Video conferencing has been apart of our lives for over 20 years now and if you have not engaged in a formal business video conference yet there is a good chance you may soon.

This is the good, the bad and the ugly survival guide to what to do and not to do in your next video conference.

Video conferencing dos and don

Don’t be scared, we have condensed 25 posts into 1 simple snap shot of things you should know. In less than 3 minutes, you will be in the know! Here are the main topics we will cover.

1. Things to do before a video conference

2. Etiquette in a video conference

3. Top tips for dealing with technical problems

4. Top reasons video conferences fail

Things to do before a video conference

Sometimes it is helpful to have a checklist of things to go over before the actual video conference starts.

Video conferencing do

Here is our curated list of gotta knows. Enjoy.

Contact all attendees and coordinate an appropriate date.

Verify attendance and the mode/device they will be using to attend the video conference.

Follow best practices format for your meeting.

This is a subject unto it’s own. Here is a great article I stumbled upon from a company called 99U which I think is a must read. In short it explains how some of the most forward thinking companies in the world today conduct their meetings and how many follow very similar meeting practices. On the whole.

The key take ways for us were, keep things short, concise, objective driven, define objective ownership as well as action item ownership on meeting close, which brings us to a video specific point:

Assign a conference owner at each location.

If running multiple meeting rooms in different cities, assign one person at each location to own these next points.

Email etiquette reminders.

Get in touch with each location/person.

Contact those in charge at each location to answer questions and verify individual tech needs and alternate procedures including troubleshooting.

Pre-test, pre-test, pre-test.

Do test runs of all connections before the meeting starts with the same providers, etc. that will be used during the meeting.

Make any changes that are needed as a result of your test runs.

Technical support.

Every location that is using technology to connect needs to have access to technical support.

Identify if document or presentation sharing is required.

If it is, understand these critical points. The first is that there are still technical compatibility issues between video system when sharing content. The second is content sharing technically can use allot of processing power, that is why even today in 2016, software is either great at video, or great at content sharing, but very rarely both because a priority is being put on the quality of one over the other depending your bandwidth.

So, with that mind, the most efficient method is to conduct your video conference separate to your content sharing. There are a gazillion free and paid content sharing products available today, pick one and have all attendees engage this on their devices seperate to the video.

If the presentation is super critical, simply set up one device to push the presentation through a data projector or second screen for all to watch.

Distribute any materials you need.

Distribute any materials you need for each site involved in the video conference. If you have to, e-mail the presentation or any other materials you want each site to have access to.

Make sure each site location has clearly visible signage, name tags, clocks, and other aids to help you identify people and keep tabs on the time.

Make sure you leave time for Q&A.

With this list in mind, you’re well on your way to having a smooth video conference!

Etiquette in a video conference

Video conferencing, telepresence, remote collaboration, etc. all rely on how well you look on the screen. This visual factor can greatly enhance your presentation because body language and facial expression are cues used to elaborate on the words being spoken.

Video conferencing etiquette.

Visual factors have a detrimental effect if not thought of in advance, because you may not be aware of how you look on screen.

Wear solid colored clothing with no patterns to jiggle when you move.

There often is a slight time lag or screen factor that patterned clothing will highlight by the shimmer effect, and it is distracting to the viewer.

Ensure the camera is ideal distance from you.

Have the camera far enough from you that your upper body can be seen (hand gestures) and there’s a bit of space around your head. This prevents the whole-screen face that exaggerates every eyelid twitch. When all that is seen is the face, it’s like the movie close-ups that increase dramatic effect, and you usually don’t want that.

Relaxed hands on the table look confident and trustworthy.

How you use your hands gives a definite vibe to your speech. White knuckled grips on the pencil or table look nervous.
Posture can give an impression you may not want to give. Sit up straight and lean in a bit so you look confident and friendly. Slouch and you look sloppy and hesitant.

Keep preview window open.

Keep a preview window open to remind you to smile and relax, but notice how your eyes shift when you glance at it. It’s also a reminder to look at the camera instead of the screen when you are talking to your viewers! You can look at them while they speak because we are accustomed to that now, but remember to look at the camera when you speak or you will be misconstrued. Best practice is to remove the preview window as it IS a disctraction, but if this is your first time, we recommend you keep it open for the reasons mentioned above. If your feeling confident, hide it.

Be early.

It’s a good idea to schedule your video conferences with a little extra time before the meeting so you can set up equipment, go through a practice session, and familiarize yourself with anything new that you are trying – like presentations. A general rule of thumb is to arrive 15 – 30 minutes prior to the actual meeting time to prepare.

When you arrive and start setting up, here are 7 things you should do before your meeting begins.

Get familiar with video equipment.

In many rooms, you can move the video equipment around. Take this time to figure out the best placement for your video camera and learn how to operate it successfully.

Prioritize your topics and set the objectives of your meeting.

This one you can actually do in your office before you arrive at the meeting room.

Get your graphics and other visuals in order.

Work on your presentation so that it is tight, concise, and says what you want it to say.

Your first video conference can be  very exciting and simultaneously daunting experience. It’s not dissimilar to getting your first car – you’ve heard a ton about it, you’ve done your research, and you know the benefits, but once it’s there in front of you, a whole bunch of questions start popping up and you will need to step back and figure out how best to use it. Biztech Magazine recently published an excellent article on how to maximize results with video conferencing. It covers the gamut from the systems and services you choose to how you use it and what you do elsewhere in your business to strengthen its capabilities.

Video conferencing is an effective and comprehensive tool for communication that opens up the opportunity for you and your colleagues, friends, and/or family to talk with one another from remote locations in a way that most closely resembles a face-to-face interaction.

