Video has become an integral part of our daily lives. We have cameras with us just about everywhere — in conference rooms, at our desks, on our notebooks and on our smartphones.

Interestingly though, while many people think nothing of engaging in video chats with friends or family members on Facetime or Facebook Messenger, they freeze up when it comes to participating in video conferences at work.

I was recently on a call where the company had mandated that all staff members turn on video for all meetings. Some employees turned on their cameras — and then pointed them toward the wall. One woman printed out a picture of herself that she liked and held it up to the camera — for the entire meeting. The lengths that people will go to not be on video at work are sometimes pretty astonishing.

So, how can you take the stress out of video conferencing and help keep people from freaking out about using video for business or work?

To start with: Emphasize the positive aspects of video conferencing. You need to help your coworkers realize that video is no different (or worse) than attending a meeting in person. It helps if participants understand that they will often be able get things done quicker using video, rather than just audio.

The Eyes Have It

Video’s chief timesaver is that it provides visual cues.

The leaders of a meeting can see when people get distracted. That’s not possible with traditional conference calls. With audio, you don’t know if someone is fussing with his phone or if another participant is busily responding to her email.

People will naturally pay more attention when on a video conference because they know they can be seen. And when team members do get distracted (because they still will), leaders can help bring wayward attendees immediately back into the conversation.

Plus, you can also tell more readily if people understand the information being conveyed. Are they nodding in agreement? Are they furrowing their brows in confusion? These nonverbal communication cues help the group, and particularly the meeting’s leaders, make more efficient use of the time allotted.

Finally, video conferences let participants share content more easily with the entire group. There’s no waiting for people to open PDFs in email or asking if everyone is on the same page. All the participants see the same info on their screens simultaneously.

Granted, we’re talking about small amounts of time — a minute here, a few seconds there. But that time adds up, especially when you start to think about the amount of time that organizations set aside for meetings — each day, week and month. At the end of a year, all those minutes not spent in meetings equal real-time savings — time those employees can instead spend getting work done.

A Video Conference Checklist

Often, it’s just a matter of practice: Get a few video conferences under everyone’s belts, and the idea will start to seem less foreign. Even so, some users will still get nervous. To calm those nerves, here are a few tips you can share:

  • First, take a look at yourself in the self-view window. Whether you have a camera attached to your desktop computer or you’re using a notebook with a built-in camera, adjust the angle of the camera or the device so the camera captures an image that is as close to eye level as possible. Once you’ve done that, remind yourself that you look fine and turn off the camera until the meeting starts.
  • Make sure there’s adequate lighting. As a rule, more light will work better than less. You may need to turn on the lights in even a bright office. But you also might need to pull the blinds, if there’s too much sunlight streaming in right behind you. As with getting the right angle, you will need to adjust the camera to manage the light so your face looks natural.
  • Mind how you appear on camera. If you think your office looks cluttered or if there is something in the background that you feel looks unprofessional, give your space a quick clean-up.
  • Make smart clothing choices. Finally, avoid clothing with stripes or complex patterns because they tend to create blurry or distracting images. Solid colors, other than white, look best on camera.

One last item: Don’t forget to provide basic how-to instructions for your users. The technology for launching video conferences — no matter the device — keeps getting simpler. Make sure you share that information with everyone in the organization so they don’t feel that video conferences are an “IT thing.”

Want to speak the language of video conferencing? Then check out another post by James Adams: “Top 10 Must-Know Video Conferencing Vocabulary Terms.”

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