Before we jump right into the 12 best video conferencing tips, let’s take a look back… to the days before video conferencing was a part of everyday life. We’re talking about a time when all employees still sat together in one room, discussing everything essential face-to-face in the conference room. The technical equipment consisted of a slide projector and a screen. Many colleagues had to travel from distant locations to attend. Today, not least due to an enormous acceleration in 2020, things look significantly different…
The world comes together through your internet connection
Meetings in the digital age therefore naturally look completely different. Due to the change in general work structures, through ever better technical possibilities, the meeting culture in companies has changed fundamentally. In addition, more and more employees are working from home, which means that the home office has become an integral part of work. As a result, video conferencing has become an indispensable part of everyday life in many companies.
How can you make video conferencing better?
Every video call must have a clear outcome. You need to know why you are in this conference call and create a clear and productive structure to organize the video meeting. Everything from the way you interact to the software you use to how you connect with your team, a fast internet connection as well as the right tech gear will make you stand out in this remote environment.
Before the meeting – the 101 for video conferences
The video call starts with good preparation, and that includes thinking about a few very basic things to get up close and personal with your group.
1. Know your outcome when video conferencing
Every meeting, every conference has a goal. Sometimes a new product is to be introduced, or the agenda is to introduce your team to a new corporate strategy. The goal defines the path, i.e. the structure of your videoconference. Always keep the goal in mind and let it resonate like a red thread throughout the entire video conference.
2. Who is the target audience of your video conference
Know your audience, i.e. the participants of the video conference. Adapt your wording, speak in the words that your participants would also use. This way you meet them at eye level. Get an idea of the emotional connection the participants have to the topic of your video communication. How important is the topic of the meeting to them? Which questions should be clarified and how important is it that the specified time is adhered to?
3. A coherent concept
Good preparation and first-class communication in your videoconferences also include creating a coherent structure. The participants of video conferences should be able to recognize a common thread.
Very simply you can divide a structure in
- Introduction: Make it clear what it is about, explain the rules and also give a time frame.
- Main part: Here, the topics you have worked out in advance should be dealt with one after the other. To ensure that your points are heard by the participants, it is worthwhile to have many stories and examples ready… in addition, facts and figures often work wonders.
- Conclusion: Summary of what we have just achieved together. In addition, it is important to find a concise call-to-action to motivate the participants to act even after the meeting.
A concept also includes keeping an eye on the time and giving the participants enough opportunities to ask questions. Therefore, you should also think about hiring an external moderator – this not only looks professional but also gives you the opportunity to focus on the essential things and people in your virtual room.
4. Rules of your web conference
Do not let the conference run without rules. This will save you trouble and nerves. Establish general rules that your participants have to follow and communicate them in advance. You can send the most important rules in advance together with the invitation link. For example, the rules should include general etiquette and could look like this:
- Please keep to your usual good manners also during video conferences.
- In order to better support the respective speakers, we ask you to leave the cameras on during the meeting.
- In order for each participant to get the best experience out of the meeting, we ask you to mute your own microphone if you are not speaking yourself
- In order for us to run the meeting quickly and efficiently for everyone attending, experience has shown that it is best to close or move other apps and programs to the background during the meeting.
During the conference
There are some simple tips to keep in mind during the conference, especially if you are the one leading the conference or are the main speaker.
5. Look directly into the camera – what to focus on in a video call
You may be attending the conference with your laptop. If so, make sure you are speaking directly into the camera, i.e. the lens. The screen on which you see the other participants is NOT the lens. If you only look at the screen, your impression will appear distorted and in the worst case the participants will look at your forehead and hair which might look awkward.
The camera, i.e. the lens, should be in line with your eyes in order to build a connection through natural eye contact. This takes a little getting used to because, as mentioned above, we naturally tend to look at the screen since that’s where the moving images of the participants are.
My special tip is to jack up your laptop, or put it on a stand. You don’t have a rack at hand. Don’t worry, a few books or packets of photocopy paper will do. With many participants on the other side of the laptop, choose gallery view for better viewing.
6. Body language while video conferencing
Body language plays a vital role in video conferencing as well as video calls. Even if the body is only partially visible in your video meeting, pay attention to the camera angle. People who “talk with their hands and feet” should make sure that the gestures are also in the frame. In this case, it is better to keep a certain distance from the laptop.
