Video meetings save travel time (and potentially the need to wear pants), but there's an art to getting the most from them. Follow these 10 tips for more effective video meetings.
Lifehacker's Simplifying Small Business series of tips is presented by Vodafone.
Video conferencing can range from simple Google Hangouts through to dedicated rooms with high-end equipment. Whatever the technology, these tips can help ensure your conference is clear, concise and productive.
Test the connection in advance
If you're using your own machine rather than a dedicated videoconferencing room, test that the connection is working ahead of time. If there are network problems and you need to switch to a backup, you'll want to know ahead of time rather than after the meeting has started.
Update software (and reboot)
On a similar note, also make sure you have any relevant software installed and that you're running the most recent version. It's also a good idea to reboot; that ensures your machine has maximum stability and won't suddenly decide to try and install patches during your call.
Use video for larger meetings
Video conferences are far more effective when you need to hold meetings with multiple participants (a common requirement for companies operating in multiple countries, for instance). It's much easier to keep track of who's talking in a video environment than on a conventional phone call.
Dress for the occasion
While you could theoretically pull off the newsreader trick of wearing a suit jacket (visible on camera) and boardshorts under the desk, you should adopt the same dress code for a video conference as you would for an in-person meeting. If it's a multi-person meeting headed by your CEO, dress up. If it's an informal catch-up with your developer colleague, you don't need to make the same effort. But do remember to brush your hair.
Set an agenda
Video conferences often substitute for formal meetings, so, like those meetings, they need an agenda. If you've organised the conference, make sure you have a clearly defined set of objectives and that you share these with others (preferably ahead of the meeting yourself). If you're a more junior attendee, take notes of any tasks that are assigned to you as the result of the meeting.
Wear headphones or set up decent speakers
While it's the pictures that add an extra dimension to video conferencing, that doesn't mean the audio quality isn't important. An in-room system should have decent speakers, but if you're using a laptop with relatively poor audio, consider plugging in a set of headphones to ensure you hear everything properly. (If you're worried that will make you look strange, consider a Bluetooth earpiece instead.)
Make sure the background is stationary
If you have to participate in a video conference from a public location such as an airport lounge or a cafe, try and pick a location where there's a wall behind you, rather than with people visible and moving around. That movement can prove very distracting
Pick a suitable venue
With that said, some meetings deserve a more professional environment. If you're dealing with a new client, use a dedicated video conferencing room, or book a meeting room to create a more reassuring ambience.
Choose an appropriate length of time
Multi-person video conferences will generally run for a specified length of time. Don't over-estimate how much you need; video conference meetings are generally faster than their phone equivalents.
Think about body language
On a video call, how you look and how you react is just as important as what you say. Pay attention to your body language. Lean forward to demonstrate you're paying attention.
Video conference picture from Shutterstock