With the rise of the Internet as a medium for businessmen and women to communicate with one another, many companies are depending heavily on conferencing solutions to supplement or replace face-to-face meetings. Video conferencing has multiple advantages over face-to-face meetings, as it eliminates the need to travel, makes it easy to access and record information during the conference and enables communication over vast distances. Follow these steps to set up a workspace to get the most out of a video conference.
Webcams are somewhat quirky when it comes to lighting. Of course, you will need to make sure your office has enough light; many professionals become so used to working in dimly lit areas that they forget to turn more lights on during a conference. The direction of the light is also important: If the light comes from behind you, everyone involved in the conference will see you as a shadow or with a rather bright and distracting halo. Likewise, light that comes directly from above can cause multiple unflattering or distracting shadows. Since natural light can vary significantly over the course of a meeting, use artificial light whenever possible. Adjust the lighting as needed and check your image before the conference to make sure there are no brightness or shadow issues.
Besides making sure that you are properly lit, you will need to make your appearance on camera as professional as possible. At minimum, wear business casual attire from the waist up, and if there is any chance you will need to stand during the conference, be properly dressed from the waist down as well. Also pay attention to whatever is behind you; think of your video conferencing partners as guests in your home or office and prepare accordingly. If you work at home, get the dirty laundry or dishes out of the background and point the camera at a fairly neutral space such as a wall. Likewise, if you are going to video conference from your office, take the opportunity to de-clutter your workstation and make it presentable.
Make sure your microphone and speakers are close enough together to listen and speak naturally; ideally, use a combined microphone and headphone setup. Headphones of some sort are essential because using your computer’s speakers tends to cause feedback; during the conference, your microphone will pick up sound from the speakers and send it back into the conversation, creating an echo effect.
Save some time before the meeting begins to make sure all of the technology you are using is functioning properly. Turn on your video conferencing software and test your video, audio and microphone, looking for any issues. Nothing can derail a video conference faster than minor technical issues, so make sure your volume is on, your microphone is functional, your video is visible and so on prior to connecting with your colleagues. If you plan on using any additional software during the meeting, such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Word, have those programs open and run through the documents you intend to use to make sure everything is working as intended.
Make sure you have all of the information you need for the conference, whether print or electronic, readily accessible during the meeting. This includes any presentation materials you plan on using, of course, but it also includes additional resources that may be needed to answer questions and contact information for relevant people and organizations that may be discussed during the video conference. You don’t want to have to look up additional information while everyone else sits, waiting. Eliminate this potential issue by looking up as much as possible before the meeting begins.
Punctuality is as important for video conferences as it is for in-person meetings. Be on your computer with your equipment set up, your tech check done and your materials ready to go at least 10 minutes before the meeting is scheduled to begin. Having everything under control early will speak to your professionalism and get the meeting started on a positive note.
Brandon Serna is a small business and communications writer working with ACT Conferencing, a leader in digital communications and conferencing solutions.
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