While people in some states are slowly returning back to work, many of us are still working from home. Google recently announced its employees can work from home until the end of 2020—a move we’ve discussed before had already been rising in prominence and which may become a new normal in a post-COVID-19 world as employers realize that working from home can be productive. What we’re getting at here is that video conferencing is here to stay—the ubiquitous Zoom has added more users so far this year than in 2019 and zooming is fast becoming a verb the way googling is now part of our everyday lexicon.
As more and more people become reliant on these calls, and it becomes more a routine than a gimmick, expectations of professionalism will start falling into place. Those whose video conferencing calls look and feel professional will have a distinct advantage over those who still look frazzled and unlit. Communication is an important tool in the world of work and video conferencing is just another form of communication we’ll now be expected to master.
We talked with VirtualJobShadow.com's video producer Jason Perry about how he’s been creating video content through video conferencing, and how you can make your own calls look and feel professional.
His top advice:
- The difference between a professional looking call and one that reads as amateur is easy and it will take maybe a half hour extra to distinguish yourself. Obviously two of the most important things you want to consider are lighting and audio. If you can’t see or hear a call, it can get disorienting and hard to follow.
- Jason said to always be sure to keep the light in front of you, not behind, because that could wash out your features and make you appear as more silhouette than person i.e. don't sit with your back to an uncovered window.
- Making sure your camera is at eye level and arm’s length away can set you ahead of the pack. You can do this by putting your laptop, tablet, or phone on a table, or stack of books (if you’ll have to be doing a lot of typing during the call, you can invest in a reasonably priced USB-keyboard which can be placed on the table in order to type unencumbered). This simple fix puts your face at eye level and prevents the audience from staring at your ceiling or chin.
- A messy background is distracting when you’re on a call, but likewise a very plain background can sometimes wash you out. Jason said what he often does on video shoots to make a background look more eye-catching without being distracting, is to add either a plant or lamp (or both).
- It's best to wear solid colors when you’re on camera as patterns can blur and take away from what you’re saying. Jason cautioned against wearing a color that’s too similar to whatever is behind you lest you appear to resemble a floating head.
- If you know you’re going to be spending a lot of time video conferencing, and know you’re going to be the one talking or giving presentations often, Jason said purchasing a ring light would be a sound investment.
- This should go without saying in any conversation but maintain eye contact. If there are multiple people on your call this means staring directly at your camera.
- Utilize headphones with a microphone if you can’t control the background noise in the room (which also includes what’s happening directly outside of the room you’re in).
- If you have options, smaller rooms are always better than larger rooms as they minimize an echo. If you’re in a large room, or a room with many hard surfaces (tile, hardwood floors etc.) you’ll definitely want to use headphones with a microphone as well to help cancel said echo.
- If you have a quiet place to work, and know you’re going to be doing a substantial amount of video conferencing, he also suggested purchasing a USB microphone to capture your voice in the best sounding audio possible.
If all of these factors seem overwhelming, take comfort in the fact that these are things you'd take into consideration if you were at a brick and mortar office—you might just do it subconsciously. You’d check to make sure everyone could hear you if you were conducting a presentation in a room full of people; you might even employ the help of audio equipment. You might have had to leave your office to find a quiet space if you were going to be on an important call. You keep your workspace clean and neat so that people in the office aren’t distracted by a mess. At the end of the day you want to keep in mind that you’re still having conversations. Treat it as such. Look a person in the eye, show them you’re listening, and don’t come off as distracted the same way you’d do in person.
The last thing we wanted to get Jason’s advice on was how to help others overcome their nerves. You'll have people still approaching video conferencing with trepidation because while it's becoming our norm, it is still new technology to many. Likewise, being in the spotlight on a video call could feel more intimidating than sitting in a conference room amongst your colleagues. The best conversations happen when people are comfortable, and the tactic Jason uses on video shoots is to engage in some light conversation before delving into things. He’ll ask people he's shooting for local restaurant recommendations or if they have any fun plans for the weekend. You can do this too. This can help ease nerves before getting down to business and everyone bringing their best selves to a call means a more productive meeting.