7 1/2 tips for a perfect video conference
Written on 30 April 2020
Do you have an online video conference coming up? Are you speaking as a speaker at an online summit or even leading it as a moderator? Or are you (like all of us at the moment) taking part in a video meeting? Then my 7 1/2 tips are just right for you!
As a moderator, I am in front of the camera on a regular basis and have therefore been dealing intensively with the effect we have on others for a long time. I also pass on this knowledge in lectures and individual training sessions on the subject of appearance and presentation.
Enjoy reading, learning and putting it into practice!
As cosy as the fuzzy jumper and sweatpants may be, they have no place at a business video conference. Dress the same as you would for the office or an analogue meeting. You will mostly be standing (or sitting – more on this in the next tip) in front of the camera and some special rules apply here: Wear neutral clothes that do not distract from the content. Just like on television, it is important not to wear small plaid or heavily patterned tops. Cameras don’t like this (the professional term here is interference) and a flickering picture distracts other participants from your content. For women, it is also important to avoid a large neckline or bare shoulders. Wearing jingling jewellery can also be very distracting. Earrings, if any, should also be coordinated with the choice of headphones (more on this in tip 4).
2. Sitting or standing?
During a video call with colleagues or business partners, it is best to sit on a chair. Avoid lounging on the couch and placing your laptop on your knees. It is best to take a stable, non-rotating chair without too high a backrest for the time of the web conference. In other words: a classic office chair with castors will tempt you to turn back and forth and the high, dark backrest behind you will look… how shall I put it… a bit threatening.
For some time now, more and more conferences have been held digitally. Participants switch to a virtual room and follow the content on their screen without being seen or heard. If you are a speaker or moderator at such a summit, then all the attention is on your image. My personal advice is to give the speech standing up. Just like in real keynotes, you look more confident, feel more self-assured and can gesture with your hands (see tip 6). I can already hear your objections! „It doesn’t fit!“. „But the others are sitting too.“ „I can’t stand all the time.“ Yes, you may be right, but for some topics and presentations, a standing presentation can really be very beneficial. For example, coaching on voice and posture. Here you might do exercises with your participants and have to move. It is up to you. Just because everyone else is sitting, you can stand. That way you will definitely be remembered.
How often have you tried to imagine what the room he or she is sitting in looks like during video calls with colleagues in the home office? Or been distracted by the family pictures or the books on the shelf behind your conversation partner? Maybe there was a cute cat running through the picture or your partner? Well, gotcha! I’m sure almost all of you have experienced these or similar situations. So, to look professional, you should pay attention to the background when choosing the room. Preferably a neutral wall with selected pictures that are not distracting. If you are organising and moderating a conference, why not hang the logo or a poster of the conference behind you?
Of course, the light also plays an important role. Make sure the lighting is good, ideally with the window in front of you or slightly to the side. In the evening, switch on as many lights as possible, without over-illuminating the picture, of course.
4. Camera & Audio
In the age of Insta-Stories and FaceTime, most of you know how best to position your smartphone so that your face looks as flattering as possible. Nevertheless, we know video conferences where the camera of the conversation partner is far below the face and thus more chin is visible than anything else. In professional online meetings, we have to avoid this because we want to be convincing.
If you don’t have an external webcam, but use the integrated one on your laptop, then build a few books underneath it so that the camera is positioned centrally at eye level. Ideally with a distance of about an arm’s length. Try to look as little as possible at your own image, but rather directly at the camera or in the middle of the screen.
Especially at home, it can happen that a lot of background noise arises. Your partner is working in the kitchen, children are shouting in the background or the dog is barking. Try to be alone in a lockable room if possible. If this is not possible, talk to your loved ones at home that an important call is coming up. Modern technology can block out ambient noise as much as possible. Feel free to use headphones for better sound quality. However, I recommend using wireless in-ear headphones at an Online Summit. This will make you seem more natural, like you are at a real conference. You can stand up and are not „attached“ to your laptop. Don’t turn the sound up too loud or too low, otherwise you could create an annoying echo among the other participants.
5. Speaking & Voice
…which automatically brings me to the topic of speaking… Just because you are not sitting face to face, there is no reason to speak louder or softer into the camera. Speak normally and ask if you can be understood if necessary.
Your voice, just like your body, is an important instrument to convincingly communicate your topics and contents. It expresses how you are feeling at the moment. If I work at home all day in my home office and suddenly have an important call, I prepare myself in a flash so that my voice sounds alert, convincing and strong. It takes seconds and any of you can do it: You exhale through your mouth and let your lips flutter. Like a snorting horse. Then you circle your tongue inside your mouth in all corners. Make a few more grimaces to loosen the facial features and then yawn with relish. This opens the throat. But be careful: your camera should still be switched off 🙂 In order to find your natural voice pitch shortly before speaking and to speak in the right pitch (the so-called indifference pitch), especially if you are nervous, imagine your favourite food: Mmmmmhhh! Yes, exactly this sound or also an approving „Mhm“, as when listening – this is your relaxed speaking voice with which you can convincingly get started.
6. Body language
Your posture has a much greater effect in the limited space of the camera than it does live. Slumped in your chair is not very convincing, so sit up straight and active. Also, watch your facial expressions while listening. Even if you are a little bored or looking at something on your laptop, it should not be obvious. Looking at your smartphone is also noticeable, no matter how inconspicuous it may seem.
When speaking, you can use your hands just like in real life. However, make sure that your gestures are not too large and do not extend above or below the screen. Gesticulating too quickly also does not work in video.
Both when sitting and standing: imagine you have a spotlight on your chest and point it directly at the camera.
7. Dealing with disruptions
“The picture is gone!“; „I don’t hear anything.“ Someone walks through the picture. A cat jumps onto your lap. We all know at least one of these situations. Above all, technical problems can cause any online conference to stumble.
No matter what the disruptive factor is, the following applies: Disruptions have priority! Be aware of them, talk about them openly for a moment and then move on. And just like before live conferences: Testing is the be-all and end-all!
7 1/2. tip
You’ve probably been asking yourselves what this ominous half-tip is all about?
Well, you shouldn’t forget all the rules of face-to-face communication just because you suddenly don’t talk to each other in person. Let your conversation partners finish, take your time and value the contributions of others. Especially in these times, we have more of that than usual…
Happy Video Chatting!