Videoconferencing has become the status quo in 2020. Thanks to COVID-19, teams shifted to remote work practically overnight, and everyone from CEOs and junior employees to TV journalists and Hollywood celebrities has gotten a taste of the advantages of teleconferencing. They've also become acquainted with its disadvantages — think unexpected guest appearances by half-dressed family members and making everyone stare at your chin or the top of your head for an hour.
During the pandemic, telecommuting and videoconferencing have been the only safe options, but in-person collaboration and business travel will eventually resume as usual. Yet given the many benefits of teleconferencing, it's certainly here to stay as well. Why not take the time to learn to do it right?
Advantages of Teleconferencing (Pandemic Aside)
Employers have learned that the benefits of teleconferencing extend beyond keeping teams connected during an international public health emergency. Videoconferencing also provides a face-to-face meeting experience for geographically dispersed teams, so they can collaborate from anywhere, and your company can hire the best and brightest talent, regardless of location. Many businesses have already announced their intentions to let people work from home beyond the pandemic. It saves employers money on rent and utilities and gives employees flexibility — a valuable job perk during a time when many companies can't afford year-end bonuses or annual raises.
In a Deloitte survey conducted shortly before the pandemic, 94% of employees said they would benefit from more workplace flexibility, including the ability to work from home. One in three said this flexibility would improve their job satisfaction and morale, and almost 30% said it would increase their productivity.
Videoconferencing also lets your company reduce business travel expenses because you can conduct at least some customer meetings virtually. And these days, customers and prospects expect multichannel communication options to engage with your brand, including talk, text, and video. With unified communications and customer-facing communications APIs, you can give your team those options from one cloud-based platform.
How to Teleconference Like a Pro
You understand the benefits of teleconferencing and you have a secure, reliable solution in place. What do you need to know to get camera-ready? Here are seven teleconferencing hacks to make you look like you've been doing video calls for years.
1. Take a Practice Lap
The last thing you want is to be fumbling with the technology during an important videoconference with a big customer. Before your call, take some time to set up the software and adjust the settings. Make sure your lighting is good. (Ideally, you want a light source in front of you, behind you but out of frame, and "fill light" that hits you from both sides.) Then, find a co-worker with a few free minutes to chat with you as a test run.
2. Use a Headset
Your computer probably has a built-in microphone, but the sound quality can sometimes make you sound like you're in a tunnel. The solution? Use a simple headset with a microphone. You can then clearly hear the other parties, and your brilliant ideas will be crystal clear. If you're worried about looking like a drive-through employee, opt for earbuds instead, and remember the other attendees will likely be sporting headsets as well.
3. Look at the Camera
One of the advantages of teleconferencing is the ability to make eye contact, but that means you have to look at the camera. It's a natural reaction to look at the person you're talking to on the computer screen or to glance at yourself in the corner. However, this strategy will give that person a great shot of the top of your head. Your webcam is not embedded in your screen but likely at the top of it. Find where your camera is located before the call and make a conscious effort to look at it throughout the meeting.
4. Find Yourself
Just in case you forget where to look, keep an eye on the mirror image of yourself in the corner. This is how you look to the other party. Don't stare at yourself throughout the meeting, but be sure to check it when you first join the call and glance at it periodically so you can adjust your camera or position.
5. Check Your Background
On a normal phone call, you can sit in a messy office or hide from your children in a closet, and the rest of your team is none the wiser. On a videoconference call, everyone else can only see what and who is behind you. If you don't have a beautiful bookshelf or colorful artwork for a backdrop, a blank wall is better than a messy room. Just make sure you're presenting a professional image.
6. Minimize Potential Disruptions
Everyone who regularly takes conference calls outside the office has been saved by the mute button, but there isn't an equivalent in videoconferences. Even if you mute yourself so attendees don't hear your dog greeting the mail carrier, they can still see your four-legged friend howling in the window behind you. Remember to clear the room of distractions before the call, and warn your family or roommates so they don't accidentally make a guest appearance.
7. Silence the Beeps
Be sure to turn off your phone, email, and anything else with the potential to make distracting noises. You risk annoying other participants if your phone beeps every time you get a text or email — or worse, the funny ringtone you set up for your best friend suddenly starts playing.
While the pandemic might have introduced you to the advantages of teleconferencing, this probably won't be your last experience with live video. It's worth taking the time to prepare and learn the tricks to video chat like a pro.