What’s The Right Way To Conduct A Video Conference?

So it turns out that there are rules for how to behave during a video conference, who knew?
So it turns out that there are rules for how to behave during a video conference, who knew?
Image Credit: Sonya Green

Welcome to the 21st Century IT manager! In this fantastic highly connected world that we now find ourselves living in, more and more often we no longer have to travel long distances to participate in meetings face-to-face. Instead, through the power of technology and the internet, we can now sit down at our desk and jump into a video conference. As easy as this is to do, it turns out that in this new world, there are some new IT manager skills that have not been covered in any IT manager training that go along with being successful with our video conferences.

It’s All About The Body

One of the most important things that we need to learn to do that so many of us have not realized, is that while a video conference is going on, we need to hold off on doing any typing. What you may not realize is that your typing is very distracting for everyone else on the conference. They don’t know if you are taking notes or are working on something else and blowing the video conference off. Additionally, the sound of your typing is being picked up by your microphone and that’s going to be distracting for everyone. If you need to take notes, use paper and pencil and if you really, really have to type, click on your mute button.

One of the most important things about any conversation that we have is that eye contact is critical. It is through eye contact that you are able to build trust with the other people in the conference and you are able to communicate to them that this video conference is important to you. The problem here is that if you are looking at the other speakers on your screen, then you won’t be looking directly at them. When it’s important for you to make eye contact with the other people in the conference call, look directly into your video camera. You will appear to be looking directly at them. Try to keep your video conference window close to where your video camera is so when you are looking at the screen, it will appear as though you are looking at the other participants.

I can only speak for myself, but it seems as though I am always hungry. As hungry as a I am, even I know that a video conference is not the place for me to spend any time eating. There are a number of reasons for this. The first, of course, is that it’s distracting. You having to watch me put away a gigantic sandwich will make you forget what the meeting is all about. Likewise, you don’t want to have to listen to me try to talk with my mouth full. Additionally, most food products come wrapped in something that can cause a lot of noise as you unwrap it and that’s going to be distracting. Instead, put the food aside, conduct the conference, and then enjoy your meal.

You Need To Really Participate

One of the biggest problems with video conferences is that when we are on them, to others it looks like we are just working on our computers like we always do. This means that they will have no problems coming over to us and trying to get us involved in a conversation. If they do this, it’s going to break your concentration and be distracting to everyone else on your call. Before your video conference starts, you need to come up with a way to clearly communicate to others that you are busy. It can be as easy as taking over a conference room, closing the door to your office, or creating a hand note that says “video conference” that you can wave at people if they start coming your way.

I love group phone calls because I can walk around just about anywhere while the call is going on – including to the bathroom. However, with video conferences this is clearly something that you are not going to be able to do. Instead, if you find yourself in a situation where you have to slide away for a few minutes while the call is going on, private message someone on the call to let them know that you’ll be back and then just go. If you are running the meeting, you can call for a 5 or 10 minute break and then get things done and come back.

Sadly, while a video conference call is going on you are going to have to stay engaged. With a lot of other meetings that we go to, we can secretly do other things while the meeting is going on. However, this is not the case with video conferences. The problem is that everyone else will be able to see that your eyes are somewhere else, they’ll see that your hand and you mouse are clicking on something else, and they’ll all know that you are not paying attention. Instead, you need to sit on your hands and pay attention to your video conferencing screen. Let everyone else know that you are interested and involved in this call.

What All Of This Means For You

Video conferences have arrived and they are such a time and expense saver that they will only continue to grow in popularity over time. What this means for us as IT managers is that we need to understand that this new way of conducting meetings comes with a new set of rules for how we are supposed to behave so that we can turn these calls into IT team building opportunities.

A number of these rules deal with what we should or should not be doing with our bodies. This includes not typing while the video conference is going on because it will be distracting. We need to be careful to make eye contact during the meeting so that others will know that we are engaged. As hungry as we may be, we need to be careful to not eat during a video conference because it will be both distracting and loud. How we behave is also important. Because it can be difficult for others to realize that we are on a conference call, we need to isolate ourselves or signal to others that we are busy. We need to be careful to never leave a video conference without letting someone on the call know when we’ll be back. Finally, video conferences require us to pay attention to what is going on. We need to fully participate in the meeting and not allow ourselves to become distracted.

The good news here is that not everyone has mastered these rules of video conferencing. If you can take the time and make sure that you are following the new rules, then you’ll shine the next time that you are asked to participate in a video conference!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: If you have to leave a video conference for good half way though, what’s the best way to communicate this to the other participants?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I’m willing to bet that you’ve had a bad week before. A bad week stands out from a bad day in that it seems to be a whole collection of bad things that just keep happening to you one after another. It starts out as just one thing going wrong, and depending on just how big of a deal that is, no matter how good your IT manager skills are, things can start to go down hill. If something else bad happens the next day then the tempo for the week has unfortunately been established.