| Smile, you’re on camera: 10 tips for professional video meetings
AWWA Articles

Smile, you’re on camera: 10 tips for professional video meetings

By Stuart Karasik

Virtual. Online. Digital.

Career ZoneThat’s how most of us are doing business right now in the age of COVID-19. Fortunately, the platforms we’re working on give us the ability to participate in real-time conversations and receive visual feedback from others.

But that goes both ways. It’s also important to always be aware that others can see and hear us and observe our work environment. It’s worth considering how we can all put our best foot forward in this new reality.

Listed below are some basic steps you can take to ensure that while you are engaged in virtual discussions and meetings, you are coming across positively and professionally.

  • Recognize that you are participating in a business event, and dress accordingly. While there are jokes about whether it’s necessary to wear pants if you’re sitting at a desk – don’t even think about not doing so. Things happen, cameras tilt, etc. Not a pretty picture.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Avoid having a bright window or light behind you, which puts your face into a shadow. Pay attention to what’s in the background so it is not too cluttered, distracting or noisy for your audience. Dogs and kids, anyone?
  • To avoid computer glitches, restart your computer before a virtual session. Only open your meeting platform and any files you need for the meeting.
  • Consider investing in a USB microphone. Research shows that sound quality is key to the participation and productivity of virtual meetings. A USB microphone, which is an enhancement over ear buds or the computer microphone, can really make a difference.
  • Look into your webcam, not at your computer screen, and make sure your head and shoulders are centered in the picture. This provides more eye contact with your audience and is more flattering than if you are pictured peering down or up. Don’t forget to smile and show that you are engaged in the discussion.
  • Be mindful of your nonverbal communications. Pointing at the camera can be perceived as rude, pushy or downright offensive. Check whether your facial expressions and tone of voice are receptive and not dismissive. When it’s not your turn to speak, mute your microphone.
  • If you are new to the group, introduce yourself and explain what you do and why you are there. You can break the ice by telling a brief, entertaining story about yourself.
  • Try to limit your comments to seven minutes. That is the average attention span for a video conference. A warning indicator is when other participants start shutting off their cameras while you’re talking.
  • If routine meetings are getting stale, consider introducing a theme or activity. Wear crazy hats, celebrate a birthday or special occasion, and share a joke or a funny story. One of my clients decided to turn one meeting into an on-line cooking demo, led by a local professional chef.  This was so successful in energizing her workgroup she has compiled a list of requests for other meetings.
  • Relax, be yourself, and engage in what’s happening. Pay attention, provide feedback and be proactive in offering your expertise and help.

Stuart Karasik has spent most of his career in the human resources/personnel arena. He has a Ph.D. in education, a master’s in biology, and was previously the training program manager for the City of San Diego.