There is no doubt that Covid-19 has massively accelerated the use of virtual meetings, online presentations, video-conferencing and webinars. And to be honest this is not a bad thing. It’s kinder for people (reduces travel time) and kinder for the planet (reduces travel pollution). So with many of us now working from home, there’s never been a better time to master the craft of successful video presentations.
In this article you’ll learn:
- The silent art of on-screen gravitas
- 7 virtual meeting etiquette essentials
The Silent Art of On-Screen Gravitas
It’s important to know how to present effectively via video call or conference, but before you start – appearance matters. It’s why successful video presenters know that the impression they make starts even before they utter their first word. So, it’s important to dress ‘as you wish to impress’. This is especially true with so many of us working from home. The most common mistake we see is people dressing for the environment (e.g. morning bed-hair, sloppy lounge wear, just-popped-in-from-the-garden wear … you get my drift).
How you look to your audience is a critical first filter. Selecting appropriate attire is step one in establishing your on-screen gravitas. To get this right, think about your audience. With an internal meeting, you’re probably ok with smart casual, but if you’re presenting to a client you’ll need to dial this up. Oh, and just because the camera only shows your top half, don’t think you can get away with wearing PJs on the bottom half! You never know if you’ll need to stand up to answer the door or unexpectedly tend to a child.
Some other tips: be aware that striped shirts don’t work well on camera, and that shiny or dangly jewellery can be visually distracting.
So, dress as you wish to be perceived – but that’s not all. Here are some important online meeting etiquette guidelines we should all be aware of. Get these right and these will help your online confidence, effectiveness and reputation.
Seven Video Conferencing and Virtual Meeting Etiquette Essentials
When you jump into an online meeting or presentation, it’s immediately obvious who’s comfortable and confident presenting in a virtual environment. But learning to look and sound like a video-conferencing pro isn’t hard when you know how. Here are 7 tech-etiquettes for you to be aware of for your next online meeting:
1.Dress your set specifically for video conferencing
Just like how you dress yourself, so you should carefully consider how you ’dress your set’, in other words your environment or background. A pile of clothes or an unmade bed clearly isn’t an ideal background in business. Also, be conscious of background photos or personal items as these will certainly divert the attention of your audience. Finally, check the background when your camera is on to make sure you don’t have a lampshade or plants growing out of your head.
To play it safe choose a neutral background, or if this isn’t possible use the virtual background setting to blur your background to help to create a more professional setting.
2. LIGHTS, camera, action you’re on a video conference!
That’s right – lights! Lighting is so important and often neglected on a video-conference or in an online meeting. It’s a courtesy to your audience to appear in the best light (pun intended). Natural light is the most flattering but make sure you’re not sitting with a window behind you because all your audience will see is a blobby silhouette. The trick is to make sure the room overall is well lit and that there is a soft spotlight on your face. Good overhead lights and a suitable desk lamp can work. Or you can buy an adjustable light panel or a ring light. These are cheap, easy to set up and reliable.
3. Love the camera
Another rookie mistake we see is that people talk to the images of their audience on their screen rather than to the camera – which is actually their audience. As a result, their eye connection appears weak and they look disengaged. It does take some effort but if you want to look like a video-conferencing pro, practise speaking to the camera. A way of simply testing the impact this makes is to record a meeting (just click the record button the next time you present online) and see the difference this makes.
Whilst we’re on the subject of your camera, make sure this is at eye level. If you need to, put your computer on a pile of books, or lower your chair. Getting your camera position right is important because too many times we see off-putting nose poses i.e. looking up the presenter’s nostrils (because the camera is below the presenter’s eye level) or revealing shirt shots – need we say more? (because the camera is above their eye level).
Love the camera, and the audience is more likely to like you.
4. Sound quality
nearly all tech comes with an in-built camera and microphone. And while laptops are fine on their own, headsets, earbuds, and air pods project your voice much better. They also have the advantage of diffusing or dumbing down background noise. Which leads us to surround sound…
Surround sound – but not the unwanted kind. Don’t forget that background noise can be extremely distracting for the audience, and probably for you also. Where possible choose a location where you can block out background noise. If this isn’t possible, plan your meeting times to avoid as much as possible noises from kids, pets, the washing machine etc.
And don’t forget attendee noise too. There’s nothing more disruptive than having unexpected interruptions from others on the call. So, if appropriate, select the “mute all attendees” on your video conferencing software and accept questions with a Hands Up or via the chat box.
5. Make your movement matter
Be aware that flappy gestures, fiddling with a pen, playing with your hair, scratching your nose – and the like, will divert people’s attention away from what you’re trying to communicate. So use gestures deliberately, either to help explain an idea or concept, or to emphasise a key message. Gestures used in the right way can help maintain the attention of the audience because they show enthusiasm and conviction – which can be infectious (in a good way!)
6. Keep your presentation focused
Keep your focus on one or two main ideas, and plan meetings for no more than 45 minutes. Too many ideas over too long a timeframe tends to dilute attendee focus and attention. If you need to present over a longer timeframe then virtual meetings best practice suggests thirty-minute sessions with short breaks in between.
In addition succinct and engaging slides are proven to increase message impact and also audience retention. So, if you’re communicating big data ideas, less is more. We’ve written a dedicated article on the best data visualisation methods to retain audience attention. If the devil really is in the detail, send a pre-pack for people to read and digest before the video-conference or online meeting. We promise it’s a far more efficient and effective use of everyone’s time.
7. See? Hear!
Is the meeting video and audio, or just audio? This is my personal bugbear. There’s nothing more annoying (and a waste of time) than getting dressed up and ‘made up’ for what you think is going to be a Video-Conference only to discover that it’s going to be a Tele-Conference call only. To avoid frustrating your audience, make sure you make it clear in the meeting invite what the protocol is going to be.
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Written By Belinda Huckle
Co-Founder & Managing DirectorRead Bio
Belinda is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of SecondNature International. With a determination to drive a paradigm shift in the delivery of presentation skills training both In-Person and Online, she is a strong advocate of a more personal and sustainable presentation skills training methodology.
Belinda believes that people don’t have to change who they are to be the presenter they want to be. So she developed a coaching approach that harnesses people’s unique personality to build their own authentic presentation style and personal brand.
She has helped to transform the presentation skills of people around the world in an A-Z of organisations including Amazon, BBC, Brother, BT, CocaCola, DHL, EE, ESRI, IpsosMORI, Heineken, MARS Inc., Moody’s, Moonpig, Nationwide, Pfizer, Publicis Groupe, Roche, Savills, Triumph and Walmart – to name just a few.