We here at ThoughtLab are doing our part to contain the spread of COVID-19, the current coronavirus. So, we’re working in geographically diverse spaces, which is a fancy way to say we’re working from our respective homes, but, we are working. We are up and running and taking care of all your needs. We hope you’re being safe and taking care of friends, family, and loved ones. We care about your health and safety so we offer this PSA to help you to keep running your business as smoothly as possible while continuing to stay safe. Keep checking in, we have plenty to share.
Tips for Good Video Meetings
So, the virus has got us all a little on edge and to be safe, many of us are working from home. Many of us are working from home for the first time so things feel new, out of sorts, awkward … we understand. It’s not an easy transition to go from working in the office, at your desk, surrounded by your co-workers to suddenly doing everything from home. Time to adjust is needed.
We’re here to help.
One of the changes is going to be video conferences and meetings. The meetings at the office where you all gather in one room and chat are now being done online, on video and for some, that is brand new. For some, rules and advice are a must. Our copywriter is a troglodyte, our first video conference with him he just left the camera on the floor and walked around in his underwear. Eating enormous amounts of Cheetos. We saw his feet and heard a few sounds that weren’t actually words. It wasn’t pretty.
We’re sure none of you are as hopeless as he is but, you still may need a few tips on getting the most out of your video meetings so, here are some tips:
Mute yourself when you’re not talking
You may think you’re being quiet when you’re not speaking but the microphones on cameras these days are very sensitive and they can pick up all kinds of ambient noises. From street traffic to dog barks to the illegal poker game you’ve got going in your kitchen, others can hear it. Mute yourself when you’re not speaking.
Be on time
Yes, it’s new territory, you’re not in the office, you’re home but you still need to keep a professional mentality and that means … being on time. You know what they say, time is money. Bob’s your uncle and … that’s about it. But being late to a video meeting makes a possibly chaotic situation even more so. With most of the video meetings, the organizer is going to hold the start til everyone is there to avoid the need to backtrack, catch up and repeat. Don’t make it harder. Set a timer, set reminders and be on time for your video meetings.
Make sure your technology is working correctly
Give your camera a test run. Make sure you know how it works and that it is fully operational. Don’t show up at your first video meeting while working at home only to discover you don’t have a camera. Like a certain copywriter we know. Be familiar with your technology and comfortable with it before the meeting, You don’t want to spend the better portion of a meeting trying to figure out how your sound works or that your camera is pointed directly at your crotch. Like … a… certain ... copywriter we know. Sigh.
What are you wearing?
This is a tricky one. This is new territory for some and the quarantine can give rise to feelings of uneasiness. Being comfortable helps ease some stress. So, what about when you’re video conferencing? Well, if it’s an in-house sort of meeting, casual will work. Relaxed and comfortable is fine but not too casual. If you’re meeting with clients, dress for it. You want your clients to know that, just because adjustments are being made and you’re not in the office, you’re still working hard for them and taking business seriously. So, dress for the meeting. What you’re wearing is going to say a lot to your client and help them feel better and count on you during this time of crisis.
Side note: the camera is going to show you from mid-body to top of the head so this means … pants are optional. Just make sure the meeting is over and the camera is off before you stand up. That would be showing too much of your casual side.
Frame the camera correctly
This is going to mark the difference between a good meeting and a possibly humiliating one. Where you position your camera means a lot.
If your camera is too low, you’re going to look like a cartoon villain and folks are going to see up your nose. Too high and the meeting turns into a 1960s film style interrogation scene.
You want your camera set to eye level and your frame should be chest and shoulders up. In film terms, this falls between medium and a close-up. This would be termed a medium close up. It gives you enough frame to move in without dropping out of frame or having to sink low to keep in frame. It’s a very natural frame and doesn’t make you appear giant or too far away.
Make sure your camera is level, your background should be free of distractions or things you don’t want your coworkers or clients to see. And, don’t play with the camera during the meeting. Set it and leave it alone. It’s a meeting, not a film class, don’t work out your budding DP skills during a meeting.
Where do I look?
Simple answer, actually, the only answer is … at the camera. Look at the camera. A good rule of thumb here is the camera is the eyes of the person you’re talking with so, look at them. Which means, look at the camera.
Most people are prone to looking at the video feed but that makes you appear aloof, distant. That’s not a good look for a meeting. Eye to eye, look into the camera, not above it, under it or beyond it. In film terms, this is called breaking the fourth wall or direct address.
A byproduct of this is you’re going to realize how little you actually look at people when you talk to them so when this is done and we’re back to regular human interaction, and we will be, you’ll have better eye contact skills.
This is important. Good lighting makes all the difference. There’s a great saying: “If all the world’s a stage, I want better lighting.” Good lighting makes us look better and it also helps those watching us focus on what we’re supposed to look at.
The very best lighting is natural lighting. Sunshine, that lovely pearl grey morning light that west coasters experience. Even sunlight bounced off cloud cover is good base light that you can enhance with artificial light. But, if you can, use as much natural light as possible.
Where you place your light is important as well. You don’t want to source your light from beneath you. That’s going to make you look like a villain in a bad sci-fi film. Same as direct downlight, that creates a dower, sinister feeling to the frame.
Don’t place your light source directly behind your head or your coworkers are going to think you were beatified while working from home. Also, if you move your head there’s going to be direct light into the lense blinding those watching you.
Side lighting is best for this. If you’re using artificial light, try getting daylight white bulbs. And have your source positioned to the right or left of your head. If it’s natural light, sit parallel to the window.
When you’re in a video meeting, be in the meeting. Don’t do other work, don’t text with your phone out of the frame. You cannot multitask, so don’t try. The meeting is what’s going on, give it all your attention and let the people on the video conference with you know that they are important and what they are saying and thinking is important.
Let’s be frank, your kids are adorable, your dog is the most remarkable four-legged creature on the planet, but they don’t belong in a meeting. If you wouldn’t let them crawl around on your lap during a regular meeting in the office, why do it during a video conference?
One of the things about working from home is setting up work/life boundaries, your pets and kids are going to have to be in those boundaries. Set aside time and a room to have your video meetings in and keep that room professional during working hours.
It’s going to take some adjusting and hopefully, it won’t have to be this way for too long, but, safety for you and others is very important. If you have experience with video conferencing and you want to offer help, leave your suggestions in the comments section and share it with the world.