Professional Video Calls (tips)

Covid-19 has brought so many changes to our professional lives. Even those that could work from home invariably didn’t maximise this way of working. Video calls were the solution to distance issues, today they are the solution to Covid-19 and likely here to stay!

I made a few observations whilst watching Olivier Veran, the French health minister, on TV discussing Covid-19 (Covid being the reason for the increased popularity of video calls!) on a video link from his office. Obviously he has professional help to set up his video calls, but he was dressed for the part, suited as you would expect of a politician. He had a glass of water on his desk, a plant on the right hand side of the screen and the French and EU flags on the left with the background being a neutral view from his office. Other TV personalities are working from their homes too, none are giving away much about the inside of their homes! Backgrounds are neutral and cameras are fixed to showcase them advantageously! There are no audio or visual problems. They all prepared for their professional video appearances.

The average worker is not necessarily used to being on video. Even if we have done them before, it was often from the office with professional help to hand. Today we are obliged, by our new situation, to do them from our homes so below are some tips to succeed!

  • The background to your call! Do you want everyone to know what the inside of your home looks like? Neat or tidy home, it’s best to have your calls in a neutral professional looking space. If it’s not convenient to do anything like that at your home, some software solutions can blot out the background.
  • Close the door and windows to avoid unwanted background noise (children (remember the BBC interview with a foreign affairs consultant when suddenly the children burst in), animals, TV, vacuum cleaner, toilet flush, sirens,…). Head phones (AirPods), etc are great for cutting out unwanted surrounding noises, making it easier for you to hear what is being said, they may according to your set-up liberate your hands too.
  • Take precautions … the technical world sometimes malfunctions!  If despite your precautionary measures this happens, it’s always handy to have the telephone number by your side so you can continue the call, if necessary, by telephone.
  • Dress as if you were going to work. Poor presentation and accompanying hygiene can be seen on the video, rather like a smile can be heard on the telephone!
  • Organize yourself to minimize feeling intimidated by the screen. Not everyone likes to look at themselves, especially close up! Organize yourself to increase your confidence! Clear your desk, get a coffee/glass of water …have paper and pen to hand.
  • If you have the option, its best to have a dedicated area for your calls. If it only is a temporary dedicated area, you will learn to quickly set it up for calls when necessary.
  • If calling abroad, triple check time zones.
  • If you organized the meeting, have an agenda and if possible send it to the people who will be on the call. It shows your efficiency and allows them to organize their contribution to the on-line meeting. Agendas also help participants to stick to the subject! Like written documents, keep sentences short and sweet. Remember most people don’t like long calls.
  • Depending on what you need to demonstrate, think about using visuals to get your message across.
  • There are often ways of recording video calls, which in turn is why you should remain on topic and have professional presentation. Recording the video call can be a reminder of exactly what was said but it can also be shared with those who were absent.

Good on-line manners

  • Be aware of your body language, sit-up straight, look into the camera, don’t drift, don’t fidget, don’t eat, don’t interrupt, don’t multi-task, pay attention to the speaker,  … the same good manners are expected as if you met them in person.
  • Silence your phone so as not to be interrupted when you are effectively already on the phone (no one wants to hear the “ting” on your phone for every text received).
  • Microphones, just like telephones, can pick up faint noises, even your breathing etc., it’s an idea to mute yourself when you are not speaking to stop any involuntarily noises contributing to the call!
  • If there are more than two people on the call, check firstly that everyone can see and hear properly. If you don’t already know each other and you are the host it’s a good idea to ask everyone to introduce themselves (as they do on TV debates).
  • To avoid speaking over each other, wait for a moment of silence before speaking and/or raise your hand to signal you wish to speak. In face to face situations, body language normally indicates when you can talk, via video this is less obvious.
  • Speak clearly and at normal pace (be aware on distance calls there may be moments when for a second or two you cut out or there is fuzz on the line).
  • If you need to pull up a document, it will take a minute, communicate that you are doing so. If not, a call can become like one of those irritating phone calls when someone puts you on hold and you have no idea how long “being on hold” will last.

Technical Check-Up

  • If you are using your own personal account for communication purposes it may be an idea to create a professional account. Just as most have a professional email address, please ensure you have a professional: username, photo and check your privacy settings for any apps or software.
  • Not unlike adjusting your camera for photos adjust your screen so you don’t look distorted. Your computer or telephone has to be at the right height and distance so your face does not go askew. I noted (with professional help) Olivier Veran was in the middle of the screen!
  • If invited by someone else, you may be required to upload some software beforehand. Try to get on the call 5 minutes before so you are ready in time.
  • Check that the meeting technology you use works on your computer. There are so many these days! MS Teams, Zoom, Gotomeeting, …
  • Adjust audio, brightness (you don’t want to appear dark and dim). If you want to hear clearly try headphones with a built-in microphone. Check your Wi-Fi connection and that all equipment that needs plugging in or charging is so.
  • Close any windows, tabs or applications on your computer that you’re not using. especially if you are sharing your screen with other participants disable pop-ups, chats, calendar notifications, emails, … don’t involuntarily inform participants of your online activity.

Resources

It’s best to search your browser for information pertaining to your situation. There are software/apps galore, videoing tips and opinions on the quality of software.

Conclusion

Video calls make us all stars of the screen! Being on screen requires confidence and professional help (make up and professional lighting!). In the office no one expects such high standards, just common sense to get the most out of your call. Try to help yourself as much as possible, however, for the technical side we are not all IT wizards! Solicit help from IT professionals in your company to set up your first video calls. If you need equipment: EarPhones, mobile, your screen is too small, … request it. Whether we appreciate video calls or not, they are here to stay so as many of us have adjusted to home working, so we must adjust to video calls.

Happy videoing to you all and stay safe in these exceptional times!

Lynda Petit is a French British recruitment consultant with 20+ years’ experience, CIPD qualified, member of the ANDRH and operating in France.

Comments are closed.