Let’s face it, the video conference is here to stay. While this type of meeting may have been an anomaly a year ago, today, the video conference is an everyday occurrence. Whether it’s a casual gathering for work, a sales pitch to a potential customer, or a job interview for a new position, make sure you are always putting your best foot forward in video conferences by following these six tips.
Most of these tips are, at first, going to seem obvious and, therefore, not very useful. However, before you write it off, try and think how many times you’ve broken one or more of these rules in a meeting. For your next video conference, try to apply one or more of these rules and see if your session is smoother, more comfortable, and less cringy.
Dress Appropriately for the Meeting This cannot be understated. No one from your office wants to see you in your underwear (well, maybe they do - but that’s a whole different post). Even for the early morning meetings at the start of the day, get dressed appropriately. Keep in mind that it may mean a t-shirt and shorts, but it may also mean a pressed shirt and tie. Look like the part you are trying to play. This is especially true for sales calls and job interviews. Ask yourself how you would dress if you were meeting the people attending in person. Would you show up to the office in pajama pants and a food-stained t-shirt? Would you walk into a potential customer’s business in shorts and a sweatshirt? Probably not. Don’t do it at a video conference either.
Be Punctual There is nothing worse than sitting and waiting for the last person to join a conference call that was supposed to start 10 minutes ago. It’s inconsiderate and rude. Be punctual and log-in on time to start the meeting promptly. There are reasons you may be late in getting to an appointment in person. Maybe there was an accident on the freeway, or your car broke down. Things happen out in the real world. When all you have to do is sit down and turn on your PC, there is little excuse to be late. All being tardy really says is that the meeting held little value to you.
Pay Attention to the Meeting Being on a video conference call is the perfect opportunity to get some online shopping done or get caught up on current events, right? Wrong. I can almost guarantee that soon as you drift off to Amazon.com and start shopping, you will get asked a question or be called on to present something. It is an unwritten law of conference calls. The one person that has the needed information is never paying attention. Having to fake knowing what has been said is dangerous, and asking what is required is embarrassing and unprofessional. Just pay attention. It’s pretty simple.
Use Your Mute Button I cannot overstate this enough. Even if you are in a quiet environment, mute yourself when you are not talking. Every jostle of your microphone, every key typed on your keyboard, every burp or guzzle of water comes through and interrupts everyone else. Zoom, for example, will highlight the person who is speaking. If you are not muted and make noise, it will highlight you, rather than the person who delivers the meeting’s message. It makes you look bad and is distracting to everyone else. Just mute yourself.
Further, if you are the host of the meeting, you can mute those annoying people who refuse to mute themselves. Do it. Everyone else will be grateful, and you will have a much better conference.
Close Non-Relevant Content This is critical if you find yourself needing to share your screen to deliver your message. Even if you are only sharing a Powerpoint presentation, make sure that Powerpoint presentation is the only thing you have up on your desktop. Close everything else. This is important for a few reasons—first, online security. If the text document with all your passwords is open (you know you have one) and you happen to breeze by it while switching windows or getting set, assume everyone now knows “password12345” is your Twitter password. Second, it stops you from fumbling around, looking for the right tab or application. Everything is ready to go. Finally, it makes you look prepared and professional. This is what you want, right? Prepared and professional.
Pay Attention to Your Background This is something that people don’t often think about. If you are ok with your co-workers seeing the fur-lined handcuffs that you have attached to your headboard, then, by all means, conduct your video conference in your bedroom. However, if you prefer to maintain some privacy, find a neutral location in your home with a simple background before you flip on the video switch. On this note, green screen backgrounds or virtual backgrounds are becoming more popular and are viable options for maintaining your privacy and hiding a messy living room. However, here too, choose a simple background that is not distracting and is professional.
Conclusion Attending meetings via Zoom or Webex is a permanent part of our personal and professional life. Spending a little extra time to make sure you are ready to be present and put your best foot forward will set you apart from the herd. Pay attention to your surroundings, dress appropriately, be on time, and be courteous to the other people in attendance - none of this is hard. Further, doing these things shows that you care about your image, want to excel in your career, and be a professional.