Getting up in a board room or on a stage and exposing yourself to the judgmental eyes of an entire group of people is damn scary. So when you get a chance to do it via video conference, you might feel a little more confident. However, video conferencing is no cakewalk. Damian Lepore, Managing Director at Logitech ANZ, has given a fair few presentations in his time and he knows that to be true.
He shared his tips with Lifehacker on how to best master the art of video conferencing.
Know Your Options
“It is important to understand your software and application options when it comes to holding virtual meetings. Zoom, Skype, and BlueJeans are popular business choices, but Google Hangouts works just as well,” explains Lepore. Personally, I’ve conducted most of my big video conferences (interviews and presentations) via Zoom and have found it to be quite reliable.
Test Your Setup
Critical to your success will be testing your setup. Video conference calls are live and there aren’t any second chances (well, there might be, but you’re going to royally jazz who ever is watching if your setup is dodgy and you keep dropping out). That means making sure your software is updated, your Wi-Fi is stable and your webcam is producing clear pictures.
Lepore suggests that collaboration and a test run is key.
“Call a colleague two days ahead of a big presentation to ensure everything works well, and close all your other applications on the day to ensure an even better connection.”
Dress The Part
You may be video conferencing from your study or your bedroom but you’re still going to have to scrub up nicely. I’ve done video conferences in just my undies, but on top I was wearing a great two-piece suit (I just had to remember not to stand up). Lepore thinks a little differently, suggesting “you should still dress in proper work attire from head to toe” but only because he knows you may, at some point, be asked to stand up.
He also offers a decent wardrobe choice and one that I agree with, for psychological and technological issues: “Blue is always a good colour to wear. Not only is it a calming colour, it is also in the centre of colour exposure values which means it is easier for the camera sensor to reflect its true colour.”
Maintain Eye Contact
“If you can establish a great connection with someone without being in the same room, chances are they will trust your ability to knock it out of the park in person,” explains Lepore.
When you’re not physically present in a room with people, it can be easy to forget that, yes, you do need to project confidence and make it seem as if you’re really paying attention. Maintaining eye contact through the screen can generate a good relationship without even being in the room – and people are going to respond to that.
Visuals Over Verbals
Because of the way video conferencing slowly crept into professional work life over the years, there’s an element of history about it. People who aren’t comfortable in front of camera generally will sit an deliver their monologue to anyone watching – but it doesn’t have to be this way.
“It’s 2018, you don’t have to sit completely still and read your notes on a video call. Some meeting rooms are equipped with great conferencing devices that offer a 120-degree field of view. It will make every seat at the table clearly visible during a meeting without any fisheye lens distortion. If you are lucky enough to have one of those in your office, feel free to work the floor. Walk up to the whiteboard and show your counterpart certain details on it. These gestures will help build your connection.”
Find The Right Spot
The bane of many video conferences is too much happening in the background. If you can, pick a generally neutral space where those watching won’t get distracted. If you’ve got a busy painting on the wall or a bookshelf full of books behind you, eyes can start to wander. Importantly, Lepore suggests that you make sure any additional materials you use, such as a whiteboard, are clearly picked up by the camera.
Watch Your Time
A wholly important point that applies to all presentations, but one that can be easily forgotten when on video call.
“One of the common mistakes in video presentation is people overcompensate for not being in the same space as their counterparts. They tend to go on too long on particular points. You don’t want your audience to lose interest, so keep your presentation precise and be prepared to cut your 50-page long Powerpoint to an elevator pitch if necessary.”
For me, the fix to this one is easy. I just chuck my phone with a timer on it next to the screen or set a timer on my computer. Generally, I don’t want to distract myself too much from the task at hand, so a phone isn’t always the best idea — any way that you can find to glance at a clock will certainly help.