I've actually been a Zoom user for years—long before COVID-19 sent us running to video conferencing solutions. And as a result, I am a seasoned "Zoomer".
But as I (and obviously you) have noticed, not everyone is a natural when to comes to professional video meetings. From sound quality to screen sharing issues to the obvious multitasking as eyes move to other tabs...there are many ways a video meeting can go wrong.
So if you want to avoid these pitfalls and up your virtual-business-meeting game, here are 11 best practices for Zoom (or Microsoft Teams, Google Duo, or whatever other video conferencing software you use...)
You wouldn't show up for an in-person meeting wearing a Darth Vader mask (okay, maybe during a pandemic you would…) because no one would be able to understand you. Likewise, built-in computer microphones rarely do a good job of picking up your voice. You always sound far away or muffled.
A decent USB microphone is under a hundred bucks. Make sure it plugs in, as opposed to being wireless which can lead to an unreliable sound.
While you're at it, invest in a USB-connected camera as well. Built-in computer cameras rarely deliver good quality. Add a decent HD camera onto your desktop (also generally for about a hundred dollars.) It will make you look sharper, clearer, and all-around better. It won’t give you George Clooney good looks – but that’s life 😊
If you're going to be working from home indefinitely, then remember that your internet connection is as valuable as the car you (used to) drive to work. Your broadband is how you show up for your colleagues, your boss, your customers—so it’s worth it to have as much bandwidth as you can (because chances are now you’re also sharing it with other Zoomers, like your kids.)
You should also have it hardwired to your router via ethernet cable, or be as close to your high-quality WiFi router as possible. That’ll ensure your high-quality image and sound are delivered smoothly.
Through carriers like Verizon, Comcast, etc., you can get a half to a full gigabit for about a hundred bucks a month (which is probably less than you were spending on commuting to work in either gas or mass transit.)
It’s tempting to hide your PJ’s on an audio-only call—but audio-only tends to allow a lot of unwanted multitasking. And if you’re on camera, make sure you know how you look and how your camera is positioned. I've talked to too many half-heads lately...
Position a small lamp behind your computer screen to make sure your face always has adequate lighting—or turn on your overhead lights. When your face is only illuminated by the blue light of your computer screen, you look like you’re about to get tortured in a dungeon. Don’t be that person.
It doesn’t have to be a suit and tie, but wear what you’d wear (at least from the waist up) if you were attending the meeting in person. And groom yourself. You may be comfortable letting it all hang out in sweats and flip flops at home—but the person on the other end of a Zoom session wants to see somebody competent and reliable who they can solve their problems. So look professional, even if you're working from home.
Unless you have a legitimate green screen, you’ve made it better for NO ONE by hiding your mess with an Eiffel tower background. We know you're not in Paris. It's very distracting and you end up having an in-and-out halo effect every time you move. It takes away from your professionalism. Enough said.
One of the biggest things lost in virtual meetings is the feeling of having someone’s full attention through eye contact. Now that we can be in meetings and keep browsing the internet, our eyes are all over the place.
But since it can feel unnatural to stare into a camera, position the window of the other person’s face right below where your camera is mounted. That way your eye line will seem to match up with the other speaker.
And while we're on the subject, try to avoid watching yourself on the call. It makes you seem either self-conscious or self-conceited, and you don't want either of those.
There’s something uniquely exhausting about being on a ton of Zoom meetings, isn’t there? It’s easy to get “Zoomed-out”. The fact is video calls aren’t ideal for super long meetings, especially if there are multiple people on the call.
It's best to plan on 90-120 minutes max for a particular meeting. Break up longer sessions into multiple meetings over a period of a couple of days if you can. It will keep everybody fresh and involved.
Piggybacking on the above point, when you schedule meetings, make sure you keep a buffer between them. You can create a rule in your scheduling software to automatically keep a 10-15 minute buffer between meetings. Make sure you have time to recalibrate between sessions so you're fresh and present.
It's easy to lose track of the details and action items that come out of a video meeting. Make it simpler for yourself by recording the session (with everyone's prior knowledge, of course) and transcribing the audio.
You can submit the audio portion of a meeting to a service like Temi and have it transcribed for a small fee. Within about half an hour, you'll have the basic notes from your meeting auto-magically appear.
I hope these tips help you make the most of your professional Zoom interactions so you're always perceived as competent, present, and capable. Please drop me a line if you have discovered some others!