Level up your video conferencing skills to ensure you don’t become the next viral Zoom fail.
Remote work on the scale it is today has been so sudden and left many of us wondering how to navigate the new world of digital meetings. Your colleagues have become squares on a screen and crackly snippets of audio, while you try to navigate your barking dog in the background and the latest snack request from your toddler.
Get comfortable with the new technology— video calls are here to stay. Love or hate them, they will continue to be part of our work landscape from now on. Setup a call with a trusted colleague or friend, for the purposes of navigating the video call platform that you are using the most. Practicing is not a wasted effort, you will feel more comfortable once you do.
Learn to navigate both the mute button and the camera function; both of these are crucial to a smooth video call. The mute function allows you to better manage the ambient noise of your surroundings and the video impacts how you come across to other participants.
Practice how to share your screen, this can trip people up and cause stress during calls if you find yourself trying to figure out how to do this during a live call. There is often a difference between sharing your desktop and sharing a single application.
Pro Tip: During a call, when you need to speak, un-mute yourself, take a breath, and say “It’s <your own name>” before speaking. Some video call software does a great job of detecting who is speaking, but identifying yourself prior to talking helps attendees who might not be using video.
Another great way to learn the software is to source YouTube videos. Companies will typically publish a how-to video on using their software, and a short tutorial is easy to find. Alternatively, you can find YouTube channels, dedicated to trying out different productivity software, and this is a great source for a third party view on how to get most out of the platform.
Next Level: Master Hosting Video Calls
Hosting a great video call can facilitate great productivity on your team, as well as help you stand out as a competent, talented member of your organization.
Before the Call
Prior to the meeting, send out the agenda. This can be done both in the body of the invite itself or as a separate email to attendees. Some workplaces rely heavily on emails, and might not be used to searching the body of a calendar invite — consider this when choosing your approach.
Think about how you wish to structure the call. A large group call might mean that you play the role of both host and presenter. A smaller group could mean that you are seeking more of a collaborative atmosphere and your role is more of a facilitator. Either scenario will have an impact on how you need to prepare beforehand.
During the Call
Start your call five minutes early, whenever possible. This allows you to move your focus from the task you were working on, to the call you are about to have. It is also common for people who attend multiple calls in a day to jump from one to another, so it’s nice to not make them wait.
It’s a good practice to acknowledge the early attendees that you will get started shortly, to avoid awkward silence in the minutes before start time.
Expert tip: Always record a meeting, where possible. This allows attendees to refer back if needed and captures the meeting for those unable to attend. Your video conference software might have various options, choose the one that records remotely instead of to your local drive. Video files can get large and difficult to email out. Always advise attendees you will be recording the call.
Introduce yourself and the content of the call. If it’s a large call, it’s recommended to mute everyone to start and explain that you have done so to reduce background noise. It is far less awkward to have someone try to take themselves off mute than the possibility of disruptive background noise.
Once introductions are complete, it is time for the main content of the call. A smaller group on a call might mean more collaboration and your role as host is to facilitate this. As the host, it is easy to fall into the trap of talking too much and feeling as if you need to fill the empty space of a call. If this meeting is reoccurring or part of a series, it is a really great time to reach out to the group and ask for feedback. An example might be “How is everyone feeling about the progress of our current project.” The purpose here is to get group engagement right away.
As the host, your role, as the call progresses is to make notes of any key takeaways, action items or decisions made. It is also key to keep the call on task and watch the time, warn your attendees that you are approaching the end of the call to help stay on task.
Most video call platforms have a chat function — pay close attention to this. Some attendees don’t feel comfortable with speaking up and may use chat to communicate. It can be one of the most challenging tasks as the host, to ensure that the chat is treated with the same priority as someone who is speaking out loud.
Best Practice with Smaller Groups: Call on anyone you haven’t heard from to provide their insight. You might say something like “I would love to call on John or Sally for their thoughts on this” and wait for one of the two people to speak up. Calling on two people at once increases the chance you will encourage someone a bit shy to speak, but won’t put someone on the spot, who has no interest in speaking.
As the call finishes, thank everyone for their time. If there was any difficulty with sound, connection, screen sharing or other technical mishaps, take the opportunity to acknowledge this with a statement of appreciation for everyone’s patience. A big part of people’s overall discomfort with video calling is the fear of things going wrong in this area. Putting it out there helps to continue to normalize these issues as part of the process of conducting our meetings this way.
After the Call
Once the call has completed, whenever possible, send out a thank you email, with a recap of key highlights of the call, as well as a link to the recording of the meeting.
Here is an example of what a recap might look like:
Or, the next level up:
A few enhancements of your recap go a long way to helping the attendees, as well as those who were not able to attend:
- Be specific with your thank you to the group — mention what they did well
- Provide a concise statement of each main point and how it was covered
- Address action items with a specific person’s name, so it’s clear to the group
- Quoting the length of the video helps viewers understand the commitment prior to watching.
Embedding the video link into a hyperlink makes the text look neater. Typically, you either right click the word to get to the hyperlink menu, or there is an icon that looks like:
Quick Summary Points:
- Be prepared
- Get comfortable with the software
- Record the call
- Encourage Participation
- Send out good meeting notes
If you get the opportunity, ask your colleagues for feedback on your calls. Ask them if they felt they went well, and what could be improved. It can be difficult to ask for feedback and doing so shows your co-worker than you value their input. This also helps everyone understand that you are navigating the awkward world of video calling right alongside them.
As we continue to evolve within our workplaces, video calls will continue to play a large role. Paying close attentions to small details of organization and flow, you can make the video conference experience better for yourself and your colleagues.
Remember, be kind to yourself if things go wrong — it’s okay, video calling is inherently an awkward experience. The glitches, interruptions and technical difficulties are a given — your toolbox will help you and your co-workers navigate it together.