Video conference calls are no longer a futuristic novelty—they are a reality for many businesses around the world today. Video calls enable entrepreneurs and other professionals to easily work from home, meet with distant coworkers, clients, and managers face-to-face, and quickly connect with field offices from anywhere in the world. And, studies have shown that more than 60% of executives agree that video conference calls create stronger relationships between participants and lead to better communication compared to audio conference calls.
Wherever you are in the world, a video conference call allows you to have an in-person business meeting with just about anybody, helping you improve connections for your business while eliminating barriers caused by geographical distance. Video technology has reduced the need to travel to business meetings, allowing small business owners to collaborate more effectively and take advantage of meetings they may not have been able to afford to attend previously.
If you’re holding a video conference call and want to create a professional atmosphere, here are some top tips to keep in mind.
1. Advantages of Video vs. Audio Conference Calls
Opting for a video conference call over an audio alternative is a smart move with several advantages. Compared to an audio call where only voices can be heard (making the meeting less personal), a video call allows each participant to meet face-to-face and get to know one another, just as they would in a physical business meeting but in a virtual setting. A video conference call allows participants to view each others’ body language, appearance, and surroundings, thereby boosting your chance of making a great impression on the people who are going to matter a lot to your brand.
2. Join Early
Whether you’re a newbie or an experienced video conference call host or participant, it’s a good idea to join early. Give yourself at least 10-15 minutes before the call is set to begin, as technical difficulties can happen to the best of us. The last thing you want to do at the start of a call is make everyone wait for your computer to reboot or your microphone to start working again. Joining early allows you to test your equipment ahead of time, ensure everything is set and ready to go, and start right on time.
3. Check Your Surroundings
Where you are going to be sitting for the video conference call can affect the impression you make on those in attendance. Cluttered and untidy surroundings will distract from the main objective of the call and may cause participants to assume that you’re disorganized, unprepared, and turn in sloppy work. Try to keep distractions to a minimum. Something that will work in your favor is to have framed diplomas and corporate awards that you have earned on the wall in the background to help instill trust in the participants and create a strong impression of your brand.
4. Dress Appropriately
It’s a common mistake to think that what you wear to a video conference call doesn’t really matter as much as it would in a face-to-face business meeting. But while you might be able to get away with wearing casual shoes, for example, since no one is going to see them, you should make sure that you’re presentable and well-groomed on camera.
What you wear will largely depend on the type of call that you are having, the participants involved, and your ideal outcome. For example, if your conference call is going to be with potential investors in the hope of having some funding injected into your brand, you should dress up just as you would if you were going to meet with them in-person. On the other hand, an office or company-exclusive call with coworkers who tend to have a casual dress code most of the time will not require as much effort for your outfit.
5. Keep Your Audience in the Know
Something you’ll want to avoid during your video conference call are long, awkward silences. Although pauses are necessary for effective communication and help listeners connect to what is being said, any excess dead air can have the opposite effect. If necessary, keep your audience in the know if you’re having technical difficulties or waiting on other participants to join the call. If you’re waiting for the last participant, you can avoid awkward silences by making small talk, sharing an amusing work-related anecdote, and learning more about the educational credentials of the participants who are already there, just as you would in a regular business meeting.
6. Avoid Background Noise
When on video conference calls, background noise can be a massive distraction. You certainly don’t want participants to get frustrated because they’re struggling to hear what is being said. If you’re participating in the call from your home office, it’s a wise idea to ask family members to leave the house for the duration of your call. This could be a good time for your spouse to take the dog for a walk or the kids to the park so that you have a quiet and distraction-free home to yourself.
When conducting conference calls from coffee shops or central community hubs, controlling the background noise can be difficult. If these tend to be the venues where you make the majority of your calls, it’s smart to invest in noise-cancelling microphones and headsets. Or, if you work in a busy office building, let your coworkers know that you’ll be holding a video conference call so that you can be left to do so in a quiet and distraction-free setting.
