Video Conference Skills
It’s a new age and you are a part of it. Video Conferencing is no longer for people who missed their flight, are home sick, or went home early to pick their kids up from school. It’s not just for Vloggers or gamers.
Video conferencing has become the preferred way to stay in touch with co-workers and customers alike. People who share office and cubical walls often use it rather than walking over to speak face-to-face. That’s how important video conferencing communication skills have become.
It’s a business skill that has become important to master.
In this article we are going to create a foundation for your video skills so that you can build confidence and be at your best – whatever your best is on any particular day. (Try not to judge yourself).
CareerNet Nation and Video Conferencing
Here at CareerNet Nation the Covid Pandemic proved to us the value of video conferencing. As an international company, most of our staff was confined to their native countries for 21 months. Business continued normally in large part because we video conferenced. We worked in a very normal way with many of our partners. We were able to stay connected through video conference and shared on-line projects.
Along the way we learned a lot about video conferencing. We all have. It has become so important that we created a Video Conferencing course and certification. It will be available soon to CareerNet Nation, along with e-badging.
Video Conferencing Skills
In Part One of our Video Conferencing Skills series, we cover some of the basics we have learned through experience. Confidence comes from practice and preparation. Like everything else, the more you practice and use these techniques, the more it becomes a habit and a skill. Think about this first part in the series as a best practices for video conferencing.
The Most Important Rule
Be on time. While video conferencing may seem like a convenient way attend a meeting, it is important to remember that it is a meeting. This means you arrive on time. We have found that video conference meetings have a far smaller “late window”. A “late window” is a term we use to describe how long the video conference will remain available if a participant fails to attend.
Whereas a meeting in a conference room or office means that one or the other party is in the office and waiting for the meeting to begin, a video conference meeting is held at great distances and varied time zones. They are scheduled by email or calendar invite and is generally accepted by each required participant.
If you are labelled by the meeting host as a “required participant” and you accept the meeting, you will be expected to appear in the video conference at the time scheduled and that you agreed to. We rarely see video conference late windows greater than 5 minutes and often see late windows far shorter than this.
Do not be late. If you are running late, be certain to use the chat feature or messaging feature tools in your video conference platform to alert the host or participants. These tools are also available on your smartphone apps. Use them to communicate with the meeting host. This habit will go along way in presenting your professional self properly.
Don’t worry, if some or all of what we’ve written in this section is confusing, it will become clear as you continue reading this video conferencing skills series.
Prep, Step 1
There are more than a few video conferencing platforms available. WebEx, Zoom, Teams, Google Meet are the most popular. Each company has its own preference. The most important features of each solution are nearly identical. However, learning your company’s specific video conference platform well is an important responsibility.
Each of the video conference platforms named above has a smartphone app that behaves much like the browser based / web-based solutions to use on your lap or desktop. The important thing to remember is, with the exception of Google Meet, each of the other referenced video conference platforms have both web based solutions AND desk top solutions.
Desk top solutions require that you download a software app to your PC or Mac. These may be found by logging into your account on the video conference service provider’s web site and searching for “Resources” if on Zoom or “Download” on WebEx. When logging into your MSFT 365 account and using Teams, you will be prompted to download the desktop app for Teams.
Pro Hint: Wherever permitted by company policy, and for personal use, we recommend that you download the desk top solution.
It is from the desk top solutions that we at CareerNet have had our best results with connectivity, audio, video, chat and file sharing while in video conference. Not the web solutions.
Our other recommendation concerning these video conferencing platforms is to download and install the software at least 30 minutes before your video conference is about to begin. Installation times vary by desk top, internet connection or both. Generally, the installation process will take 5 – 10 minutes, but in certain cases it can take longer. Many of our video conferences have been delayed significantly or not happened at all due to a participant not having set up either the browser client or installed the desk top software.
If you want to be seen as professional and prepared, identify the video conference software being used by the host and be certain to install it or check your settings immediately following your acceptance of the meeting. DO NOT wait until 5 minutes prior to the meeting to accomplish this task.
