If you’re anything like us, the past month has probably been one massive crash course in video conferencing. Now that you’re getting the hang of the new normal, here are some foolproof tips to take your video conferencing skills from so-so to stellar. Read on for the lowdown…

  1. Business is business

Working from home doesn’t mean abandoning professional decorum altogether. Granted it’s tricky to get a hair or nail appointment these days – but we do all own hairbrushes and razors! Getting dressed for work isn’t just about maintaining a professional image in online meetings. It also makes you feel as if you are really at work, which is essential to maintaining productivity.

  1. Choose a platform and stick with it

If lockdown has achieved one thing, it’s made us all painfully aware of the plethora of video conferencing options out there. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, GoToMeeting and Google Hangouts all have their pros and cons. The important thing is to settle on one platform for all of your firm’s internal meetings. This will provide everyone with much-needed stability in a time of immense flux, and it will also result in massive time savings.

Where possible you should also try to use this same platform for external meetings.

  1. Upgrade to the business plan

There’s nothing more unprofessional than having your free video call cut short when you hit the 40-minute mark! Once you’ve settled on a provider, do the right thing and spend the extra bucks to sign up for the business plan. Regardless of which software you’re using, upgrading to ‘business’ is always surprisingly affordable. And it unlocks a whole host of premium features that are guaranteed to make your video conferencing experience much smoother.

  1. Practice makes perfect

As with any new skill, the best way to master video conferencing is to learn by doing. It might be a good idea to get a tech savvy member of your team to put together a presentation explaining how to get the most out of your chosen video conferencing platform. It really pays to know how to easily do things like sharing your screen, recording calls, and automatically muting your audio when joining a call.

If you’ve been invited to an external call on a new platform, be sure to spend some time familiarising yourself with how it works before throwing yourself in the deep end. Inviting complete strangers to watch you curse at technology in 1080p is never a good look.

  1. Lights, camera action

Video conferencing has blurred the lines between home and work like never before. Where you sit matters. Choose a location where the background projects a professional image – but don’t get too fussed about your home décor. Some images of your personal space can assist others in connecting with you.

Finding a well-lit spot is also really important as a clear video feed doesn’t just look professional. It also helps your colleagues to read your facial expressions and it lifts your own mood. Remember that a spot that enjoys beautiful morning light might be unbearably glary/gloomy by afternoon.

  1. Keep the kids and pets at bay

Kids (including fur kids) have a nasty habit of walking in at exactly the wrong time. Let your family know when you’re having a business meeting and ask them to respect your space (you might want to lock the door for good measure!). People will forgive the occasional interruption but do try to keep them to a minimum. We don’t think anyone will ever forget this BBC video interview

  1. Silence is golden

We strongly recommend muting yourself whenever you aren’t speaking (and getting others to do the same). This will improve audio quality all-round and it also reduces to the possibility of the neighbours’ barking dog ruining the meeting.

In the same vein, on some calls it can also be good to disable video after everyone has said hello. This definitely improves audio quality (especially if Mzansi’s internet is having one of its frequent off days) and it also reduces distractions.

  1. Hardware matters too

You can follow all of these tips to the letter, but they won’t count for anything if your internet connection, webcam or microphone isn’t playing ball. If you haven’t already done so, invest in a decent fibre connection for your home and do whatever it takes to ensure there’s great coverage at at your desk. It can also pay to get an external mic and a professional quality webcam.

The final word

The pandemic will eventually pass, but video conferencing is here to stay. While nothing will ever replace face-to-face meetings, video conferencing has the potential to save us all a lot of time, money and needless travel.