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The impact of the Covid-19 crisis has meant we’ve all had to get familiar with video conferencing software over the past few months. While some companies had used this software to an extent before, many hadn’t, which meant they were thrown into the deep end with no time for preparation. Inevitably, videoconferencing mishaps have been prevalent since – with plenty of viral examples showing truly worst-case scenarios.

Luckily, there are some simple and effective ways to look professional and be prepared for any of the potential challenges video conferencing can bring: 

Getting prepared

First and foremost, you need to check your hardware and software – preferably a while before your scheduled meeting so you can fix any issues in good time. Things you’ll need to check for include:
  • Wi-fi strength (try to make sure no one in your household will be downloading any large files or streaming a film whilst you’re on your call!)
  • Internet connection – taking a test run if you’re using software for the first time can make all the difference.
  • Camera set up – try and set up your camera so you’re at a good angle, with the camera straight on and your close enough to the camera so that your head and shoulders take up the majority of the screen. You should also set the camera up so it faces away from a window, this will give you better lighting and not put you in shadow
  • Audio – The audio and mic quality in laptops can greatly vary on quality. We’d recommend that you use an external microphone if possible, or in ear headphones that have a microphone incorporated into it.
  • Before the meeting, close doors between noise sources.
  • Let your household know not to disturb you and to try not to stream anything so you can have enough bandwidth.
  • Wear appropriate clothing – smart casual should be fine for most meetings. Also, avoid patterns with close checks or stripes as that can cause interference patterns with the video stream.
  • Make sure that the area that can be seen behind you on the camera is a clear and tidy as possible. If it helps, some platforms have a blur background option, so that only you are clearly visible on your screen. In Teams, you can press Ctrl + Shift + P while in a call or click on the ellipsis icon in the meeting options and select “Blur my Background”.
If you’re hosting, there’s additional steps you’ll need to take to prepare:
  • Email the invites out well in advance, with clear instructions on how to join. Ideally, include a well-structured agenda and share any relevant documents beforehand in the meeting notes.
  • Establish a meeting chairperson for throughout the call, to keep the meeting focused and on track, and to field any questions from participants at the right time.
Conference Etiquette
Many of these are common sense, but with all the distractions working from home can bring it’s worth having a reminder!
  • Be attentive – behave as you would in a boardroom and don’t try to multitask or look at other things on your laptop such as emails (it may be worth shutting down your Outlook or Gmail beforehand so that you don’t get tempted if you see an email come in).
  • Larger meetings will likely need a system to ensure people don’t talk over each other – a common problem is there is a slight audio lag. Some video conferencing software lets you raise a virtual hand so you can see when someone has a question, or you can schedule for a Q&A session at the end of the call.
  • Mute yourself if you don’t need to speak, as this reduced issues with background noise
  • Record your meetings – this is great if someone can’t attend or has connectivity issues. This can also help with clarity on issues after the meeting has concluded.
 And remember…
You can do all the prep in the world and things can still go wrong! It’s important to relax. If you’re really struggling with a lack of bandwidth during the call, try turning off your video. If possible, try to keep another device handy (even a phone will do), so you can transfer over if there’s any issues.
And don’t forget to relax - it’ll be a long while before all the kinks of video conferencing can be ironed out, but the positives far outweigh the negatives! Embracing it is key in order to collaborate and communicate successfully whilst working remotely, now and in the future.
For even more ways to improve your video conferences on Teams, check out these tips on keeping connected remotely.
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