Acing the Basics of Video Calls

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Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

We have all been getting used to this work from home thing for a while now, and let’s be honest Zoom Fatigue is real…

  • Are you having trouble staying focused on video call after video call?
  • Do you find it difficult to engage with your coworkers or clients on video calls?

Well if so, read on, as I share 5 ways to ace the basics of video calls!

Connecting and collaborating on video calls is all about finding ways to authentically connect.

In order to do that you need to have a strong foundation. Being a great communicator on video is like working out, we all have muscles, but we need to work out for them to be visible. While these 5 tips may seem basic, when it comes to flexing your skills on video, practice makes perfect.

You probably already know how important it is to:

  1. Make sure you have a good WiFi connection
  2. Have a headset that works

It is also important to choose a tool that works for your audience and intended goal. A few worth checking out include:

Zoom: At this point Zoom has become the Kleenex of video calling platforms. Zoom benefits from having strong brand recognition, free and paid features for a variety of users and most notably experience based tools such as reactions, breakout rooms, and a virtual whiteboard.

Whereby: Whereby is a simple solution to the video call, it boasts itself on the ease of being web-based with no installation required and the same URL every time.

Google Hangouts: For those committed to the G-Suite to do business Google Hangouts easily integrates into your calendar providing a seamless solution to video. While there may be other concerns such as privacy, the main reason I like Google Hangouts is the easily ability to add Closed Captioning to conversations.

One of the more recent great debates on Zoom is around backgrounds. Some prefer the meme-worthy virtual backgrounds while others are staunch advocates for a white wall.

The best one to use? Well it depends, choosing your background can help add value to your call in various ways. A break-down of the pro’s and con’s are below:

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Like all meetings, having a clear agenda is key. It is even more important in virtual meetings as finding synchronous time with a distributed team is rare. Below are four steps I use in building an agenda and running a remote meeting:

  1. Asynchronous Agenda Planning: Everyone participating in the meeting adds in the stuff they care about the most that needs to be discussed in real time. This builds excitement around showing up to the meeting and acts as a forcing function to make sure anything that does not need to be discussed is done outside of the meeting, ideally asynchronously.
  2. Meeting Kickoff, Getting Buy-In: I like to start every meeting with a question, “What is the one thing you hope to get out of our meeting today?” This does two things, first it clarifies the agenda is still accurate and there is buy-in on the topics. Secondly, it gets other members of the meeting participating right from the get-go.
  3. The Main Event: Now is the time to talk about the main topics. Using collaboration tools such as breakout rooms, virtual whiteboards, and polls can help facilitate the meeting.
  4. Asynchronous Follow Up: Ensures everyone heard the same thing in the meeting, and creates accountability around next steps.

Setting clear expectations is an important concept not unique to video calls. However, there are two expectations that are unique to video calls that should be clear before jumping online.

  1. Interruptions: In today’s shift to pandemic, work-life interruptions are increasingly more likely to happen. Depending on the type of meeting normalizing things like the presence of special guests (kids, pets, etc.) may help reduce stress and help create vulnerability based trust with those on the call.
  2. One person, one camera: Post-pandemic as more companies approach hybrid models of remote work, how people join video calls can be quite important in the feeling of inclusivity. I recommend whenever possible as soon as one person joins from a distance the whole meeting adapts a “one person, one camera” model, this allows each person to show up equally on screen and can help balance the conversation to allow for equal participation

Last but not least, consider times when you can communicate with video-on as a default. While there are certain concerns with privacy and professional / personal boundaries, there is an aspect of familiarity where simply seeing someone can help build trust and help communication through visual cues like facial expressions. It is important to be intentional about why you are having video on, in what situations is it adding value to the call, and when you can simply jump on an audio call instead.

Have other tips to share? Add them to the comments below!

Looking for more remote work advice? Connect with me on LinkedIn and check out my website.

Written by

Remote Work Advocate. People Ops. Digital Nomad. Speaker.

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