Pro Hint: Updates Happen
-Even after installing your video conference software on your device, updates to the software/app will be frequent. Updates generally improve security, function, and compatibility of the video conference software with your device’s operating system.
!!! Notice of an update generally happens when you launch the App!!!
Updating your app can take 5 minutes. This is another reason why being at least 5 minutes early to a video conference meeting is important.
Prep, Step 2
Test your microphone and speaker settings. Simple knowledge on speaker and microphone functionality is important. Each of the three video conference apps mentioned above (Zoom/WebEx/Teams) provide simple how-to-videos to assist users with this important skill. Here are links to their instructions:
These instructions aside, there are generally things that you should be aware of. You may have encountered a few of these issues during video calls you have participated in.
Common Video Conference Mistakes
The most common mistake people make is not monitoring their microphone mute settings. Video conference hosts, the people that set up the video conference and invite you to them, will generally (but not always) mute your microphone as a default setting (click here to learn what a default setting is). You should immediately look to see if your microphone is in mute setting upon entering the video conference.
Another big mistake is Camera Settings and Background Settings. The same steps should be taken with your video camera settings. Each of these 3 platforms have been built to find the camera on your device – they even have clever backgrounds that can be used called “virtual backgrounds.” We will cover virtual backgrounds in Part 2 of this skills series, but for now we have found that backgrounds are important if you are in a cluttered room.
Remember, this is a meeting. How you present yourself means something. It is respectful to the other people in the meeting and also shows others in the meeting that the subject of the meeting is important to you. Messy or cluttered rooms and backgrounds are not sending anyone the right message. Neither is that ridiculous Blurred background setting – which says I was not prepared for the video conference in anyway – just hopped on. Do what you can not to use the Blurred background setting at all.
Video Conference Confidence (say that 5x fast)
! It is important that you are confident in the basic tools of your video conference system, microphone and video, before you enter a video conference. Practice launching the video conference system and muting / un-muting your microphone and turning your video camera on and off BEFORE your video conference begins !
We have learned a lot about professional video conferencing during the last few years. We will cover professional etiquette and politeness in Part 3 of this series. For now, let’s simply think about speaking and participating in a video conference meeting. Here are a few basic things to know and be aware of.
- Speak naturally and clearly when you are speaking in a video conference. Microphones are very good. They pick up much more noise than you may realize. Do not feel you have to speak loudly (as you may on a smartphone). People will tell you if you are speaking too softly, but generally they will not tell you when your microphone or voice is too loud. This management of your voice is your responsibility. Practice it by using the microphone settings.
- Do your best not to interrupt another speaker. There are delays in the video conference feed which can vary based upon the speed of data connection other participants are using. Simply being aware of this is an important first step.
- When you are not speaking, it is a good habit to mute your microphone. This eliminates any background noise on your end of the conference you may not hear or be aware of BUT your microphone is picking up. Examples; Water running, other voices, fan or air conditioning noise may be quiet to you, but your microphone may pick them up and amplify (make louder) that noise.
- When you are not speaking look at the person speaking or at least into the center of your screen. Avoid looking at yourself too often in the picture. Your video feed will typically show you in the bottom right corner of the screen and your eyes travelling to your image will be noticeable to the speaker and the participants. We admit this isn’t an easy discipline for many of us. Practice this habit.
Positioning of your Camera
This is a simple one. Some people prefer the camera to be at eye level. Some prefer the camera to be above their eye level. We have found these methods to be useful ONLY when giving a lecture or webinar. Generally, the best way we have found to manage your camera’s position is to leave it alone and move further away from the camera.
Often you will need access to your keyboard and mouse or track pad during a video conference and raising your PC or Mac makes that use more difficult. Sit too close to your camera and it will appear to others that you are looking down at them. Sit too far away and it will appear that you are lost in the background. Test this on your own before your video conference.
These are the most basic, but also the most important skills needed to operate your video conference solution professionally. In Part 2 we will cover more advanced features of video conference apps and some etiquette tips so you may build confidence in your video conference skills.