Technology Advisor Blog



Videoconferencing from Home - What you need to know

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 4/8/20 10:58 AM

Videoconference

Many workers are taking business meetings from their living rooms or kitchens these days due to the Coronavirus pandemic.  Non-essential businesses were ordered to close, and encouraged to continue operations remotely when possible.  Many small businesses have gotten very creative to find new ways to operate and survive the crisis.   
 
Traditional telephone conversations and email enable workers to conduct business remotely, but only with limited collaboration. Video communication, on the other hand, makes it possible for you to talk directly with the people who matter most without missing all of those non-verbal cues that mean so much. With videoconferencing, you can enjoy the benefits of face-to-face interaction, no matter how far away you may be.  Beyond the productivity enhancements, video also helps satisfy the social interaction many workers start to crave when working from home.

Here's what you need to know about video conferencing:

What you need: 

There are may popular business tools for remote meetings such as Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, Zoom, and more.  At Ekaru we use GoToMeeting because it's integrated with our phone system, but there are many other choices.  The person who hosts the meeting will need the application, and the other participants can join without purchasing anything.  You'll also need a camera and microphone (or headset).  Most modern laptops have a camera and microphone built in already.  All participants also have the option to dial into a phone number as well.  If you have a desktop computer, you can get an inexpensive webcam with built-in microphone.  These are very easy to install.  

Dress Appropriately:
It's usually appropriate to dress a bit more comfortably when working from home, but don't over do it.  It may be fun to joke about working in your PJs, but it doesn't signal a professional work ethic.  Maintain your company's culture and dress code, and tailor your appearance for the person you're working with.  A check in call with co-workers is pretty different from a sales presentation to a prospective customer.
 
Get over your fear of being on camera:
Video calls work best when everyone gets on.  If you're not used to being on video calls, it can be intimidating to be on camera, but the calls work much better when there's full participation.  You'll have the opportunity to preview your video before sharing.  Also, learn how to quickly mute your video should you ever need to.  It's ok to be awkward on your first few calls.  Give it some time and you'll be more comfortable.
 
Lighting:
Experiment a bit with lighting to look your best.  You'll always be able to preview what you look like before connecting, and continue to view while you're on the call.  Watch for too much saturation with direct sunlight, and too little lighting which just looks depressing.  You'll want good lighting to be able to see facial expressions.
 
Arrange an appropriate background:
If you have space in your home for a home office, that certainly makes it a lot easier to find a place to join a video call.  But if you don't have the space, and have to juggle multiple people working from home, its ok to use another location - maybe a kitchen table or sofa.  If you work from a bedroom, adjust your camera to keep the bed out of view.  Also, make sure the background isn't too distracting and put away personal items that may be embarrassing.  During the current crisis, its ok if your background looks like a home, and sometimes the personal touch leads to some new connections like meeting a pet.  Try to set up in a area where other family members won't be caught by surprise on camera.  It's a good idea to let others know in advance that you'll be on a video call.
 
Make introductions:
Anyone joining the call should introduce themselves.  In the event that some people can't connect by video, its important that they announce themselves when joining the call.  A good rule of thumb is to follow the etiquette you'd follow if you're all in the same room.  It would be pretty awkward for someone to sneak in to a conference room, hide in the corner, and secretly listen to a meeting.  That's the equivalent of joining a call and not introducing yourself.
 
Limit your distractions:
Remember you're on camera, and its just as rude to be checking your phone or email while someone else is talking as it would be in an in-person meeting.  I like to make sure my own video is always showing on my screen so I always remember I'm on camera.  It's very disrespectful to not give the person talking your full attention.
 
Know how to mute (fast!) and end the meeting:
A good rule of thumb is all users should be on mute except when they're speaking.  This will cut down on background noise.  I've been on calls when a participant picked up a call phone call and started talking to another person, oblivious to the fact that everyone else on the call could hear.  (Note that the host can mute a participate if needed).  If an emergency comes up, get familiar with both the audio AND video mute button.  Also, at the end of the meeting, be sure to fully exit.  This is especially important for the host!  You won't want to be sharing your video and desktop for the rest of the day!
 
Security:
Zoom usage has spiked twenty-fold in the past weeks, and many security concerns have been in the news, including a warning from the FBI. If you use Zoom, use unique meeting codes, a password to protect the meeting, and don't record the meeting.  We also recommend covering your camera when not in use.
 
We're all wired to adapt.  For those of us who have jobs that can continue remotely, this is a blessing, and make the most of it.  Get creative and try to be your best every day.  

Topics: small business, Managed Services, remote work

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