I have been spending a lot of time lately in front of my Mac meeting with people from all over the Rio Texas Annual Conference. Video conferencing has been around for a while now, but many of the folks I work with are new to the platform. When you are new to something, it takes a while to get used to the technology and the unspoken rules and norms. Here are some things to consider when getting ready for your next video conference.
1. Be on time. If you are headed to an important meeting across town, you are wise to build in a little extra time for the unexpected. You might get stuck in traffic, realize you need fuel or get lost. If a meeting starts at 9 a.m., it is not usually a great idea to plan to get there at 9 a.m. It usually also takes a few extra minutes once you get there to get settled in ready for the meeting to start. Too often, people log in to their online meeting at the exact moment it starts. That is often okay, but what about if something goes wrong? What if you pulled up the wrong meeting ID? What if your webcam doesn’t turn on? What if your Wifi signal is low and you need to move to another spot? It is amazing what you can get fixed if you log on 10 minutes early.
2. Test your stuff. I never mind helping people test their equipment and connection beforehand. If you are part of a meeting, and you have never used video conferencing before, or you are using a new platform or a different computer, it can help to do a dry run. I get emails from participants days before a meeting asking for a dry run. I am always happy to help.
3. Invest in some earbuds with a microphone. There are some great setups for teleconferencing that help eliminate feedback and ensure you can hear and be heard. Most people don’t need a fancy setup, just a decent set of earbuds with a microphone. If you own an iPhone, a pair came with it. If not, they are available just about anywhere. You may be fine with your computer’s speakers and microphone but at least have a pair to plug in if you are having trouble.
4. Make sure you have a camera. This is one of the things that often gets noticed in #2. Not every computer has a webcam. Some have one, but some glitch keeps it from working. External webcams are cheap. I think there are some people who enjoy the fact that their camera doesn’t work, but it takes away from the meeting. Imagine sitting in a conference room with one participant who insists on sitting with his back to the rest of the group.
5. Take a few minutes to think about lighting. I don’t expect everyone involved in the meeting to be a cinematographer. However, backlit participants can be hard to see. In my home office, I have a cheap lamp with a 60-watt bulb in it (it is a 60-watt equivalent since I got a great deal on some LEDs). I just point it towards my face and viola.
6. Mute Yourself. Nearly every video conferencing platform has the option of muting audio. Do everyone a favor, if you are not talking, mute your microphone. That way, any ambient noise at your end will not be heard by everyone else. You place might be relatively quiet. However, if there are a lot of people on the conference, everybody’s ambient noise starts to add up. When I am working from home, every so often one of the kids comes wandering into the room asking for something or a dog starts barking. I am very happy I have a mute button.
7. Take responsibility. Some people get frustrated with video conferencing. They complain that it just doesn’t work well. The technology does have some glitches, but it has come a long way. Many large businesses depend on it to get their work done. More and more companies are reaching the point where remote workers are the norm and video conferences are how they meet. Often, when we think there is trouble with the technology, it is a problem with how we are using it. If you are not comfortable with computers, ask someone for help. It doesn’t have to be the meeting host. It might be another member of your team or the kid next door. Just find someone to help you before the meeting and your video conference will be more productive and a whole lot less frustrating.
Have some other tips or video conferencing horror stories? Share them in the comments below.
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