Growing up, many of us dreamed of a life in front of the camera, perhaps as a famous actor in Hollywood or as a TV presenter enjoying an exciting career interviewing celebrities and newsmakers. Well, life doesn’t always turn out as we like, and chances are, you’re stuck doing the daily grind in an office like everyone else. But cheer up, it’s increasingly likely you’re going to be appearing in front of the cameras in the future thanks to the growth in video conferencing.
It may lack the glamour of the silver screen, but video conferencing is certainly getting audiences. A 2015 survey by conference call experts Powwownow found that 70% of small and medium businesses would rather video conference than travel to meetings and the global market for video conferencing services is projected to reach US$2.9 billion by 2020.
Video conferencing isn’t just about saving time and money on travel to meetings, though this is undoubtedly an attraction, it can also help remote users feel more connected to their teams and the company processes via face-to-face calls. And, as it is often possible to save and archive important meetings and conversations, you can put together a library of information for future reference and company records.
It’s getting cheaper too. The price of video conferencing has dropped not just in terms of equipment but also software and the essential broadband needed to run a conference. And of course, these days, everything from your phone to your laptop and even e-readers come fitted with decent cameras and microphones as standard.
The cloud has been a game changer too. With cloud computing, there’s no need to invest in and manage the expensive video conferencing infrastructure so smaller organisations have a lot more options with lower costs. The best known, and easiest to use of these solutions are found in Office 365’s Skype for Business and Google Hangouts. Both of these cloud suites allow for basic video conferencing with more options and flexibility when you upgrade. For example, Skype for Business means you can host 250 people in one call while Google Hangout offers 15 person calls and a full conferencing suite if you have a ChromeBox. Even if you don’t opt for a Google or Microsoft option, new industry standards put in place have allowed for video conferencing from different vendors to work together.
Video conferencing is a serious office tool and how you use and interact with it affects how your company and brand is perceived by your partners and customers new and old. Your social skills, preparation and professionalism are being tested during a video conference, not to mention your tech skills too, so it’s well worth having a few in-team practice runs or even putting procedures in place to ensure each video conference goes well.
To ensure that things do go smoothly, we’ve put together some hints and tips that should be part of your video conferencing checklist, whether you’re using using Google Hangout, Skype for Business as part of the Office 365 suite, or another solution.
Tip 1- Be punctual and polite.
This is the same for any meeting you attend, be it face-to-face or on camera. Be on time, and be there for the start of the conference. Introduce yourself before you start speaking so that other participants know who you are and remember to tell them your location too. Don’t fiddle with your phone or carry on conversations with people around you during a conference. Remember to dress nicely too, this is a meeting after all. Don’t make a call in your pajamas unless it’s a real emergency and avoid wearing colours and patterns (stripes, and polka dots for example), that can look distorted on a video screen.
Tip 2 – Be prepared.
You wouldn’t turn up to any meeting without first doing your reading and research and preparing your notes and documents in advance. A video conference in particular requires extra preparation. Firstly, make sure you know how to use the software well before meetings take place. It’s worth holding a workshop on this, so glitches mid-call don’t result in embarrassing problems. Learn how to share screens, documents, and how to use the chat, camera and mute options. It’s worth investing in some wireless microphones for better audio too.
Before the call itself, make sure you’re signed into your interface and that it is working and do carry out an audio check. Prepare the room too. It’s a good idea to minimise glare or distracting lights by pulling down shades to avoid inside fluorescent lighting, being affected by outside light. But make sure the room is bright enough for you to be easily seen and that you’re not sitting against a background of clutter and mess. If in the office, a wall with your company’s logo would be an ideal backdrop.
Make sure you have the chat window open too. This is easily done in both Skype for Business and Hangouts. It gives you a back channel to communicate with others in the meeting without interrupting the people talking.
Tip 3 – Remember your video conferencing etiquette.
Unless you are talking yourself, try to keep your noise to a minimum. Don’t type on your keyboard and put your phone on silent mode or turn it off altogether. If you know you’re not going to be talking for a while, mute your microphone too. And when it is your turn to talk, speak clearly but naturally, and make sure it’s clear who you’re addressing by using their names. Keep in mind that there is often a few seconds of delay. Even if the line is bad, try not to shout. Adjust your audio levels if you think you’re not being heard.
Make eye-contact. Obviously you can’t do this on screen so look into the camera, not at the screen, as often as possible to make it seem as though you’re looking directly at others. And try to keep movement to a minimum to avoid distracting the people you’re talking to.
Another good tip is to put any pending points or questions you want addressing into the instant message box so that other people in the conference people can see them coming up. This prevents you from interrupting people when they are talking.
Tip 4 – Remember to sign out.
It seems obvious, but make sure you shut off the video and audio functions when the call is finished. This ensures that confidential information or company gossip and chatter isn’t seen or overheard. This doesn’t just look unprofessional but has gotten many companies into some serious trouble.
Want to know more about video conferencing solutions for your small business? Would you like to get more out of your Office of Google Apps software in this regard? Why not come and talk to the team at Damson Cloud, or schedule a video call. We’d be happy to help.