Best Practices for Video Conferences
When scheduling a conference call, find out:
• The time of the video conference (and clarify any time zone differences)
• What is the platform and access information (including any codes needed to join in)
• How long to expect the conference to last
• Any specific preparation required for the call
• Who all will be on the conference call
Video Conference Do’s and Don’ts
Below are some do’s and don’ts for video conferences.
Think through where you will be when you are on the conference. Pick a location that will be free from distracting background noises — kids, pets, phones ringing. Turn off the TV, computer, and/or iPad.
Be mindful of where you set up for your video conference. Be sure the area is free of visual distractions (clutter). Carefully consider what is in the background. Make the background interesting, but not distracting. Plain white walls are fine, but boring. Can you frame a desk or bookshelves behind you instead?
Hang a “do not disturb” sign on the door. Let anyone who will be nearby know that you will be on a conference and should not be interrupted.
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.
Look at the webcam when you speak, not at your screen. When you look into the camera, it appears to the other participants that you are looking at them directly.
- PRO TIP! Use a USB-connected headset for an interview instead of using the computer’s speakers. Headsets are inexpensive and can provide a much clearer experience.
If possible, use a wired Internet connection (plug directly into the Ethernet port) instead of using a wireless connection.
See how it looks. Set up your computer or tablet and use the camera function to see how you look on your end. Check your lighting. Use natural light, when possible. 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.
Positioning is also important. Prop up the computer so that you are not looking down at it and practice where to sit so you are framed correctly by the webcam. Make sure your torso is visible — including your hands — especially if you “talk” with your hands.
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.
Use a landline phone, if at all possible, if you’re also using your phone to call in. 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.
Using a laptop for the Skype 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.
Go to the bathroom before you get on the conference.
Have a glass of water nearby in case your throat gets too dry.
Be on time. Ensure you are ready when the scheduled time arrives.
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.
Focus! Speaking of distractions, it is easy to tell on a video if you are not paying attention, so keep your focus on the conference.
Slow down. When you are nervous, you are likely to talk faster, which makes you more difficult to understand. So talk a bit slower than you normally would in an in-person meeting.
Dial up the enthusiasm! Someone who speaks with normal energy in a one-on-one conversation can come across as flat and monotone on a video call. It is important to be a little more enthusiastic in a video conference than normal.
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.
Be aware of your facial expression, especially when you are not talking. 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: not a huge grin, just show a few teeth and raise your cheeks slightly. Practice this in a mirror ahead of time.
Lean in. You have probably heard that “the camera adds 10 pounds.” The reason for this is that many people lean backwards in their chair, when they should be leaning forward. If you sit back and relax in your chair your head will be further away from the webcam than your stomach. Unfortunately, the camera latches on to whatever is closest…your gut!
Be mindful of your nervous habits. Just like in a face-to-face interview, the interviewer will notice when you twirl your hair or chew your lip.
Consider using the “mute” function on your phone or computer — but make sure you practice using it before the call so you do not accidentally mute yourself while you want to be talking.
Don’t forget to silence your cell phone when you are on a video conference.
Never answer another call when you’re on a conference. Ignore call waiting (if you have it) — or disable it, if possible.
Never chew gum or eat anything during a video conference.
Avoid using your speakerphone feature on an audio conference. Not only can a speakerphone create an echo, but it also picks up more background noise (such as shuffling papers).
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.
If you take notes, do not take them on your computer. The sound of typing is distracting. Have a pen and paper to take notes. (Or mute yourself if you must use your keyboard to take notes.)
Eat a cough drop (especially one with menthol) before the video conference. A medicated cough drop can help your voice and help you avoid coughing during the call. (But make sure you finish the cough drop before you get on the call!)