job well done or that you are good to go; however, in Latin America and the Middle East it is one of the biggest insults you can give. So when your Latin American colleague asks if you can hear him now, it’s best to respond verbally instead of simply giving the thumbs up sign. 

Stop
Meetings sometimes get out of control with multiple people talking at the same time. To get everyone’s attention the meeting leader may hold up his hand to signify stop; however, he will really be telling his Greek counterparts to go see the devil.   

V-Sign
Many people use this sign to refer to the number two but in the UK or Australia it is the equivalent of telling someone where to go. Be wary of using hand gestures to signify numbers to avoid offending colleagues and keep meetings on track. 

There are a lot of different cultures in the world and each has their own way of expressing feelings through body language. Gestures that may seem harmless can be deeply offensive to another culture so before meeting with international clients or colleagues it may behoove you to brush up on their culture to avoid any faux pas.

Video conferencing with anyone, from anywhere, on any device is becoming a major trend. Users love the flexibility of being able to join from their PC at home instead of trekking into the office conference room. Similarly, the ability to join a video call while taking the ferry back home or even an extremely important client meeting while on vacation not only makes employees more productive but helps contribute to a better work/life balance.

But can you really join a video conference from anywhere?

For personal use – absolutely; because no one really minds a choppy signal that fades in and out or the oddly dressed fellow in the background. The conversations are more casual and participants are simply so excited to actually “see” each other that the importance of high quality communications dissipates.

However, for business use, the answer is not really. The quality of communications plays a significant role in business video and a signal that fades in and out can be extremely frustrating. As a result, mobile video becomes a challenge in many business cases due to a lack of consistent internet quality.

In many public places, such as hotels and airports, the WiFi signal is unpredictable; resulting in poor quality and lack of a consistent experience. Furthermore, restricted 3G and 4G networks are inconsistent in their coverage (4G in some metropolitan areas, 3G in outlying area), making high quality video on the go extremely difficult.

Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use mobile video ever again; it simply means be careful. Be wary of joining a video meeting from a new location and make a few test calls before committing to join a business meeting over video. If the quality is inconsistent, perhaps it’s better to join the call over audio.

You can pay people to do pretty much anything nowadays; from landscaping and housekeeping to filing your taxes and even interviewing.

Wait, interviewing?  How is that even possible?

Think about it, the first round of interviews are usually done over the telephone by the recruiting or HR team.  The whole purpose is to weed out candidates so it’s typically very difficult to differentiate yourself. But, candidates know they must find a way in order to land that elusive face-to-face interview where they can win the job with their stunning personality and great interpersonal skills.

To gain an initial advantage, some candidates are paying imposters to perform the preliminary phone interview.  These people answer initial questions and explain “their” background based on the candidate’s resume.  Since they typically have significant interview experience, they are extremely polished with their answers and know how to differentiate themselves.  Unfortunately, due to sheer volume, it is extremely difficult to determine if a second round candidate is the same candidate that was on the phone.

How can this be prevented?

Well for starters, companies can begin replacing the initial phone interview with video interviews; because let’s face it, it’s pretty obvious when the candidate who shows up looks completely different from the person originally interviewed.  Cloud technology and desktop video applications not only make it possible but extremely easy to interview candidates over video.  Interoperability is a thing of the past; organizations can connect with candidates anytime, anywhere, using any combination of devices.

If video simply isn’t possible, ask the interviewee a few questions that cannot be obtained by looking at their resume.  Questions should focus on specific instances; such as a time they used their technical skills to complete a difficult project.  Not only are specific situations more difficult to forge answers to; they can easily be referenced and validated during the second interview.

If all else fails, record each phone interview and then do a voice comparison when the candidate comes to interview in person.  Although, it’s hard to imagine that option would be simpler than switching to video…but hey crazier things have happened!

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!

“From Telemedicine to applications in government, entertainment, science and education, Polycom is fueling collaboration, knowledge and understanding around the world.”

We are very excited to hear that Polycom, a leader the visual collaboration space, launched its new brand!   Their history in developing innovative video collaboration products is impressive and an increased focus on UC and mobile technologies will continue to change the way people collaboration. 

In a mission to unite devises, operating systems and service provides; Polycom will make video ubiquitous through secure and easy to use technology that delivers a high quality experience to everyone, everywhere.  Watch their video below.

These are exciting times in the visual collaboration space and we cannot wait to see what Polycom comes up with next!