96% of business leaders believe video conferencing improves productivity, according to a recent Polycom survey.
The benefits of video conferencing are clear, but there are also challenges and pitfalls to navigate.
We have all been let down by technology at some point. So familiarise yourself with the video conferencing software beforehand. Test the connection, the sound levels and how to share your screen or start your digital presentation. This will help you appear professional and in control.
And, if you are using an online conferencing system, include a quick-start guide in the email invitation.
Background distractions and poor audio quality are frequently cited as the biggest problems with remote conferences.
Whether it’s loud music, chattering colleagues or a cluttered home office, these distractions disrupt the flow of virtual meetings and draw attention away from you. Just the other day I was on a video conference when a cat walked across the client’s screen and a dog needed taking out for a walk.
Noisy public places like coffee shops or on public transport are terrible for sound. And if you are seated in front of a glass partition or window, others in the virtual meeting will be distracted by passers by.
Instead, opt for a plain, static background free from noise and visual distractions.
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said,” according to management and marketing guru Peter Drucker.
Nonverbal communications include the conscious and unconscious movements and postures that communicate our feelings and attitudes. And, even though facial cues can be harder for other participants to interpret via video, body language still plays a vital role in how participants perceive interactions.
Quick tips for improving your body language in virtual meetings:
When deciding what to wear, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself: would I wear this to the office? If your clients would expect to see you in smart business attire, wear that.
Cultural considerations may also influence your decision. For example, one survey revealed that business people in Asia are more likely than those in Europe to be distracted by a lack of business attire.
Also, choose clothes that look good on-screen. News reporters on television typically avoid wearing white because it catches too much light. And they rarely wear clothing with bold or checkered patterns, as these tend to ‘jump’ on screen. Instead, opt for solid colours.
Winston Churchill once said, “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”
Focus on the job at hand and, however tempting, avoid becoming distracted by emails or messages. When your gaze is not on your device’s camera, participants in your video conference will assume you are distracted. Switch your phone off and exit any applications that generate alerts (such as your email).
If you are planning to take notes, state this at the outset. This will prevent other participants from assuming you are distracted.
And, above all, remember that you are always visible. A senior executive was once conducting a video conference when he noticed a participant lean forward and hold his head in his hands. The executive said, “I can see you, you know. If something is bothering you, just tell me.”
Some people opt for remote conferencing to avoid their fear of public speaking and reduce anxiety. Perhaps that is not surprising, given that 74% of adults suffer from speech anxiety according to recent research.
But it is worth remembering that sometimes the benefits of a shared physical experience can outweigh the time and travel costs of bringing people together in the same room.
However, if a remote conference is the best option to meet your objectives, where possible opt for video conferencing over teleconferencing. As well as the ability to see more non-verbal cues, research shows that video conferencing encourages greater empathy, positive emotion and group cohesiveness than teleconferencing.
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