If there is one thing that the past year has taught us, having the ability to communicate remotely is vital to the health of any business, network, or organization. Since meeting face-to-face has been limited or impossible in some situations, the era of Zoom has arrived. Now, those of us in the tech industry know that Zoom and other video conferencing platforms like Teams have been around for some time. In fact, I was facilitating video chats for years before people even knew what Zoom was. That being said, I have learned a few things that can help make a Zoom or Teams meeting more effective.
Not being able to hear others or them not being able to hear you in a video conference can be very frustrating. People make fun of me for asking, “can you hear me?” when I first start a meeting, but there is nothing worse than talking and realizing nobody heard you. So, what are some ways you can make sure you are heard and heard well?
1. Test your audio
In almost every platform there are ways that you can test your audio before you join the meeting. They usually allow you to check your speakers – if you hear the tone, you are good. You also typically have the opportunity to check your microphone. If you click the “test” button and then hear a recording of your voice played back, your microphone is working.
2. Make sure you have good equipment
This cannot be stressed enough. Whether you are using your computer speakers and mic (not recommended), a headset, or external equipment, you want to ensure it is good enough to provide decent sound. You also need to consider your environment. If you are in a space with other people, having a good headset is crucial. You’ll want to find one that filters out background noise but maintains a natural tone to your voice. If you are setting up a video conference in a room with other people, you will want external speakers of good quality and a microphone that will filter out background noise while also picking up everyone in the room. For this, I recommend a 360-degree conference mic. Here is one that worked well for me in a small group setting: USB Conference Microphone,XIIVIO 360° Omnidirectional Condenser PC Microphones with Mute Plug & Play Compatible with Mac OS X Windows for Video Conference,Gaming,Chatting,Skype.
3. Use your meeting voice
Basically, make sure you speak up so you can be heard clearly, but don’t yell. You have to hit that sweet spot with volume, or else you will be too quiet and people can’t hear you, or too loud and your voice is distorted.
4. Mute yourself when necessary
Even the best background filtering mics will sometimes pick up unwanted noise. It’s best practice to mute yourself when you aren’t talking. Just be sure to unmute when you do start talking!
5. Limit background noise
This might not always be possible, depending on where you are when you have to jump on the call. However, if you are in your office, shut the door to block out hallway noise. If you’re in a coffee shop, it’s a little more difficult, but once again, utilize that mute button!
Dress & Behavior Etiquette:
Every business is a little different when it comes to meetings. Generally, people expect a video call to be more casual than an in-person meeting. However, you know your business culture, so dress and behave accordingly. Here are a few rules of thumb:
1. It’s better to overdress than underdress.
Looking professional can give you that confidence you need to have a successful meeting.
2. Wear pants!
Sorry to bust your lazy, at-home vibe, but you’ll feel more professional if you have pants on. Seriously.
3. Make sure your background is tidy
Look, I get it, some of us operate with a messy desk, but you might want to straighten it up if it is in the shot. If you can’t, use the blur or virtual background feature. This is also true if your background is hectic – people walking around, lots of photos on the wall, etc.
4. Make eye contact
They used to recommend you look directly into the webcam rather than at the screen. However, some platforms like Teams now have an Eye Contact feature that uses AI to make it look like you are looking at the camera. It’s really cool but a little unnerving. Regardless, make sure you look at the camera OR the screen where your camera is mounted instead of looking down at your phone or at another screen.
Nobody wants to be trapped in an eternal Zoom meeting any more than they want to be stuck in an in-person meeting. It’s also much easier for people to work on other things or start daydreaming with their microphone muted. Some suggest that it is harder for people to pay attention during a video chat than it would be if you were in person. With that in mind, it is imperative that you set a time limit for the meeting upfront and respect that.
1. Limit chit chat
It can be a good ice breaker at the very beginning of the meeting, but if you have many topics to cover, try to dive right in.
2. Start on time
If you create a habit of starting a meeting 5-10 minutes late, people will get in the habit of joining 5-10 minutes late. It also relays that you don’t really care about their time. So be respectful and start on time.
3. Don’t linger on one topic too long
If more conversation is needed on one subject, plan a separate meeting with only the pertinent team members later.
4. End on time
There are times when you have to go longer, but generally speaking, it is important you end on time. Once again, this comes down to respecting other people’s time and preventing the “meeting that should have been an email” joke. If the end time is approaching, do your best to table the remaining topics until next time.
I hope that these etiquette suggestions will help your Zoom meetings go smoother. Of course, these suggestions are not exhaustive. There are always more ways to improve and help video conferences be more engaging. If you need help finding the proper hardware for your Zoom meetings or are interested in training, I’d be happy to talk to you. Just give me a call or fill out the contact form below.