I just returned from a European conference for the Association of Briefing Program Managers (ABPM) held in Paris. Hosted by Salesforce, the event offered a spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower. I mention that because what you see influences your experience—I’ll explain more in a bit.
Many of the people in attendance work on global teams.
If you’ve ever had to build relationships with colleagues or customers around the world, you know that distance and cultural disparities can pose significant challenges.
Ideally, you’d meet in person but that’s not always feasible—at least not as often as you’d like. Budgets and schedules make it difficult to manage meetings with multiple team members in different countries and time zones.
What happens instead? The dreaded conference call.And that means multi-tasking, poor connections, accidental muting, and dogs barking. I’ve even heard a toilet flush.
There’s a video that’s been around for years that still makes me laugh. A Conference Call in Real Life hilariously shows just how excruciatingly awkward these calls can be.
There’s one sorely underutilized tool, however, that dramatically improves virtual communication: video!Short of meeting in-person, I believe it’s the best way to boost productivity and build stronger relationships.
When people have their cameras turned on, a lot less multi-tasking takes place. The bigger benefit is that you build stronger connections with people when you can see their facial expressions and body language.
I hosted a call a few months ago with five members of our European team. Four people had their cameras on and one didn’t. It’s not hyperbole when I say it was almost as if the fifth person weren’t there.
My interactions with the four people I could see were so much more productive and memorable. And I’d venture to guess they felt similarly.
Everyone loves being on camera, right? Well, not exactly. Being on camera can initially make people feel self-conscious. People’s fears that their cameras will turn on without their knowledge is so great that some will use band aids, post-its, and even socks to cover them.
If the idea of being on camera or participating in a video call makes you feel self-conscious, there are things you can do to increase your comfort and confidence.
Here are 3 things you can do to make video calls more effective and enjoyable.1) Use a good High Definition camera to look your best.
There are very good inexpensive HD cameras available on the market today and they’re typically better quality than cameras built into computers. It’s a worthwhile investment, especially if you plan on participating in or running a lot of video calls.
Once you have the camera installed, test it.
Don’t wait until “game time” to see if it works as it should. Plus, testing has the added benefit of building your comfort in seeing yourself on-screen and using it as the communication tool it has the potential to be.
2) Look at the camera, and not at your computer, to make eye contact.
I advocate video because it's the next best thing to face-to-face communication. When you talk to others, eye contact is essential to forging a strong connection. Make sure people can see your eyes!
In one virtual meeting I attended, the person presenting had their camera on but stared at their computer screen the entire time. It had the same effect as if someone were looking at their phone while talking “at” me.
Because I only saw the top of their head the entire time, video was more of a distraction than a help.
3) Control your environment, even your appearance.
First, since many of us travel, there are times when we have to take calls from a hotel room. In these cases, pay for faster Internet access if it’s an option. Free access isn't as reliable or capable.
Second, be aware of what your camera will pick up in the background. Will someone see an unmade bed behind you? A pile of dirty clothes? A pleasing photograph? A crowd of people? Be aware of your surroundings and set the stage appropriately.
Third, plan what you’ll wear. Dress as if you were meeting in person. Think about how your clothes will appear on camera. Will they still look appropriate and professional if you need to bend over or stand up during the meeting?
Avoid loud patterns, big logos, and bright colors. These can be distracting and even difficult for cameras to pick up and broadcast well.
Finally, ensure you won’t be interrupted. While this recent BBC interview made the world laugh when the interviewee’s kids came into view, people and pets in the background can be disruptive and even diminish your credibility in the eyes of others.
Video is a powerful communication and relationship-building tool when used effectively.And anyone can get comfortable using it. The more you do it, the more confident you’ll feel and the less self-conscious you’ll be.
In just a short period of time, you’ll experience for yourself how productive, and even transformative, video can be when it comes to communicating virtually and building stronger relationships with others.
Want to learn more? For tips on how to prepare for your virtual meetings, read 8 Ways to Take the Pain Out of Virtual Meetings. Then, download one of our most popular whitepapers: Best Practices for Virtual Presentations.
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