In these unusual times, we may not be able to go out, but millions of workers up and down the UK are likely to be getting a look inside their coworkers’ homes through the lens of a camera as video conferencing takes off to keep us all in touch.
With the instructions to work from home wherever possible, many workers may be discovering the benefits – and challenges – of videoconferencing for the first time. But while a good video call can boost productivity and keep everyone in touch, a poor experience can leave everyone involved frustrated.
So what do you need to know to make it a success? Here are a few tips you should keep in mind.
1. Preparation is the key
Videoconferencing can be a highly effective productivity tool, but only if it all runs smoothly. To avoid awkward starts to calls where everyone is fumbling with settings, adjusting their volume, and waiting for latecomers, take the time to set up in advance. Make sure you’re familiar with the software, know where the mute button is, test the audio, and ensure your connection is up to scratch. Do some test runs with co-workers before any important call to iron out any connectivity wrinkles.
2. Know where to look
When it’s your turn to have the floor, resist the natural inclination to look at the screen – as this isn’t where the camera is. Focusing on the display rather than the camera lens means you won’t be making eye contact with your audience and can come across as distracted or uninterested.
Also, make sure the camera is at an appropriate level. If you’re working on a laptop, it’s easy to end up with a camera that’s too low, forcing everyone else to look up your nose for the entire meeting. A couple of thick books as a stand can easily fix this faux-pas.
3. Remember people can see you
It might seem obvious when you’re at the mic, but it’s easy to forget when you’re listening to someone else speak that your camera’s still active and visible to other users, even if it’s not the focus. You wouldn’t want to be seen in a physical meeting staring out of the window, fiddling with desk toys, or picking your nose, so don’t do so when you’re on camera.
4. Think about your background
It’s important to think about the light sources in your room and keep your background as neutral as possible. You don’t want to be framed by bright sunshine behind you or from just one side, so you need a strong, consistent source of light – particularly if you still have an older laptop or mobile device where the camera is not of a high quality.
While you don’t have to find a room with a blank wall behind you, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of colour, try not to work in front of something too cluttered. This will ensure your colleagues aren’t getting distracted by analysing your Blu-Ray collection or seeing what your family are up to in the back of shot.
5. Keep your appearance professional
Finally, even when you’re working from home, you still need to present a professional picture. So no teleconferencing from bed or your sofa. You should also be wearing the same work-appropriate clothing as you would for a face-to-face meeting. And yes, that means not wearing pyjama bottoms just because you think people can only see you from the waist up. This is one tip many people may not be following, as one retailer has reported sales of tops have increased as the video conferencing trend picks up, but sales of trousers haven’t.