Video Conferencing from Home: Guidelines and Tips for Professionals

Now more than ever you are your brand

The landscape of business in America and the way we do business is changing with some permanent implications. With social distancing this is quickly becoming the standard for communication. Remember this is a business meeting. What image do you want to project? What are others seeing and hearing? What impression are you giving to someone who may be meeting you for the first time? As a professional photographer the biggest part of my business has always been making people look their best in front of the camera. Although I am not there, I can help you put your best face forward. I present some general tips so that you will look your best when video conferencing. The following are suggestions and solutions and will work with your favorite digital meeting platform, be it Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, WebEx, and others.

Your Camera Position

Before your meeting, turn your video camera on and look at yourself to see what others are seeing. Take a critical look at what you see. Position your camera, laptop or other device so that it flatters you and you look your best. It is generally best that your camera be at eye level. Make sure you fill the screen and are centered. Just tilting your camera/screen up does not flatter you – who wants to look up your nose? Raise your laptop with books if necessary, to get the camera higher.

Lighting

One of the first things you might notice is that your face looks dark. Your camera will automatically make exposure adjustments based on what it is seeing. If you are back-lit your face will be dark, position yourself so that there is not a window with bright light coming through in the background. Turn off lights behind you so your camera will adjust its exposure to your face, and you will look much better. Is your face too bright? Try moving your light back some or block the light shining directly on your face and bounce it off the wall. Some software allows you to manually tweak the exposure on your camera.

Background

Next make sure your background is pleasant. Avoid cluttered and distracting backgrounds. If there is a lot of movement behind you, people will be looking at your background not you. Some meeting software allows virtual backgrounds - A great place for your company logo on a neutral background. Some allow video backgrounds, a word of caution: make sure it is fairly neutral and has very slow movement so as not to distract from you. Virtual backgrounds may not work at all or as expected on some computer hardware.

Sound

At the start of the meeting ask others if your sound level is ok. Talk in a normal voice tone, talking loudly will distort your voice and will be not understandable. Unless you are talking, it is also a good practice to mute your microphone. You might be surprised what your microphone will pick up. Find a quiet place to setup for your meeting. Everything you say or someone else talking in the room can be heard. Even noises in other rooms can be heard - radios and TV’S need to be turned down or off. Be aware that your microphone picks all kinds of sounds.

Joining a meeting with multiple devices

Sometimes people join a meeting with multiple devices: one for video and one for audio. If you have joined a meeting with multiple devices you need to make sure both microphones are not on. If they are both on, it will cause feedback and echoing which is distracting.

Video

Remember your camera is on. Even when someone is sharing their screen and that is all you see does not mean someone cannot see you and what you are doing. Many people have multiple monitors and can simultaneously see the group on one screen and what someone is sharing on the other screen.

Log In before the meeting starts

Joining the meeting before it starts gives you the opportunity to make sure everything is working properly. Test both your video and audio. If there is a problem, you have some time to implement your backup plan. Do you have a backup plan? Another computer, Laptop, iPad or phone. If everything is working – this extra time gives you an opportunity to do a little networking with other people who are also there early.

Sharing your screen

This is another area where you need to prepare before the meeting. Trying to get things to work the way you want during a meeting can be frustrating and cause you to lose your thought process and forget important points. Get the content you want to share organized. Preopen everything you want to share so you can just click from one application or page to the next. If you are going to share a video, make sure it works beforehand. Practice going from one page to the next until you have a nice smooth workflow. This will save everyone some time and you will look more professional.

Bandwidth – Is your connection fast enough?

Do you have enough bandwidth so that everything is functioning properly? Most likely this will not be a problem but could be. If multiple people in your household are online at the same time, you may not have enough bandwidth and your video will cut in and out or may not work at all. A wired connection is highly recommended.

Other Considerations

Walking around with your phone during a meeting is very distracting unless there is a specific reason for doing so such as showing product or process. [Also, be aware of your surroundings. It may be virtual, but it is still a professional meeting. Make sure your surrounding is appropriate. Set up your device in a place where you would have a face-to-face meeting, for example an office or neat living space. Meeting from your bed or laying on your couch is not professional and will leave a lasting impression.]

Just because you are at home does not mean you cannot look business professional. Remember this may be the first (and lasting) impression someone has of you. Make yourself look like someone that others want to do business with.


Gary Chisolm is a professional photographer and digital imaging expert based in Ohio. For more information please visit Chisolm Studios or his Headshot specialty site HeadshotsOhio.com. You contact him: Gary@ChisomStudios.com