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Videoconferencing do's and don'ts (with video!)

Mary K. Pratt | June 4, 2015
Here are four steps to improve your videoconferencing skills.

Select clothes that will look good on camera, McCool advises — something solid, no busy patterns like checked shirts that can come off as dizzying, and avoid distracting accessories as well.

As for sound: Make sure your mike is positioned so your voice isn't too loud or too soft on the other end. Use the mute button if you can't avoid background noises. And remember to shut off all video and audio functions when the call ends so any confidential information isn't seen or overheard (a common enough occurrence to warrant the warning from several executives we interviewed).

Tip No. 3: Be engaging — and engaged

Gary Slavin, a senior facilitator with the IT training firm Ouellette & Associates Consulting, remembers a marketing webinar delivered by Gary Vaynerchuk, a businessman and motivational speaker. The event took place eight years ago, but the delivery was so impressive that Slavin still remembers Vaynerchuk's engaging tone and high energy.

To make your video presentations as memorable, make sure you're speaking with, not lecturing to, your audience. By any means, avoid reading off PowerPoint slides in a monotone. Ask questions to keep participants engaged, and address them by name whenever possible. Take advantage of built-in functions like chat rooms and white boards to get and keep everyone involved via multiple media. To avoid "talking head syndrome," put some effort to your visuals — show images, graphs and video related to the topic at hand, and don't be afraid to share the spotlight with other members of your team or relevant speakers.

Videoconference participants, especially if they're remote, tend to sit back in passive mode, but careers experts say they're missing an opportunity to shine. Ask questions via chat or audio (and identify yourself by name and department when you do), participate in polls, offer up related resources and generally be as alert a remote participant as you would be onsite.

Tip No. 4: Don't forget your business etiquette

Charles Galda remembers a virtual gathering where he and his team enjoyed lunch while other, more formally dressed participants in other locales conducted a reserved meeting. "We got a call half way through with someone asking, 'What are you guys doing?' We were a distraction," Galda recalls.

Now the CIO for GE Capital's Technology Centers & Services, Galda frequently uses videoconferencing. Meetings can range from informal one-on-one conversations to multisite gatherings. He says virtual meetings, just like real-life ones, have different levels of formality.

"We do tend to treat them like other business meetings, and the same kind of rules apply," Galda says. For example, if he's on a video call with one of his team members, "it's business casual. So we'll joke around more, we might spend a few minutes talking before getting started, I might lean back in my chair," he says. If he's meeting with a larger group, particularly if there are people he doesn't know or know well or the gathering is addressing a complex topic, the tone of the videoconference reflects that, with more focus and less chit-chat or joking.


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