Self-isolating & working from home means heaps of video conferencing and remote meetings.

And we've found out the hard way that video meetings can take some getting used to! So we've put together some tips and tricks to make your video conferencing life easier.

We’re living in interesting times, and we hope you and your loved ones are safe wherever you are. We know many of you are working from home as you self-isolate to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Same here; we’re working from home too. At HWM, we found ourselves doing video call after video call this week – whether it was with communications clients to discuss key messages, or media training clients to work out online solutions. It’s the new normal – at least for now!

Here’s the thing though: we found out the hard way that video conferencing can take some getting used to! First there’s the inevitable connectivity concerns, followed by a few minutes of, “Can you hear me?” shouted at each other across virtual space. To add to that, it’s very easy to come across as rigid or unnatural.

Video meetings are a different proposition from face-to-face interaction. Now, some of the techniques we teach are effective no matter whether you’re being interviewed by CNN or just hopping onto a Zoom call with colleagues. But in other cases, video chatting needs a different set of behaviours, mannerisms and techniques. So without further ado, here are our Top Tips for Effective Video Meetings:

It’s good to look your best. You dress up for the office, don’t you? Doesn’t matter if your office is now inside your home. Be groomed, shave, brush your hair, do your makeup, and so on. Be realistic though – there’s no need to wear the shoes! And that expensive cologne is probably wasted on your cat!

Treat your computer’s camera like you would your Instagram camera, and make sure it flatters you. Pick a well-lit spot. Angle your camera so you’re looking either straight on, or slightly upwards (place your laptop on a block if you need to). Both are more flattering than looking down at the camera – spare your colleagues the “up your nostrils” perspective! If you can’t sort your natural light out, consider getting one of those portable LED lights that clip onto your laptop.

Keep background visual distractions to a minimum. Everyone understands you’re working from home, but try to keep your background simple. You’ll distract from your own contribution if everyone on the call is staring at the muddy sneakers on the floor behind you, wondering if you’ve been for a run today! Your background should show clean walls/furniture, not untidy personal items.

Decide who’s going to lead. Agree an agenda beforehand, then nominate someone to lead the meeting – with everyone informed on what they’ll be asked to contribute. If your team is part of a larger meeting, get one team member to lead your side of the discussion. We’ve found that video conferencing just doesn’t work as well with multiple voices. The fewer people speaking, the better.

No talking over each other. Noisy meetings can work in real life – just barely. But they’re a disaster online. You don’t want three people talking over each other just to get airtime. It clogs up your bandwidth and leads to lag and choppiness.

Don’t try to do too much small talk. Those killer one-liners that you use with great comic timing in a boardroom will have precisely zero effect once they’ve ricocheted through the delay in eight people’s headsets! Trust us – we’ve tried! Cross-talk, with its inevitable techy blips, just makes everyone tired and irritated. So x-nay on the clever quips.

Use voice modulation to get ahead. Modulation is all about varying the pitch, strength and timbre of your voice to convey information – such as when you’re asking a question, or when you’re coming to the end of a sentence. We use modulation in daily conversations all the time. But online, this needs to be exaggerated to convey what you’re about to do. It lets fellow video conferenciers follow the “arc” of your speech. It lets everyone know to hold back when you’ve still got something to say. And you place a finalising emphasis on your closing words, so people know when you’ve finished making your point. Listen to our podcast for tips on voice modulation.

Engage visually. Look interested, smile when appropriate, and use the “you-camera” to ensure you are coming across well. But don’t make it too obvious when you’re checking yourself out!

We hope you find these tips useful. And remember that the HWM team are working really hard to support our clients during this time of isolation. We’ve created online media training and remote presentation skills workshops that you can request- so you’re sharp and ready when it comes to getting your message across – no matter the medium!

Get in touch to see how we can create a customised programme for you and your organisation.