7. Conduct a Practice Call First
The last thing that you want is to find yourself in an embarrassing situation where the other people participating in your video conference call can’t hear anything that you’re saying. Things can go wrong when it comes to technology, so it’s a good idea to do a test run beforehand to make sure that everything is working correctly. You could do this just before the call or if you want to make sure that you are fully prepared, run your tests the night before or a few hours before you join. An easy way to do this is to have an informal video call with a friend, relative or colleague before you start—ask them to give you feedback on your sound and video quality, and, at the same time, make sure that you are able to hear and see them well, too. Do your surroundings convey productivity and professionalism? Ask your friend for feedback and adjust these elements accordingly.
8. Check the Lighting
Since you’re creating a live video stream for your participants, the visuals for your call will matter more than you may realize. Although you don’t need the lighting to be on the same scale as it would be for a feature film, it’s a good idea to get some ring lights or a spotlight so that you’re well-lit in the frame and provide a clear picture to other participants. Not only will this make the entire video call more pleasant and easier on the eye for the other callers, but you’ll also look more professional, thereby creating a better impression.
9. Have Everything You Need Ready
Think about everything that you’ll be discussing during the conference call. Do you have statistics to share? Will you be relaying your business plan? Maybe you’ll be reporting on financial forecasts and sales expenditures and have some notes to review. You don’t want to interrupt the call halfway through in order to find what you need, so spend some time getting your thoughts in order and your paperwork organized beforehand. If the information is saved on your computer or laptop, then it’s a good idea to have the documents already opened in the background or at least saved in an easy-to-access folder on your desktop where you can get to them quickly when needed. Have any paper documents by your side in a folder.
10. Test Your Eye Level
In addition to your sound and lighting, it’s also a good idea to test your eye level and make sure you’re positioned correctly in the frame. While it’s ideal to have your college degrees or company awards on display, they shouldn’t be the sole focus on-camera—you should be! You don’t want to connect to the conference call only to find that the other participants can’t see you properly or that half your face is cut off onscreen. In addition, having your eye level too high or too low can make it difficult for the other callers to effectively communicate with you for the duration of the conference, so it’s crucial that you double-check this before you begin. You can usually see where your eye level is when using your front-facing camera, or you could simply ask the other participants if they have any problems seeing you when you connect to the call.
11. Get to Know People
Don’t forget that video conference calls aren’t just about technology and discussing business-related topics. They can also be a great opportunity to get to know the people participating with you on the call, especially if these are individuals who may hold a lot of influence over your company, such as potential partners, investors, suppliers, or large clients. Take advantage of the time that you have on a video conference call with them to make some small talk and get to know them personally as well; this can be the basis of a strong partnership and working relationship with them in the future.
If you’re holding a conference call with your team, taking time to get to know everybody and seeing how they are doing is a great way to encourage team-building and help everybody get to know each other outside of the work environment. This is especially useful if you are working with a remote team who do not often get the opportunity to socialize with and speak to each other in the office as an in-house team would.
12. Select Good Video Conferencing Software
Finally, bear in mind that the software you’re using for video calls can make or break both the quality and the success rate of your call. If you’re planning to use video conference calls as a means of business communication frequently, then it makes sense to invest in a top-notch video conferencing software package. This will aid in facilitating a strong working relationship and improve the professional feel of your business by providing you with all the features that you need in order to hold a successful call.
There are several paid software programs that you can use for video conference calls, but also available are a wide range of free options that will work just as well depending on the various features that you will need. Whichever software you decide to use, make sure that you download the latest version and ensure that it’s compatible with the operating system that you have. This will allow you to get a smooth video collaboration during the call with minimum hiccups and interruptions.
It can also be a good idea to get in touch with the other callers beforehand to let them know which software you will be using and whether they will need to download the program in order to get on the call. Some software programs can work in conjunction with others, which may be worth bearing in mind if your callers are all using different operating systems and devices for the call.
Video calls are an excellent solution for business professionals all around the world, offering a face-to-face option for meetings without the need to travel a long distance.