Eight Video Call Tips from Loffler's CEO
Eight Video Call Tips from Loffler's CEO
I've had a natural interest video and audio equipment for many years. I’m the type of person where if a shared spreadsheet is too small on the screen, I want to get a bigger screen. While I wouldn't expect everyone to take as extreme an approach as I do, here are my tips to maximize your effectiveness on video calls:
1. Turn on Your Camera
Turning on your camera is the cost of admission for an effective video call, and yet many refuse to do it. But video calls offer a unique advantage over in-person meetings: You can see everyone at once. Do they look tired? Are they nodding? Distracted? Displeased? A face tells a lot about what a person is communicating. If you're sitting around a table with five people, you can only look at one or two at a time. On a video call, you can look everyone in the face at the same time, but only if everyone has turned on their camera. When you use video, you also gain the opportunity to put your best self forward. Don't lose an opportunity to advance yourself and your company by leaving your camera off during a video call.
2. Optimize Your Camera Angle
I have seen too many views aimed under people’s chins or up their noses. A camera positioned above you is better than a camera positioned below. A camera directly in front of you is preferred. Setting your camera angle right shows forethought and helps a conversation feel more natural.
3. Adjust for Good Lighting
Good lighting will make you look better on camera. Face a window to take advantage of natural light. If that’s not an option, move a lamp in front of you to light your face. Be cognizant of shadows created by light behind you. Lighting can be free if you use natural light or what you have on-hand. Can you turn up your screen brightness to illuminate your face? Try opening a blank Microsoft Word document and let the white screen give you extra light. You can also choose to purchase lighting. There are plenty of affordable lights for sale online made specifically for enhancing video calls.
4. Maximize Sound Quality
It’s amazing how a good microphone has an impact on a meeting. Take a moment right now to assess what you already have available to you and how you sound. Are you using a built-in computer microphone, or one you’ve purchased separately? Do your headphones have a microphone? An external webcam you already own may have one. Does a family member already have an external microphone you can use? You can choose to use what you have, buy something inexpensive or splurge – there are so many options at various price points. Make sure you know your options and choose one that helps you come across clearly.
5. Consider Your Surroundings
Your surroundings say a lot about you. From a sound perspective, you want to work in a quiet space where you can block out background noise. What potential audio distractions may come up in your workspace, and how can you mitigate them? Also consider visual distractions. Set up shop in front of bookshelves or other decor with minimal clutter. If you don't have a useful backdrop option at home, you can use a virtual backdrop. Place yourself in a virtual library or even in Hawaii.
6. Look the Part
Project yourself professionally while on video. Yes, you want a quality image with good lighting, but you also need to look the part. Practice good hygiene, just as you would in the office. Make sure your hair is in-place. Dress appropriately for the meeting at hand. This may mean business professional attire for clients and business casual for your team.
7. Test with a Dress Rehearsal
Take time ahead of a call to look at your video setup and ensure it will work. Do a dress rehearsal. Check your camera angle, lighting, sound quality, surroundings and your physical appearance. Do you look professional? Take a screenshot and send it to a colleague for their opinion. Maybe moving a lamp or test whether your headphone microphone or your built-in mic is the way to go. You won't regret taking a little extra time to ensure you have the right look and sound perfected. Attending to your video presentation while remote is just as important as tidying your workspace while in the office. How you present your professional self matters.
8. Limit Calls to One Hour
If you’re in a position where you’re able to limit the length of your calls, do so. This advice is mainly for the call organizer, but it’s a limit we should all keep in mind. Humans can only focus for so long, and information shared past the one-hour mark may not be absorbed anyway. Plus, long meetings are painful. Video calls that are too long may be the new version of the "death by PowerPoint" cliche we've all experienced. Plan calls with intention, know what you need to accomplish, make them engaging and keep them to an hour (or less).
Video calls present wonderful opportunities to learn about our peers, correspond remotely, save on commute time and get work done faster, but only if we're using the tools well. I encourage everyone to consider whether they're using video calls to their fullest advantage.
What other tips do you have for improving video calls?
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Jim Loffler is the founder and CEO of Loffler Companies. He started the company in 1986 with dictation machines, expanding to faxes, copiers, IP Phones, IT managed services and much more. Today, the company employs over 600 team members in 18 locations in six states, and focuses on long-term relationships. Jim is proud of the many awards Loffler Companies has received over the years, including ten years as one of INC 5000 magazine's "Fastest Growing Private Companies in America." Loffler Companies is also the official technology partner of the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Timberwolves, Minnesota Lynx, Minnesota Wild, St. Paul Saints and the University of Minnesota athletic department. In 2018, Jim was named one of Minnesota’s Top 500 Business Leaders. Jim has been married for more than 40 years to Darcy, his junior high school sweetheart. They have two children, four grandsons and one granddaughter. In his spare time, Jim enjoys golfing, boating, cooking, photography, music and traveling.