Advances in technology and the internet have changed the way modern-day professionals work. Videoconference calls are no longer a novelty – they are a reality. Video calls enable us to work from home, connect to field offices and meet with distant clients face to face. A survey found that 62 percent of executives agree that video conferencing creates stronger relationships and enhances communication more than its audio counterpart.
Additionally, virtual conferences have reduced the need for travel and have become a great option for businesses trying to cut costs. In 2016, Certify reported the average domestic business trip costs companies $949 per person.
The biggest advantage to using virtual tools is the direct increase in efficiency and productivity. One study showed 94 percent of companies found the most significant benefit of video conferencing was increased efficiency and productivity. Another 88 percent of companies stated it significantly increased the impact of discussions.
Just like in-person meetings, video calls have their challenges. For a meeting host to impact and influence attendees to act on what is shared, it’s best to be prepared and prevent distractions ahead of time.
1. Download updates.
Nothing creates panic in a video conferencing host like a software update that downloads right when the meeting is starting. On the morning of your call, open the software and check for updates. This will provide ample time for any updates to download without any time constraint. Reboot your computer and open the software again to ensure everything is set up correctly. If any dashboard changes were made in the update, this extra time allows you to do a brief overview and be better prepared to host an efficient call.
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2. Join early.
Whether you are an experienced conference host or not, technical difficulties happen. Avoid unpredictable challenges by testing your equipment ahead of time. Ensure your microphone and video camera work effectively. Join the meeting early to ensure your connection is stable and that sound and video aren’t lagging. If you’re hosting the conference, this will also help guarantee you’re the first to join, allowing you to welcome participants as they join.
3. Assume your audience knows nothing.
There is a multitude of video conference call sites and platforms. Not all users are familiar with each one. Assume your audience knows nothing of the platform. After opening your call, briefly familiarize your audience with the location of tools provided, such as mute, chat and any group conversation boards. With exceptionally large audiences, establish ground rules for participants. Invite people to ask questions by posting to the group board or messaging you directly. Use the host tools to auto-mute participants until it’s time for questions and comments. This will help reduce unnecessary noise and distractions for other participants.
4. Consider a producer.
If you’re hosting a large virtual meeting with many attendees, consider bringing on a producer. This can be a co-worker or a professional. This person’s role will be to facilitate the tools needed to keep the meeting running smoothly. It also prevents the host from becoming distracted or overwhelmed while answering questions or transitioning between screens. Producers also can help manage the chat room, screen-sharing tools and recording options. It’s a great way to allow the host to focus on the message instead.
5. Avoid awkward, dead air.
Pauses are necessary for effective conversation. They help listeners connect to what is said and allow the speaker to deliver a point with impact. Excess dead air, however, is awkward and amateur. If you’re having technical difficulties or waiting on other attendees, let your audience know. Keep your screen share open so they can see what’s shared. Communicate any hiccups as they occur. As new audience members join, welcome them and share that time is needed as others join.
6. Wear office-appropriate attire.
You have probably attended a video conference where someone was wearing something completely inappropriate or distracting. Since participants can only see you from the chest up, it’s important to avoid loud patterns and colors. Too many accessories can also detract from your message, such as too much jewelry and bulky scarves.
7. Clear the clutter.
The great thing about video calls is that you can work from anywhere at any time. The problem is that attendees often don’t give an adequate amount of attention to their surroundings before starting their video. Before you begin, take stock of what is within range of the camera. Choose a well-lit area without backlight that casts a shadow. Also, check what’s behind you. Ensure there are not too many visual distractions for others to see. Clean up your space so that attendees don’t witness mountains of paperwork, books or supplies in your workspace.
8. It’s all about the angle.
You don’t have to be a movie star to know your most flattering angles. Place your camera in a position that allows your head to remain in a neutral position. Not only does this provide the most flattering angle for your face, but it eliminates distractions caused by bad camera placement. No one wants to look up your nose or at the top of your head. Consider your video conference just like you would a face-to-face conversation. Make eye contact at eye level to ensure the best connection.
9. Avoid the noise
You may not always participate in or conduct a video conference call from the office. We are often in the comfort of our own home, at a local coffee shop or central community area. Be aware of background noise around you. For example, barking dogs are a distraction to both you and the other attendees. Keep animals confined to an area far removed from your computer. If you’re wearing a Bluetooth headset, be aware that they pick up and amplify background noise. If you’re at a coffee shop, every attendee will hear the espresso machines. If you’re in a community area, noise conditions may change as people move in and out of your workspace. Find a quiet place to host and attend a video meeting.
10. Accountability challenge
Video calls are an excellent resource for professionals around the world. They can offer face-to-face solutions when travel is too difficult, costly or frequent. Knowing how to host an efficient video conference call is key. The next time you’re tempted to schedule a conference call over the phone, consider using video instead.