While the coronavirus pandemic has forced millions of people out of work, many are still going to their jobs each day.
But the surroundings might look much different for some who must make a transition to working from home. These professionals include teachers, salespeople, marketing experts, and custom software developers like those at BairesDev (see https://www.bairesdev.com/expertise/custom-software-development/).
In addition to creating a workspace, installing needed equipment, and figuring out how to manage kids and pets, many of these workers must learn how to use videoconferencing. This communication method isn’t hard, but it can involve a learning curve. If you’re new to videoconferencing, here are some pointers to keep in mind.
In-Person Meeting Rules Apply
Even though you’re not seeing your colleagues in person, you should still be courteous to them:
- Be on time. In fact, to be on the safe side, be a couple of minutes early. That way, you can make sure your technology is working and engage in a bit of small talk before the meeting begins. If you’re late, don’t interrupt the meeting or make excuses.
- Be prepared. As with in-person meetings, you’re not contributing if you’re not ready for the topic being discussed. Read materials the leader sends out ahead of time and do any additional research needed to help move things along.
- Pay attention. Because others can’t tell what you’re doing, it may be tempting to work on other things during the meeting. Don’t succumb to this temptation. Instead, pay attention to what’s happening in the meeting and be ready if you’re called upon to speak.
- Be mindful of others’ schedules. Start and stop at the appointed time. If you need to go longer, pause to let anyone who has another meeting leave the videoconference.
Check Your Technology
If you’re a meeting leader and you know some participants have never used an application before, set up a “practice” time to make sure there are no problems with people signing on. If you’re a participant and the leader doesn’t offer this option, ask them or someone else for a trial run.
In addition to offering a practice session, leaders should provide all the information needed to enter the meeting, including links, phone numbers, and access codes. Additionally, have a backup plan, such as an audio-only call or a Slack chat, and include information for those options too.
Both leaders and participants should use wired connections whenever possible. You can visit speedtest.net to check your internet speed. If it’s below 20 Mbps, you may have problems with audio and video quality.
Create Your Set
Since you’ll be on camera, you’ll need to create a “set,” or background for your call:
- Choose a clean, well-lit area where you can easily keep your device still.
- Wear appropriate clothing. It can be a little more casual than what you would normally wear to work but don’t get into the weekend-lounge territory.
- Frame the camera correctly. If you’re unsure how you’ll be framed during the call, activate the camera app on your device to see how you’re framed.
- Arrange not to be disturbed. Put pets and kids in another room and give other adults in the house advance warning of your upcoming meeting.
- Use a background or blur. Zoom allows you to use a background but only do so if it won’t be distracting. The same goes for the blur function on some other videoconferencing applications.
Be Seen and Heard
Keep yourself on mute when not speaking. This action prevents noise in your environment (such as kids, pets, typing, or nearby traffic) from being heard by others on the call. Just remember to unmute yourself when speaking so others can hear you.
When listening to others, watch them on your screen. When speaking, look into the camera. This method can be hard to get used to because you never really feel like you’re making eye contact. But rest assured you’re being acknowledged when you speak.
To avoid interrupting the speaker with your voice, use hand gestures to demonstrate happiness (jazz hands), support (thumbs-up), gratitude (prayer hands), etc. But don’t go overboard, as too much motion can disrupt the video feed.
Take Advantage of Special Features
Many videoconferencing applications have features like chat, screen sharing, and recording. Use them to supplement the discussion. For example, if someone mentions a website, they can paste it into the chat screen and send it to all participants. Chat is also a good place for making side comments or alerting the leader of any problems with the call.
You can use the share screen function to show presentations, documents, charts, websites, or anything else that’s helpful for getting your point across. Record the conference to get a resource for referencing anything that was said.
Working from home can take getting used to and video conferencing can help. Like any other work skill, it may take a bit of training but, by following a few simple rules, you and your team will soon get it right.