Did you fight to keep from nodding off during your company’s most recent video call? Or are you leading the meeting and half your group is hiding behind black screens, secretly nodding off to your presentation?
Perhaps you strained to understand a speaker with a faulty microphone, or lost connection due to your own tech malfunctions?
Video conferencing is your next best place to shine as you climb the corporate ladder and the most valuable form of problem solving and corporate-culture building communication when in-person meetings are simply impossible, says Phil Kelley Jr., author of Presence and Profitability: Understanding the Value of Authentic Communications in the Age of Hyper-Connectivity.
Unfortunately, many people come into these online meetings with a lackadaisical approach to their presentations, their technology, their appearance and their participation, Kelley says, something they likely wouldn’t do if they were in the same room with customers or the boss. The excuses that “I don’t look great on camera” or “my technology is acting up today” are success killers and to be avoided, he says.
“If you’re working from home and operate this way, you let down your company’s brand standard and your personal brand standard,” says Kelley, who is president and CEO of Salem One, a company that specializes in direct marketing, packaging, printing and logistics.
Kelley says that in-person is always the most valuable interaction, but he also realizes it’s unrealistic to think every human contact that people make will be in the same room, especially now that so many employees work remotely. And technology does provide the next best thing.
“The good news is that there are plenty of ways to nurture more relational value through technology-based communications,” Kelley says.
Kelley says a few ways to get the most out of those video-conferencing calls include:
Invest in equipment. It’s not unusual to venture into calls where images are grainy or poorly lit, and the sound echoes, is tinny, or is barely intelligible because of background noise. That’s because most people rely on the speaker and camera that come with their computer. “They work, but you can do much better,” Kelley says. At his company, they invested money to create “Zoom rooms” with a good background and high-end video and microphone technologies. “I would challenge organizations and success-minded individuals to do the same,” he says. “I will state definitively that the individual attending a video meeting who has the best technology wins. Period. By default, they quickly become the voice and presence that gets the most attention and highest level of consideration among those on the call.”
Turn on your camera and keep it on. This isn’t the time to conceal yourself, especially if you hope to make the best impression on a customer, the boss or your co-workers, Kelley says. “Don’t hide behind a black screen with your name on it or a static photo of yourself,” he says. “Others will feel as if you’re only there as an observer, which puts you at a disadvantage, especially when you are trying to make an impression.”
Understand that “dress for success” applies to video conferencing. Kelley laments that people often fail to look their professional best during video meetings. “Is there something about technology that causes people to think that every meeting is happening on ‘casual Friday’?” Kelley asks. “Wear appropriate clothing and make sure you look presentable. Always dress well, shave and comb your hair.” It’s also critical to make sure the background is professional, clean, and not distracting, he says. Many people join video meetings from their homes, which is fine when a room has been converted into a home office. But often people are in random parts of the house and don’t think about – or care about – what’s visible behind them. “Do you really want a basket of dirty laundry in the background?” Kelley asks. “Do you really want the dog jumping into the picture every few minutes?”
“Just presenting a clear visual image and clear voice has an impact on people,” Kelley says “They will pay better attention to what you’re saying and what you’re presenting. Know your video technology and use it well because there will be a lot more video calls in the business world from now on.”