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The Dos and Don’ts of Video Conferencing

More people have started working remotely, and for many of us, that means balancing your professional life with your home life. Trying to host and attend video conferences can be a nightmare with children, pets, and other neighborhood noises in the background. Here’s a list of best and worst video chatting practices to make your experience a whole lot easier:

The Dos:

1. Test your hardware and internet connection beforehand

This goes without saying, but nothing slows down a video conference quicker than spotty internet. Make sure your WIFI and computer are running smoothly and that there are no updates happening in the backgrounds as this could impact the quality of your feed. Check your microphones and speakers beforehand to make sure all of your equipment is functioning as it should; “If you can’t see or hear a colleague, what’s the point of a video call?” (New York Times)

2. Find a quiet, clean room to chat

We don’t all have a swanky at-home office to take calls, but finding a quiet space that has a professional background (that means no visible kids’ toys) is important. When background noise is unavoidable, try using a white noise machine to drown out excess noise. If you don’t have time to clean the quietest room in your home, certain video conferencing platforms like Skype and Microsoft Teams offer a feature called “background blur” that lets you blur your actual background (Microsoft Support).

3. Know when to video conference and when to IM

Not every work issue deserves a video call. Make sure that what you’re discussing is appropriate for a video conference. If you can handle it via instant messaging or an email, use those methods instead. Longer meetings and remote trainings are the best uses for video conferencing. Video conference calls become harder to coordinate and more time-consuming with more participants. Remember, not everyone can just hop on a call at any time, so be mindful when deciding whether or not to have a video conference meeting.

The Don’ts

1. Don’t talk over each other

If you absolutely must interject, use the chat function to ask questions. It is disruptive to constantly have to stop the flow of the meeting to answer questions, and this is more prominent in video calls because all participants share the audio; whenever you interrupt, the speaker’s audio cuts out and what they’re saying is lost to the other participants. Chances are you’ll have questions about the meeting’s content, so utilize the chat function in your video conferencing application. This way, you and your colleagues can submit the questions you want answered during the meeting without disturbing the speaker. The presenter can then answer these questions during a natural lull in the meeting, and the answers can be clearly heard by all participants.

2. Don’t keep your mic on if you’re not speaking

If you are not speaking during the meeting, keep your microphone muted. Otherwise, your video conference call will stream the sounds of your movements. Any background noises can be very distracting and interrupt your co-workers when it’s their turn to speak. Video calling clients like Zoom will often have a microphone icon you can tap on to mute or unmute your microphone during the meeting.

3. Don’t get distracted during the meeting

You will definitely be tempted to work on other tasks during the video conference. Focus on the meeting at hand and being present with your co-workers. Everyone wants to try and multitask, but you won’t retain the information being discussed. Your presence tends to be magnified during video meetings, and it’s obvious to your co-workers when you aren’t paying attention. Try taking notes on the topics discussed in the meeting if you find yourself becoming disengaged!

We’ve all struggled adapting to working from home, and video conferencing is one of the best ways to simulate in-person interactions. These tips will improve the quality of your video conferences so you and your co-workers can get more out of your ‘face-to-face’ chats!


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