“Communication leads to community, that is to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing” – Rollo May
At the moment we are all practising social distancing. And some people, like me, are getting really good at it. I’ve been sitting in my home office putting together solutions for people for a while now. That’s just how Champions of Change rolls. We are there when you need us and thinking of better ways the world can be when you don’t.
The need for face to face contact is important in the business world. Heck, it’s important in the real world. So without the ability to maintain physical closeness, we turn to technology for an incomplete analogue. Video conferencing. All you need is a front facing camera in your device, and you’re away. (Well, not quite. But we can help you out with that) But there are a few dos and don’ts along the way to make the vidcon (Video conference) more successful and enjoyable for all.
Whilst all you need is a mobile with a front facing camera and a face, having a good set up will increase your productivity and enjoyment. You should be aware of how you appear and how you work. Here are some tips on that.
“Clothes make a man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” –Mark Twain
It is important to remember that when you are doing a video conference, that you should dress appropriately. If you are doing a job interview via vidcon, then a tie or professional attire should be used. Otherwise, feel free to dress one notch down for what you would wear in person. So a sales meeting might opt for a collared shirt, A casual meet up may select a plain T-shirt.
Busy patterns in clothes may cause the image to moire strobe. This can be very distracting. Consider this and aim for consistent colors over intricate design.
Jewellery that rattles is a no. It can bang into microphones and make irritating noises for the listeners.
“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” – John le Carré
Ideally, set up a desk. This will make you sit up and look proper. There will be an article on “working from home desks” later.
The camera should be as close to eye level as you can get it. Looking down makes yo look dominating. Which is hard to carry off when all someone has to do is flick a switch and they no longer have to submit to you. If you are looking up, then the camera frames you as a child and may cause people to talk to you with this dynamic.
I use a small box to achieve eye level with my laptop camera. If I’m using a phone, then I try to keep the phone still by placing it on a shelf or stand. This frees up my hands for the awesome. If that isn’t possible, then try to frame your face and shoulders as best you can.
Ensure your face is properly lit. This can be achieved with some lighting. I use a combination of a handy window, down lighting (Regular room lighting) and a desk lamp. This may be overkill, but do ensure your face is illuminated from the front and top.
As an ex sound engineer, you can spend thousands of dollars on microphones. Most phones and laptops have quite good microphones built in. However, the closer the microphone is to your mouth, the higher your signal to noise ratio. (You want lots of signal and not much noise.) If appearance is not crucial, I can recommend boom microphones from headsets as a good option. They reduce external noise for your listening, and improve your signal to the other people.
This is important. Test your setup. Make sure your face looks good in the camera. Make sure that your microphone is picking up your normal speaking voice, and that it is not peaking when you get exited. Make sure you have any notes you need available to you.
“Meetings are usually terrible, but they shouldn’t be.” – Patrick Lencioni
If you are the manager of the meeting, then all the regular rules of meetings should apply. Meetings should be scheduled, the agenda will be distributed before. The length of the meeting should be sorted. Insist on punctuality. Punctuality is the politeness of princes.
Make sure you are familiar with the software and hardware. The first time you use the system should not be the first time you are using it in anger. You want to know how to mute things, How to tell when somebody has something to say (hand raise, channel chat, waving frantically at the camera.)
Ensure that you control the meeting. Ask people to speak one at a time. Make sure that people feel included. This is even more important when you can’t quieting people. Get people to announce their names.
Check in on your meeting participants. It might be worthwhile turning on the meeting software 5 minutes early to do this. In this period of self isolation, this meeting may be the only social thing people have done today. Extroverts need this validation, and introverts will respect the action.
With all new technologies, there is always a period of adjustment where we go from “Hey we can do a thing!”, through “This thing is a waste of time because I don’t understand the rules” to “Yes, we can use the thing to be better.” It happened with letters, the telephone, the mobile phone, chat forums on the Internet. Communication is always evolving. Video conferencing can be one of those tools that gets your teams working together. Be nice to each other and it will.