Written by Kristin Beckman
COVID-19 changed the way we communicate in professional situations. When much of the world’s workforce was sent home to work remotely during the beginnings of the pandemic, and travel was restricted, the use of video conferencing platforms like Zoom skyrocketed. According to data compiled by Owl Labs, 60 percent of people reported using video tools more often as a result of COVID-19 than they had in the past, outpacing other well-established collaboration tools like e-mail.
There was awkwardness, in some cases, as video conferencing newbies quickly learned to navigate the new world of communicating from home with a webcam rather than face to face in a board room. YouTube is full of examples of sometimes hilarious examples of video conference stumbles, including a lawyer who showed up to virtual court in the 394th district of Texas earlier this year with a kitten filter turned on. “I’m not a cat,” he said, while struggling to switch the filter off.
As a society, we’ve learned to give each other grace as we’ve collectively learned how to use video conferencing during the past year. And even as employees begin to slowly return to the office, business travel and in-person meetings, video conferencing is certainly here to stay. As such, it’s important to put your best foot forward in virtual business situations.
Last month, WWLF hosted leadership strategist Barbara Teicher, CSP, in a webinar about presenting your best self in a virtual environment. Following is her advice along with some other best practices on using video conferencing platforms.
- Teicher recommends keeping the P.A.D. principles in mind when preparing for a virtual meeting or event. P – What is the purpose of the meeting? A—Who is the audience? D – What are the details? Remember that strong visuals are more important in a virtual environment than in other forms of communication like email. Consider how you want your audience to feel and what you want them to do as a result of your presentation. And of course, know the time, date and platform where your meeting or event is taking place.
- Rehearsing is also key to a successful virtual presentation, said Teicher. Take care of practical details in advance, like checking your internet connection and making sure your sound and microphone work. Set up a pleasing and professional environment, including having additional lighting and shutting blinds to eliminate distracting shadows on your face. Log in early so you have time to troubleshoot any issues.
- Ensure the name on the screen is your name and not a nickname or made up name you’ve used in previous meetings, said Teicher. Have contingency plans, including having a phone ready to call in as a backup in case your computer fails.
- Working from home can feel like casual Friday every day, but you’ll make your best impression if you dress, wear makeup and style your hair as if you were going to be presenting at an in-person meeting or event. Experts advise that plain colors often go over better in virtual environments than patterns like plaid. If nothing else, make sure you wear pants, a lesson that ABC News Reporter Will Reeve learned the hard way.
- Consider what’s behind you. One of the most interesting developments to come out of the pandemic has been seeing what’s in everybody’s home office. Lots of people like to have shelves in their background, but that can sometimes be distracting, experts say. Plain and simple backgrounds are perhaps boring but often the best choice for the virtual environment. And from a privacy and security standpoint, it’s always a good idea to make sure sensitive information isn’t visible in the camera’s view.
- Position yourself optimally in your webcam’s field of view to avoid looking distorted. Having your face too close to the camera will distort the image of your face, and having the camera positioned too low will give the audience a view up your nose. Eye level usually provides the most appealing perspective.
- By some accounts, ‘You are still on mute’ became the most common phrase of 2020. Make sure you are muted when not talking to avoid introducing unwanted background noise to the conference and be ready to unmute when it’s your turn to speak. Zoom allows you to toggle between muted and unmuted by tapping the space bar on your computer.
Join WWLF and Barb Teicher June 10 for more video conferencing tips during an exclusive webinar for WWLF members focused on how interviewing has changed in a virtual environment. Click here to register: https://www.wwlf.org/event-4303360