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Videoconferencing do's and don'ts (with video!)

Mary K. Pratt | June 4, 2015
Here are four steps to improve your videoconferencing skills.

When it comes to videoconferencing, Daniel Post Senning would like to remind you the game is yours to win — or lose. "Your ability to handle and manage [videoconferencing] tools says something about your professional brand and who you are," says Senning, author of Emily Post's Manners in a Digital World, Living Well Online and spokesperson with The Emily Post Institute. And that includes not just your technical savvy, but your social skills as well, Senning says.

Whether you're a featured speaker or a remote participant, your behavior and demeanor on a videoconference impacts more than just your reputation. There are real business implications as well.

That's primarily because organizations of all sizes are using videoconferences more frequently, and for more varied purposes. A 2014 IDC report on videoconferencing and telepresence found an increase in the use of desktop and mobile video collaboration tools among companies of all sizes — with 44% of companies surveyed saying they currently use videoconferencing and another 42% saying they plan to begin using it either in the near or longer term. And a Gigaom Research report, "Why videoconferencing is critical to business collaboration," also from 2014, found that 87% of remote users feel more connected to their team and process when using videoconferencing.

With all that in mind, it's time to ask: Are you bringing your A game to your videoconferences? 

Senning and others say most everyone could use some tweaking to make their virtual interactions better. Whether you're hosting a virtual global meeting from a state-of-the-art corporate telepresence space or joining a Google Hangout from your laptop for a quick check-in with colleagues, here are four steps to improve your video skills ASAP.

Tip 1: Know your tools, inside and out

Nearly everyone these days has some passing experience with video, even if it's just connecting via FaceTime on an iPhone. But casual familiarity doesn't guarantee a smooth experience, especially when there are business stakes involved.

The range of corporate videoconference options is vast, ranging from telepresence rooms costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to midrange modular systems using specialized hardware to low-cost or free services like Skype, Google Hangouts or a cloud-based offering like Blue Jeans.

Whatever your company is using, as a presenter or as a participant you should take time to make sure you understand the ins and outs of the hardware, software and connectivity options used. Ideally, this knowledge check should take place sometime other than 90 seconds before the conference begins, because glitches can happen even to the best systems and the most experienced pros.

Senning regularly uses videoconferencing for meetings of all sizes. He uses various technologies, from Google Hangouts to mid-tier systems with dedicated cameras and projectors, so he's familiar with multiple systems — and with their potential for problems. In planning once to deliver a presentation from a remote location using a camera and computers, Senning tested everything in advance — with the exception of a projector he needed to transfer an image to the screen. That, of course, was the one piece that didn't work when his presentation started, forcing a last-minute rework that required the dozen or so attendants to gather around a laptop instead. Lesson learned, says Senning: Test all equipment in advance.


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