Even the Best Video Equipment Can’t Ensure a Good Remote Meeting
Bad meetings happen to everyone, and there are a lot more things that can go wrong with video conferencing. Equipment can fail, connections might slow down or go out, or someone might not realize everything they say is being drowned out by their neighbor mowing the lawn in the background. So it’s important to make sure you’re doing everything you can on your end to make the meeting go as smoothly as possible.
There are just a few areas you can check quickly to make sure you’re getting the most out of your video conference meetings:
- Follow proper video chat etiquette,
- Know how everything works,
- Utilize your technology to engage everyone in the meeting,
- Make sure your audio and video are as good as they can possibly be.
You’re not Following Good Video Conference Etiquette
Meeting by video isn’t quite the same as meeting in person, but the same social rules apply. For one, you still have to pay attention to the people you’re talking to. That means no checking your phone or email during the meeting (unless it’s for something relevant to the meeting), and be mindful when other people are speaking.
There are other things that get a lot more important with video conferencing, though.
Mute your mic when you aren’t talking: No matter how good your mic is at dampening ambient noise, there might be noise you’re not aware of or something might happen in the background that will distract other people in the meeting. It’s just good, common practice to keep your mic muted until you need to say something.
Stop eating: Again, mics are a dangerous tool. They’re meant to capture sound and they can pick up the worst chewing sounds imaginable and amplify them for everyone else in the meeting. That can be distracting if not outright infuriating.
Don’t sit too close to the camera: Even though you aren’t face to face, we all still maintain a certain sense of personal space. When you’re too close to the camera it not only looks odd, but is a lot more likely to make people uncomfortable. Make sure you have at least a head-and-shoulders frame with some space above your head.
Getting etiquette down is really important, not just for the sake of respecting others in the meeting and making the whole thing run smoothly, but also because it can make or break the benefits from your high quality conferencing equipment. You can’t get the most out of your integrating tablet and camera system without observing some common courtesy.
You Don’t Know How to Work Your Conferencing Equipment
Don’t be the guy who makes the meeting start ten minutes late because you don’t know how to turn your mic on or start a conference call.
This can avoided pretty easily by getting a system with a well designed user interface. Lifesize has puts a lot of effort into making things work quick and easy, but there’s also nothing wrong with getting a little help if you’re still not sure how everything works. That’s part of what IT folks are there for.
You can, and should, double check everything before your official meeting, though. Things can change with whatever software or hardware you’re using for remote meetings for several reasons. It might be from a recent update, or a different device you’ve started using on your computer, or maybe you changed a setting last time you used it and don’t remember doing it. The best way to check everything is to make a quick call before your meeting starts so you know everything is working properly on your end.
You’re Not Engaging your Audience
Yes, you do have to engage your co-workers, employees, and team members, and especially potential investors or customers. Even when someone is being paid to do what you say, it doesn’t help to use that as an excuse to be as boring as you want, especially when you have so many resources at hand:
Are you talking about finances or profit growth over time? Show people some graphs.
Are you trying to work out a new problem in a building design? You better make sure everyone can see the blueprints.
Are you updating a manager or CEO on your progress in a project? Having a shareable digital report with bullet points on what you’ve done and what you’re doing next will go a long way toward speeding the meeting up and saving everyone a lot of time.
You shouldn’t just be a talking head on a screen spouting off numbers or intangible problems when there are a dozen different resources out there to present information and collaborate.
Your Audio and Video Suck
Since this technology is the vehicle you’re communicating through, everything affects, and is affected, by these two components. When something is wrong with either video or audio, it doesn’t matter how polite or prepared you are.
Let’s tackle audio first:
We talked about this is a little under etiquette, but of all the things to suck in a video conference, audio is probably the worst. Visuals can only do so much when people can only hear every other word you say.
Check for background noise: Make sure you’re in a closed room and that other people in the room are either part of the meeting or understand that if they’re going to be making noise, they need to leave.
Find your Mic distance: Generally if you’re at a desk with your camera and mic you don’t really need to worry about this. But if you’re at the end of a conference table or standing across the room you need to make sure you either speak up, or wait until your closer to the mic to talk. Bottom line: know your mic.
Find a speaking volume and stick to it: Not everyone naturally speaks as loudly as others, and not everyone in the video conference is likely to have the same quality of speakers. Always check if everyone can hear you at the beginning of the meeting at the volume you’re going to be speaking in. There’s a strange tendency in people to shout the quick “can you hear me?” and immediately drop to the lower volume they’re comfortable speaking at.
Now let’s talk about the horrible state of your video:
You don’t need to look good, but the better the image is on everyone’s screen, the better they’ll pay attention. You can probably get by just turning on the camera and getting down to business with whatever lighting is blaring on your face, or any weird, over-colored background sitting behind you, but if you’re looking for ways to improve your conferences, start checking these things before each meeting.
Bad lighting: Make sure there aren’t bright lights behind you. That can wreak havoc on even the nicest cameras. In front of you is better, but bright sunlight can still reflect off things in the background and make it unpleasant for the viewer. Generally side light with some overhead light is best.
Bad angles: Leave room for your whole head on the screen, and try to keep the camera roughly within a small cone of eye level. To low or too high is going feel awkward for you and anyone looking at you. If you have to crane your neck to look down or look up, your probably at a bad angle.
Busy background: Take a quick look at what’s behind you and check for windows or reflective surfaces. You don’t want there to be a lot of movement other than you on other people’s screens, and if anything is brighter than you it can become another quick distraction.
Low quality cameras: As the demand for video becomes more common, the expectations for video quality increases. There’s a reason companies like Lifesize have taken on the motto “good enough isn’t good enough” and challenged the norms with revolutionary high resolution cameras like the Icon 700 series. Our perception of video quality is becoming more critical as technology improves. 10 years ago, it started becoming unacceptable for quality to be lower than 480p, then 1080p was all the rage. Today, 4K is becoming the new standard. It’s time to start investing in equipment that’s more than “good enough”. You need cameras that exceed your expectations.
It’s Easier to Fix than You Think
Lifesize equipment and software has gone through extensive user-experience testing, and is designed with ease of use in mind. Video conferencing should be as simple as a couple taps to start a quick, productive meeting with colleagues, whether they’re on the other side of the building or the other side of the world. Lifesize has achieved this ease of use through years of experience. If you have the right technology, and a little training, video conferencing will quickly become a staple of your company’s culture.