While we’re telecommuting and social distancing, we’re all doing more videoconferencing now. This can be challenging as many of us have seen as members of the media—and the rest of us—are doing more of it. Here are some things you can do to up your game while videoconferencing.
• Check out your space. Find a private place for the call or use headphones. Talk to anyone who lives with you to let them know you’ll be on a call. Turn off distractions. Consider creating a virtual background if your space is messy—many videoconferencing applications allow this.
• Aim your camera at your face and look at the webcam (it should be at eye height). When you look into the camera, it appears to the other participants that you are looking at them directly. Don’t forget to check the lighting—natural light is best. If the light source is behind you, you may appear as a dark silhouette on the screen. Position a lamp or other light source in front of you. Sit a bit forward, not back. You want the closet thing to the camera to be your face, not your stomach!
• Check the tech. Test your setup before the video conference starts. Make sure you have Internet connectivity and that your webcam and microphone are working. You may also have to download the software if it is the first time you are using the application. Consider using a USB-connected headset for an interview instead of using the computer’s speakers. Headsets are inexpensive and can provide a much clearer experience.
And, if possible, use a wired Internet connection (plug directly into the Ethernet port) instead of using a wireless connection.
If you’re also using your phone to call in, use a landline if at all possible. If using a cell phone, make sure the phone is charged (or plugged in) and has a strong cell signal in the area you are taking the call. If you are using a cordless phone, make sure the battery is charged.
If you are using a laptop for the session, plug it in so you have plenty of “juice” (battery life) for the call. You do not want to have to dig for a cord to keep the computer from shutting down.
• Keep your clothing color choice in mind. Check how the colors of your clothing appear on camera. Just like TV news anchors avoid some colors — and most small patterns, pick colors that will show up well on video. Jewel tones or pastel colors work best. Do not wear white or black. Dress from head-to-toe. You may think you do not need to wear pants since the other people on the conference call are only going to see the top half of your outfit. But you should always expect the unexpected. You never know when you might need to stand up. Pajama pants or shorts with a dress shirt, tie, and jacket just do not work.
• Take care of the personal; use the restroom, grab a glass of water
• Be focused; this includes being on time. Turn off notifications on your computer and close your other software programs. You do not want to be distracted by beeps every time you receive an email. It is easy to tell on a video if you are not paying attention, so keep your focus on the conference.
• Participate, but don’t be too quick to answer. With video, there is sometimes a delay or interference, so make sure you pause before answering a question to avoid overtalking the other participants. When talking, keep your answers brief and to the point. One of the biggest mistakes you can make on a video conference is not knowing when to stop talking.
When you’re not talking, be aware of your facial expression. Most of the time, when we are listening to someone else, we have a blank expression on our face. But on a video conference, a blank expression comes across as a frown. Keep a slight smile on your face.