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  • Calum Rhodes

New to Video Calling?

With social distancing measures remaining in place, video conferencing apps like Skype and Microsoft Teams are more popular than ever. People around the world are joining pub quizzes on Google Hangouts, having nights out on Zoom, or even karate classes on Slack! It’s no different in the business world where this multitude of options are keeping us in touch with our colleagues, clients, and team mates.

For many people video conferencing is a completely new way of working, and many are finding the adjustment a little tough. We’re here to help though and below are some best practices that we’re using to maximise the benefit and minimise embarrassment when video conferencing! Before we start it’s worth being aware that one of the most popular apps, Zoom, has had some complaints around its data usage and security. Whether your organisation uses Zoom or not, there’s some simple guidelines you can follow on all these apps to make the most out of this new way of working.



It’s essential that you familiarise yourself with your software before making any live calls. Sometimes you’ll have to download additional drivers or restart your computer so your webcam and microphone work, so don’t wait until your big meeting starts to find this out! Set up a small video call with one or two colleagues so you can get the software working and get used to the controls - ensure you know how to mute yourself, how to pause video and how to record yourself if necessary.

Remember that if you get invited to a call you might be asked to join using a new platform so double check your invite and download and test software early so that you can join the call in a seamless and professional manner. Once you have an app installed it’s worth opening it up each morning and checking no software updates are required.


Professional presentation

Don't forget that a video-call is really a meeting and you should prepare just as diligently. It should go without saying that the clothes you wear for the call would be appropriate a working-day at for your office. Turn your camera on and check how you look long before your call starts. Be aware that black, white or red shirts aren’t always picked up well on camera and busy patterns don’t always display properly either – so it’s worth avoiding these.

Your surroundings are similarly important when video-calling. Check your lighting, if possible your face should be evenly lit from a light source above and behind your camera, this way your features will display relatively naturally and you’ll avoid any dark shadows. Position your camera at eye-level so your head is kept straight and you look alert. You’ll also need to consider what’s behind you – having your bookshelves or art adds a little bit of personality but you don’t want anything distracting and certainly nothing offensive. Tidy up any mess and avoid having shiny kitchen objects over your shoulders as these can create glare. A blank wall is as good as anything else. Some video-calling programmes allow you to blur your background, check how this looks before using it live for the first time. And finally, try to keep pets in a different room for obvious reasons.


Call etiquette

Manners and politeness are important for all communication and video-calls are no different. Don’t forget that people are still getting used to video-calls, so if you don’t know someone very well you should send a text or an email before starting a video-call with them.

NB Some software allows you to just use your microphone without your camera; if the other party’s camera is on yours should be too!

When you are on camera you need to remain focused. It’s obvious when you’re distracted or

your mind’s elsewhere. If you need to type then mute your microphone so your keyboard sounds don’t disturb others. If you’re having a call with multiple participants you should mute your microphone when you’re not talking as it may pick up background noise. When you are talking look into the camera; this may feel unnatural to you, but it feels like you're looking into your viewer’s eyes.

As the Coronavirus crisis continues you may find you’re having video calls that are centred as much on minimising isolation as on business. For calls that have a business focused direction then being more formal is advisable: Have a host and an agenda, allocate actions to specific parties with concrete deadlines. If you need to have a call with numerous participants it may be worth using a hand raising policy so the host can designate the next speaker. This may seem childish but it’s easier than shouting over one another, especially when there can be issues with audio quality. Some platforms will allow a large numbers of participants, but it may be useful to just send on an email summary from a call with 3-4 people, rather than having a patchy call with a vast number of speakers. Like meetings in the outside world, some people may need to leave early - if you're doing this you need to tell the host before, or at at the start of the meeting – do not just disappear with no explanation.

Some final words of warning: most video calling software will allow you to share your screen with other participants. You should triple-check any open tabs and visible files/emails before doing this to avoid any embarrassment! There may also be a chat function in your video-calling software, any comments left here will be permanent and you’re never sure who can read them, so be very careful before typing anything you wouldn’t want appearing at a later date.

That should be enough to get you started and save your blushes on your first calls. We’ll be here with another article this time next week



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