While the COVID-19 pandemic may have kicked the move to videoconferencing into overdrive, the video call and the video meeting have been around for a very long time, and they only show signs of becoming more prevalent in the foreseeable future.
The advantages of being able to meet with colleagues and clients from anywhere with just a laptop and internet connection are, quite frankly, astounding. The practice certainly is not going anywhere, so people from all walks of life will want to pay close attention to the effective videoconferencing tips below.
The Importance of Videoconferencing for Students and Professionals
Attracted by the supreme convenience of logging into virtual classrooms from the comfort of home, students are enrolling in online learning programs in record numbers. These programs operate much as they would in a physical classroom, with lectures, presentations, and discussions all playing prominent roles in the learning process.
Organizations ranging from large government agencies to small family companies are also increasingly turning to videoconferencing for its financial and practical efficiencies. As even small businesses have increasing national if not international, reach, videoconferencing offers an unprecedented ability to bring people together over vast distances.
Common Challenges in Videoconferencing
If you are wondering how to prepare for a videoconference, you must first understand the problems you can expect to encounter while videoconferencing. Beyond technical challenges, such as equipment failure and connectivity issues, you may have trouble soliciting participation or trying to run videoconferencing sessions efficiently and productively. Fortunately, you can overcome these common challenges by adhering to the following best practice recommendations for videoconferencing.
Essential Elements of Effective Videoconferencing
Although there is no magic formula for videoconferencing success, you can go a tremendously long way if you stop to consider these six simple and straightforward elements of effective videoconferencing:
Choosing the Right Technology
Although many universities, companies, and other organizations provide their own platforms and sometimes even equipment for videoconferencing, you may be tasked with choosing the right technology on your own.
While Zoom has become a household name, you may want to consider other methods for your videoconference. Sites like Skype and Google Meet offer their own valuable features and distinct benefits. Which one is right for your needs will depend on the kinds of functions you want to be able to perform during your videoconferences. Many of these services are free or have free versions, so try out multiple platforms to see which one works for you.
Beyond your videoconferencing software, you should take care to select the right technological components in terms of hardware. Turn to trusted computer authorities to ensure that you have both a camera and a microphone that sufficiently support clear videoconferencing.
Setting Up an Appropriate Environment
Another critical best practice to follow before attempting a videoconference is to choose the setting for your remote communication. To ensure that you can capture clean and decipherable audio, you will want to choose a location with little to no background noise.
Remember to tidy up before your videoconference. Like it or not, a cluttered environment will reflect poorly upon you. Test out the view that you will display before the videoconference begins to determine in advance what fellow conference attendees can see. Depending on your room’s decor and the placement of your camera, you may need to make one or two layout changes.
Communicating Issues or Delays
Whether you are leading a videoconference or simply participating in one, it is only proper etiquette to clearly communicate any technical issues or expected delays as promptly as possible. When communicating through videoconferencing becomes impossible, both email and telephone connectivity become powerful tools for resolving problems.
Importance of Dressing Professionally
Because we are often at home or in another comfortable environment when we engage in videoconferencing, the temptation to underdress can be extraordinarily high. Do not fall victim to this temptation. Some people make a habit of dressing more casually than their colleagues, but most understand the value of dressing well. In fact, many find that it is easier to remain alert and attentive when appropriately dressed. It does not matter if your colleagues can only see your upper half; wearing any casual clothing prepares you, mentally, to slack.
Preparing to Share Your Screen
Because the use of overhead screens, handouts, and many other traditional visual aid devices is impossible in the virtual setting, you should make use of screen sharing as an alternative. Screen sharing allows participants to send whatever is on their screen to others in real time. This is great for sharing charts and graphs, playing informative videos, referencing essential documents, and other matters of importance to both business and education. Make sure to close any programs you have open with personal or sensitive information displayed prior to clicking the “share” button.
Managing Distractions and Maintaining Focus
While it can be enticing to check email or browse social media during a videoconference, it is crucial to refrain from multitasking. It may seem like you can get away with murder due to the long-distance nature of videoconferencing, but the opposite is true. With a webcam focused directly on your face, it will be obvious when you stop paying attention. When you set up an appropriate environment for the videoconference, your efforts must include the elimination of extraneous distractions. Ask your roommates or family members to avoid walking through the room if it is a shared space, for example.
How to Improve Your Videoconferencing Skills
There is no single, universal path to better videoconferencing skills. Your core social abilities, basic familiarity with technology, and unique role as a participant or administrator should ultimately chart your way forward. However, nearly everyone can benefit from following these four general videoconferencing guidelines:
Test Your Setup Before the Meeting
It may seem like common sense, but far too few videoconference participants test their videoconferencing setup prior to the scheduled meeting time. It is important to remember that while some problems can be identified and fixed within seconds, others may take days or even longer to resolve. The moral here is that videoconferencing testing can never be done too early or too often.
Use Lighting to Enhance Video Quality
Pay close attention to lighting. Side lighting works best for most video chats, particularly when it comes from natural light sources. Overhead lights also work fine. Just be sure to position yourself to avoid backlight, which will make you look ghostly and washed out.
Ensure a Stable Internet Connection
The need to ensure a stable internet connection may be self-evident, but internet outages can happen to anyone. However, you can take any number of measures to prevent them. To make your connection more stable, the technology company Electronics Hub recommends taking the proper actions to optimize router position, update router firmware, shut down unused devices, and even employ a Wi-Fi extender or booster.
Always Mute When Not Speaking
During a videoconference, it is important to keep yourself on mute when you are not talking. Remember that even relatively low-quality equipment can easily pick up on sounds that can serve as distractions for other videoconference participants. No matter how well you prepared, someone may ring your doorbell, or your dog may bark. When in doubt, keep your mic on mute unless you are presenting information or actively participating in a group discussion. Of course, it is also acceptable to unmute when responding to requests for input or requesting permission to speak.
Leveraging Videoconference Features for Better Communication
The leading video chat platforms have developed a wide variety of tools and features for people who want to improve their communication abilities while videoconferencing. According to the independent authority eLearning Industry, the most desirable features for a videoconference system include HD picture quality, recording capabilities, live text chat, and breakout rooms for private or specialized conversations.
Practicing Regularly to Master Videoconferencing Skills
As with most skills, the adage “practice makes perfect” absolutely pertains to the world of videoconferencing. Take advantage of every opportunity to meet in a virtual environment. As you participate in more videoconferences on more platforms, your overall videoconferencing skills will inevitably improve.
To Learn More
The Center for Academic Success at Post University can help students with videoconferencing while honing other critical academic and professional skills. Contact us to learn more about this service that is available to students at no additional cost.