Your do

With that being said, it is important to keep in mind that this method of communication comes with its own rules of etiquette, just as do telephone conversations, Internet correspondence, and so on. Keep this in mind when taking part in a video conference, especially if you’re doing it for work! Primarily to maintain professionalism and quality of communication.

Cut out the background distractions.

This means being aware of your physical environment first and foremost. If you are trying to conduct your video conference from home, try to be in a place where children, other people, pets, and so on are not mingling around. Turn off televisions and, if you can, make sure the wall behind you isn’t overly distracting (for example, a bunch of posters or a window that might cause glare issues). Minimize the audiovisual distractions to ensure that your conferencing partner(s) can see and hear you as best as possible.

Mind the mute button!

When you aren’t talking, your microphone should be muted. This is to cut out any instances of errant breathing, slight movements, or other noises that could cause distraction or interruption. It’s a simple habit, and many systems have an option for “Mute when not talking.”

Try and wait a moment after someone is finished talking before responding. Sometimes, there’s lag, and sometimes, the person might not be finished.

Is video the right solution?

Remember that you don’t always need to be using video. Audio and web sharing products can accomplish a number of collaborations by themselves. Video certainly has its place and that place is when audio and web are just not enough and a flight is over kill.

Cultural respect.

One point in a recent article by Globe and Mail which can often be overlooked is the need for what they call “cross-cultural courtesy.” People speaking in a language other than their native tongue may require a little more time to articulate their thoughts, and other conference participants should be courteous and make sure that other parties are finished speaking before chiming in. This goes for all speakers in general, too, of course. Again mute function knowledge is a must unless you are talking.

Presentation tips .

Remember, your screen will appear as 800 x 600. Make sure you use this display setting on your screen before connecting to others. In light of this, you need to KEEP IT SIMPLE. Big, clear fonts and simple colors will help your viewers digest the information. Avoid big blocks of loud colors – you want to keep it subtle and visibly pleasing.

Know what to ask for. You will need a PC connection or Scan Converter. You will need to ask for these at the time of the booking and there may be an additional cost. You should also ask for extra access time prior to the meeting to familiarize yourself with the materials and to set them up.

Top tips for dealing with technical problems

Here are a couple of things to check just in case things may go wrong.

The video above cracks us up each and every time we watch it. Let’s assume you are not this dedicated to Golf and looking for every day mistakes people make.

Online presentations.

Keep content away from the edges. Sometimes the image will be a little cropped. This shouldn’t be too hard to do. Next, press F8 on your computer while presenting to open up a “second” screen so you can do your own things.

Make sure you have a VGA connection and not an RGB one.

Finally, make sure you have your AC power adapter and/or fully charged batteries for any machines being used.

Tips to enhance your video conferencing meeting experience.

Quality.

This sounds just like a computer help center recording but reseting all devices in the conference can help. That means turning them all off at the power for a few seconds and then powering them back on and re-connecting.

If the conference is bing bridged by a third party (all the locations are connected by a conferencing company), they may try disconnecting and re-connecting.

Ask the on-site tech support to unplug and re-plug all the connecting cables, sometimes one of the cables was just not connected properly when the system was last used or moved.

Camera problems.

Have you ever been afraid that your video conference could be hacked? It actually is very unlikely with the standard security precautions used in video conferencing facilities, but if you aren’t using those precautions, it is possible that one of your friends might play a joke on you like what happened in this article on Five Tips For Dealing With VC Camera “Hacks”. In this case, the guy had not set up a password with his equipment. But the scenario shows how he turned what could have been a viral practical joke into a lesson on professionalism.

While you probably will not be dealing with hackers during your video conference, there sometimes will be problems that could derail your meeting if you allow it. Stay in control by remembering to do these tips:

Don’t panic.

Recognize the limitation the issue is causing and adapt accordingly. Your goal is to keep the meeting moving in a positive direction. If, for example, part of the screen suddenly shows the computer updating its files instead of your presentation, tell them what is being hidden, apologize for the inconvenience, and move on.

Be professional.

You are on camera, being seen and heard. You might suddenly be improvising your script but you are also revealing your competency to cope with unexpected occurrences. This might actually improve the meeting in the end.
Contact tech support. If you are using one of the public video or telepresence facilities in the whyGo network, your venue host will be on hand to assist and you will have been shown how to contact their representative on arrival. Hopefully, someone other than the speaker will be able to talk to them, and it usually can be fixed immediately.

Top reasons video conferences fail

We all kind of love watching fiascoes. Those humiliating catastrophic videos of things gone wrong, when they happen to someone else.

The blooper reel is a popular form of entertainment because we all make mistakes and can identify with the subject but we don’t want to be the star in “Things Gone Wrong At The Video Conference”.

A video conference is where you are trying to get things accomplished. In order to do this, you must keep these three things in mind:

Be prepared.

This covers all the details leading up to the beginning of the video conference. Have your material ready, check your connections and equipment to make sure they work, go to the bathroom before it starts, make sure the area will be quiet and the lighting is adequate. If you are on a device, the battery should be fully charged or plugged into a power source.

Remember they can see you.

Don’t do that business-attire-above-the-waist thing. You don’t know if you will have to get up and display your fireballs pajama bottoms to your coworkers when you need to get something. They can see you scratch what itches, too. The expressions on your face are part of the value of video conferencing but it backfires if you are rolling your eyes or smirking at another’s contributions.

Remember they can hear you.

If you are one of the cell-phone-in-the-bathroom crowd, you might think it’s OK to wear your microphone in there, so you don’t miss out on important details of the meeting. This is a bad idea, almost guaranteed to make a funny story someone tells the next day. Any side remarks, cell phone game noises, and texting taps are going to be heard. If you are joining the conference from a coffee shop or your living room, background noises are going to be picked up in your mic.