Now that many businesses are enforcing social distancing, and many of us are stuck at home, it’s time to face the worst part of remote working - video calls. Those of us who dread seeing ourselves on camera, have a dodgy internet connection, or worry about whether your pet / child / partner will come wandering in halfway through - we’ve got you. Here are some of our top tips on making video calls work for you.
We covered this in our ‘How to work from home like a pro’ blog, but it’s essential that you’re dressed appropriately, even if you’re working from home. Getting yourself into the right mindset is one thing, but appearing on video in your pjs is a big no-no, and it may help derail the conversation, or make you look unprofessional. Even in internal video meetings, you want to be putting your best foot forward.
If you’re spending most of your day on video, it may be important also to make sure that you’ve selected clothing carefully. Make sure you’re dressed in something comfortable that appears well on camera. No one wants to accidentally look naked when they’re chatting to colleagues, so retire that off-shoulder shirt you have!
Select your space wisely
Are you sitting at your workspace? Take a look around and see what’s behind you. You can also fire up your webcam to see what’s picked up from your specific space, and make sure that you have a clear and professional background. A plain wall is best, or a window if that’s where your desk sits. If the camera is picking up anything that you don’t particularly want colleagues to see, move it. A laundry basket, or pile of unwashed dishes, can give off the wrong impression.
It’s also a good idea to warn anyone else in the house if you’re having a video call. You want to give your full attention to your meeting, and not be distracted by anyone walking in halfway through. The same applies to your pets - if you have a pet at home that decides to start barking, or wander across your keyboard, then it’s a good idea to remove them from the room while your call takes place.
Know your softwares
There are a ton of video calling softwares out there, and we’ll be honest - they’re basically all the same. Whether you use Skype, Teams, or Google Hangouts, you can dial in multiple people and make contact, no matter where you are. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the software before you jump on a call - set up an online meeting with a colleague beforehand so you can test out the tools of each platform.
Some softwares offer key features that make video calls easier - here at Axon Garside we’re a big fan of Hangouts’ ‘present screen’ feature, which allows you to share your screen with multiple people at a time. It’s a good idea to try out features like this before your first video call, so that you don’t have any awkward moments on camera!
Make eye contact
If you’re on a laptop in the privacy of your own home, it’s very easy to get distracted during video calls. Just think of it the way you would an in-person meeting - you wouldn’t start scrolling LinkedIn in the middle of an actual meeting, so it’s definitely not okay to do it during a virtual one, even if no one can see you.
Try to make eye contact with the camera when possible, instead of focusing on yourself in the little box! It’s easy to end up watching yourself during video calls, but it’s something to avoid. This behaviour will make you look like you aren’t listening, or have completely zoned out of the conversation! When speaking, try to make ‘eye contact’ by looking directly at the webcam, or keep your eyes on the person you’re speaking to. It helps you look more awake, more attentive, and more like you’re in a face to face meeting.
Remember you’re on camera
This is a big one - in a normal meeting, much of our communication isn’t necessarily in what we say. You might sneak in a swift eye roll if there’s something you disagree with, or check your watch if you have lost track of where your entire day has gone. On a video call, remember that everyone can see this!
If you’re using Hangouts, then the video boxes cycle around. This means that sometimes, everyone can see you, and at other times, no one can see you. It’s best to just assume that your video is full screen at all times - so now isn’t the time to check your phone, pull a face or start painting your nails. Yes, we’ve heard of people doing this. No, it doesn’t look good in a business call.
If you’re following these tips, then you’re on your way to a successful video call with colleagues. In a time where most communication is heading online, it’s important to remember that even when you’re working from home, remaining professional is the key. Your video meeting is just as important as an in-person meeting, and you should treat it the same way.
And one more thing - move that pile of laundry from the camera view. Now.