For better or for worse (and maybe a bit of both!) the events of 2020 changed the way we work and communicate with our colleagues. Slack messages and Microsoft Teams meetings have replaced office drop-bys and working lunches. Board meetings are now conducted over video chat platforms like Zoom, Google Meet and others. The good news is that most of us have now worked through the practical details of these applications (logging in, setting up the camera, testing the microphone), but if you’re still feeling a little in-the-dark when it comes to using these tools effectively, you’re not alone! People ask me questions about proper video chat etiquette and virtual do’s-and-don’ts all the time. After successfully hosting over 150 corporate virtual events now since March 2020, I’ve had time to iron out the wrinkles and get to the point where I feel comfortable on camera. Here are my top 5 must-know tips for communicating more effectively at your next online video meeting so you can video chat with confidence.
1) Watch Your Lighting
Make sure you’re not sitting in front of a window where light is streaming in behind you. This will cause a blinding glare for viewers on the other side of the camera, and make your image look washed out. Conversely, make sure you’re not sitting in a spot where the lighting is too dim, such as in a basement. This can make you look low-energy and that’s never good when discussing action plans with the boss.
2) Clean Your Webcam
This is something not a lot of people think about. They’re so focused on their own appearance and what’s within the view of the camera that they forget to check for smudges on the webcam. A dirty camera lense will create a blurred effect for viewers which may cause them to wonder whether something is going on with your equipment, or if they need another cup of coffee to wake their vision up!
3) Watch Your Framing
Everyone knows a coworker or colleague whose head appears to be floating because you can’t see his neck or shoulders. It’s like he doesn’t know where the camera is! Don’t be that guy. Make sure you know where the webcam is located and in what direction it’s aimed. And here’s something else for you multi-taskers out there to consider: resist the urge to set up a secondary monitor for your video chat. When you’re looking at the screen that you’re typing on 90% of the time, and only occasionally glance over at your camera to interact with your colleagues, it can make you look distracted or worse yet disinterested. Sit directly in front of the webcam and give your full attention to those on the call. Connecting over virtual is challenging enough. You risk making it even more challenging to connect when you’re not maintaining regular eye contact with everyone on the call.
4) Pick a Flattering Angle
Unless you’re video chatting with your Otolaryngologist, no one wants to look up your nose! Position your webcam at eye level so other attendees won’t be staring up your nostrils— you may get caught with a “bat in the cave!” It can also be distracting to look up and see someone’s ceiling fan in the frame whirling round and round, for example. Positioning your webcam too high and pointing down at you might not be as awkward for your colleagues, but the weird angle will probably be just as distracting. Eye level is the way to go.
5) Wear Pants
Seriously. Yes, one of the benefits of working from home is being able to dress more comfortably and you should embrace that, but when you rock business on top and pajamas on the bottom, you’re just asking for the unexpected to happen. Imagine if at some point during a meeting, you need to stand up to adjust lighting or shush the dog. If you’re not wearing pants, it’s gonna get real weird real fast. Don’t risk putting yourself in an awkward situation that compromises professionalism. Dress the way you would if you were going into the office and save your spider man boxers for the pajama party.
Here’s my take on these 5 tips. This video was used as part of my opening for Trimble Transportation’s Virtual In.Sight User Conference + Expo in August 2020.
Since March of last year, we’ve all had to learn new ways of working and communicating with each other in our professional lives. Follow my five simple tips for online video meetings and you’ll be able to communicate with colleagues effectively, keep their attention, and maintain professionalism at your next online video meeting.