If you are someone who likes to gesture with both hands at the same time, please train yourself to use only one hand most of the time. Otherwise you’ll look too agitated for your conversation partners and you’ll lose attention. Of course, it’s also nice if you do without utensils like sunglasses or a cap at a digital meeting. Participants will love you if they can look you in the eye and you give them a smile.
Also, consider what you feel more comfortable with. Do you prefer to stand or sit at the meeting while still keeping your body tension? While most people appear to sit in meetings it might be appropriate to stand up from time to time… even in a business setting.
7. Voice and great audio
Make sure you have a good microphone. Your voice should be clear, easy to understand and easy to hear. In a past post about voice training, I’ve already told you about the internal and external voice. The external voice is the voice that is projected when you speak to a third party. If you are giving a long talk in the video conference, there is a risk that you will fall into the internal voice.
Always remember, there are people sitting across from you, even if only digitally. Train your voice, the speed and volume at which you speak. Distorted words, a hiss, double reverb due to a faulty mic will make it hard for your listeners to stay attentive on zoom-like video calls.
8. The right background and the use of filters
The background, a real eldorado for discoveries. I have seen almost everything. Backgrounds with a mountain of dirty laundry, backgrounds that presented the viewer with an entire library or photos of the entire family including a gallery of ancestors. The other day, the background was so overlit that it looked like my guest was being interviewed right there in the witness protection program. The lighting needs to be balanced and directed at your face.
What should you not do in video conferencing?
If your real background isn’t ideal, resort to virtual backgrounds. My tip. avoid anything distracting. If you want to use filters to optimize your impression, test the video conference settings beforehand. Imagine you leave an impression on your viewers like the participant of a zoom call in the following YouTube. One thing is for sure, no one will forget this web conference…
Technology and video conferencing software
For the occasional video conference with your business department colleagues, average laptop features may be sufficient. But if you want to make a professional impression in meetings, the picture, lighting and sound should be at its best. I have compiled an equipment list especially for technology that can help you. You can also download it directly here:9. Camera
Most computers have a good technical standard regarding the camera. They have good to partly excellent cameras with a high resolution. For a particularly good video it makes sense to use a separate webcam. A few use a DSLR camera as a webcam for their digital video conferences. This is almost a technical luxury and the state of the art. You can also find tips on what you should look for in a good camera in my equipment list.
More important than the camera is good lighting. Natural light from the front works great. This immerses the environment and of course you, while you are talking, in a particularly soft light. In addition, consider using a ring light for your conference calls. Through that there are no harsh shadows on the face, and you can be seen clearly and distinctly. The combination of a good camera and good light will give you some plus points.
One of my most important video conferencing tips, if not the most important: invest in a good microphone. The sound must be immaculate. Poor vision because the camera is mediocre is forgivable. It's all about information and it needs to be audible. Invest in a good headset or a USB microphone. You can use both just as well if you work in a home office. Again, avoid anything distracting. Background noise, like vacuuming, should not be heard during a video conference.
When it comes to background noise, you should also set up a small, or if there is room, a larger workstation for video conferences. The best case is, of course, if you have a real study with a height-adjustable desk and desk chair. If this is not the case and you have set up a small corner in your bedroom, then consider my tip: invest in a virtual background so that you can present a nice picture to your discussion partners in meetings.
What tech gadgets are best to purchase first for your online videoconferences?
First invest in a good microphone, then in a decent light that illuminates you and the room well. These are the first steps towards a professional web conference. Over time, more technical accessories will be added.
Bonus tip: which software to use for video conferencing?
This may vary from person to person or also be part of your business policy. The key to a great software is stability, how many people you can see in one window as well as the chat features. In my experience having used all kinds of different softwares for remote meetings and having been exposed to all kinds of technology my absolute favorite is Zoom. Zoom has the technological edge compared to other video conferencing apps such as Skype or MS Teams.
When it comes to webinars that might be a different topic and if you are interested in that you can read my blog post on what you need to know for your own webinar.
What are the next steps?
You probably have a good idea of what works for you and what doesn’t. The more you participate in a videoconference or host a videoconference yourself, the more proficient you will become. Practice speaking into a camera. Try out different backgrounds, heed a tip or two from me and your conversation partners will be thrilled.
Feel free to contact me by phone or e-mail
For professional support for your next video conference that you need to prepare, I will be happy to assist you. Just contact me by e-mail and together we will take your online video conferencing communication to the next level. I am always happy to read your comment... which of the tips you want to implement for your next video call and on which topic you would like to see a blogpost.