As remote-working becomes compulsory in many territories, video conferencing is massively helping workers to keep it business as usual.
But what if you’ve never done this video meeting thing before?
If it’s all a bit daunting for you, here’s a quick step-by-step guide (video and text versions) to help you get over the anxiety and get on with business.
1. Don’t Overthink It
It makes no sense to be more self-conscious about a video meeting than a face-to-face encounter. Would you check your hair fifteen times before you walked into the 2pm briefing in the meeting room? Would you sit for an hour before a weekly planning meeting trying to put off doing it?
Don’t let discomfort with the tech and the set-up get in the way of productive communication. Leave your anxiety at the door and get on with it.
2. Find the right room in your house
You’re having a professional meeting so you need to find the room in the house which is closest to a neutral professional space.
If you have a home office, that’s ideal, but if not, try to stay out of the kitchen and the playroom.
Next best bet is the living room. Sit on an upright chair with a desk-height table in front of you. Not at the coffee table!
Try to clear any distracting paraphenalia from the background, especially personal photographs or mementos. It’s not even a privacy issue, just an unnecessary visual distraction for the colleague or client.
You want people focused on the content of the meeting, not the contents of your house.
It goes without saying that audio is key, so that means no dog barking, no gaming sound effects or tv programmes.
More of that later.
3. Find the light in the room
When you’re positioning that chair and table, pay attention to the light source in the room.
If there is a window, don’t sit yourself with the window behind you , and similarly don’t sit facing directly into it.
The best place for the chair, is with a window to the side, either on the right or the left.
If there’s no window at all, try to use a floor lamp, preferably one on either side of the seat.
You’ll work it out! The main thing is to have light on your face when you’re talking, especially on your eyes.
4. Frame up the shot of yourself
Using books or a box, raise your laptop to the same height as your face and make sure you can draw a straight line between your eyes and the webcam.
Now adjust your distance from the camera to set up a Medium Close-Up shot, otherwise known as the ‘shirt-pocket’ shot.
So we should be able to see head and shoulders, cutting at the point where a shirt-pocket might be.
You should be dead-centre in the picture because you are delivering to another person.
Don’t sit to the side of the frame, either left or right. It’s not correct framing for this type of delivery.
This is a good Medium Close-Up
If the picture from your webcam is really poor, consider investing in a plug-in camera like the Logitech C922. It gives lovely sharp pictures, and there’s a desktop App that works with it to give you all sorts of additional features.
5. Check your audio.
Poor audio will be much more irritating on a video call than a bad picture. Being too loud is as bad as being too faint.
You don’t have to rely on the laptop microphone, which is probably not great, and will be a little further away now that you’ve framed up on a Medium Close-Up.
Best tip is to plug in your phone hands-free headset into the headphone jack of your laptop, and use that microphone.
Your audio will be much better, and will sound as intimate as a phone-call. It also means you don’t have to shout!
You don’t need to use the earbuds, just sling the cable around your neck to hold the microphone in place.
If you’re planning on adopting video comms for the long-term, you might invest in a USB microphone. I recommend the Blue Yeti Nano which is a great value, pro-sounding microphone.
6. Take charge
You’re almost good to go, but before you start shooting the video breeze, make sure you have a plan.
If it’s a team meeting, make sure there’s an agenda just like a face-to-face scenario.
If it’s a sales call, plot out a couple of points ahead of time.
This sounds incredibly obvious, but it’s amazing how technical gremlins and the novelty of this kind of communication can derail a meeting. People take time to settle, and meeting time gets chewed up.
The same etiquette for any normal meeting needs to apply, one voice and all of that.
Also make sure to work to time – set a time limit for the meeting and stick to it.
7. Practice before your first call!
Practice the tech before you go for it. Again sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many people wing it at the first meeting.
Things might go horribly wrong.
Video comms are entirely internet dependent, your broadband might not be as good at home. the laptop might be a bit ancient and uncooperative.
Or the dog might run in 🙂
So make sure to do a dummy run before you do this for the first time. You’ll be much more confident and won’t feel or appear as a rabbit in the headlights.
8. Use Zoom
Use the free Basic version of Zoom for live meetings of up to 40 minutes duration, with up to 100 participants.
It’s a fantastic platform, with features like virtual backgrounds to hide chaos in the living room and excellent recording options, even with the free plan. Currently experiencing a total boon as more meetings go online.
There’s a good demo here.
9. Set-up a private Facebook Group and use Facebook Live.
It’s an easy and quick solution if your video comms are temporary and predicted to be quite short-lived. Just set up a Facebook Group attached to one Facebook profile, with very limited access (all easy steps you can Google) and invite co-workers to join.
They can then participate in live chats and interact with live calls, without having to set up Zoom accounts.
It’s a very familiar interface to most people, so the learning curve is not as steep for a short-term solution.
There’s a good walk-through here.
10. Use Loom to record
Use Loom for recorded presentations and briefings. It’s a brilliant tool that allows you record using your computer screen, so you can share documents, powerpoints or even your live browser.
It works really well for calls that don’t require interactivity, and questions and conversation can happen following viewing.
Editing after recording is also easy peasy.
See how to use it here.
11. Enjoy yourself!
Covid-19 is an unprecedented crisis that has made video comms essential, but you know what…comms are going that way anyway.
It’s high time to embrace and enjoy the potential of video for business that has to get done, regardless of what else is going on in the world.
Get on with it!