Even though everyone seems to be using a video conferencing system as their preferred method of communication these days, there is still a lot of mystique around the way the systems operate. No one seems to understand how to make a call go smoothly, and the first five minutes always feel a bit like an awkward first date.
If you are dreading running your first (or fiftieth) video call because of the memories of pain endured in the past, never fear. Here are some ways you can make your call go smoother, and the first five minutes fly by pain-free.
Make Sure Your Software is Easy to Use
With video conferencing, the success is in the software. In order to avoid complications right out of the gate, make sure you are using a system that makes it easy for people to join. The best video conferencing systems allow participants to enter your conference call through the web, a mobile app, or by dialing in. Web and mobile-based joining can be done with the click of a button, and dial-in joining can be done through a dedicated number that doesn’t require entering a bunch of access codes. The first steps of your video conference should be quick and simple, with no tech support required.
Know Your Software’s Features and How to Use Them
Robust video conferencing software gives you complete control over every aspect of your call, which is wonderful if you know how to use it. Don’t let an actual conference call be the first time you familiarize yourself with all the features. Leading a video conference is nerve-racking enough without the added stress of learning how to use the system for the first time.
In the days before your call, practice using your software until you are comfortable enough to give a presentation while you run a meeting so you know you will be ready when it’s time.
Show Up at Least Five Minutes Early
Participants are likely already waiting for you by then. Being early gives you a chance to work out any kinks and start your meeting on time. If there are audio issues coming from someone else, you may have an opportunity to identify and fix it before the meeting actually begins. Let everyone know that you are there, but preparing for the meeting, not starting it.
Your call may be too large to greet everyone, but if it is small enough, do take the opportunity to make everyone feel welcome and acknowledged. Ask everyone to introduce themselves if they don’t already know each other. This task serves the purpose of an icebreaker, but it also gives everyone a chance to get familiar with the way their audio comes across.
Speaking at the beginning of the meeting lets participants know if they need to make adjustments to their microphone or volume, and it gives them practice muting and unmuting themselves.
Help Everyone Get Familiar With the Features
The last thing you need once you are deep into your meeting is to think you are sharing your screen when no one can see it. Take a moment to make sure everyone has what they need in order to see your screen, and that they know how to share their screen if necessary.
If there is time, you could also confirm they can send and receive files and messages. That way, once your meeting is officially underway, there is not a lot of stop and start to deal with issues.
Deal With Any Audio Problems
If there are any more audio issues at the beginning of your meeting, deal with them now. You may think you can deal with that tinny ring coming through the line, or that vacuum that seems to be running in the background the whole time, but just wait.
Ten minutes in, and you will be ready to put everyone permanently on mute.
Look into the Camera, Not at Yourself
You’re not that vain, but it is still difficult to not look at yourself the whole time your video is on. The problem is that this does not portray the self-confidence you want to exude. When you look at yourself, everyone else sees you looking slightly downward, which takes away the benefit of face-to-face contact.
We communicate worlds of information through our eyes, so make sure people can see them.
Almost everyone is comforted by a reassuring smile, and it also prevents what is humorously known as resting bitter face. You don’t have to convey camp counselor levels of enthusiasm—unless that’s your style—but a warm, pleasant smile will help everyone relax from the start.
Get Comfortable With Silence
If silence makes you feel awkward, it will make everyone else feel awkward too. Especially if you say it’s awkward. Get comfortable with the idea that there will be pauses and breaks in the action, especially when your call is just getting started.
Know that when you are the one in charge of a meeting, or you are presenting, things feel larger than life. Five seconds may seem like three hours for you, but it still feels like five seconds for everyone else.