7 steps for an effective video-conferencing policy

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Much like public speaking, the very idea of video conferencing can fill us with anxiety. Any number of things can go unexpectedly awry, leaving attendees dreading what should be a quick and easy experience.

Video conferencing isn’t going away any time soon, especially with the popularity of video-enabled smartphones and tablets. Used in business, medicine, education, and media, video conferencing not only helps connect us to people around the world, it provides a green solution for interviewing long distance job candidates, conferencing with colleagues, or keeping tabs on a classroom.

Most woes about video conferencing can be solved with the simple edict of practice, practice, practice. Here are seven more tips to get your company happy and enthusiastic about video conferencing.

1. Know your system. This cannot be understated — there is nothing more frustrating, embarrassing or unprofessional than having to wait fourteen minutes to start a meeting because no one figured out they didn’t have the right cables to hook up the web cam. Have your system, whether it be a high-definition desktop application or a simple smartphone web chat, set up beforehand, and give it a test run at least 24 hours in advance. Know how your webcam works, what kind of login you need for the videoconferencing software, how loud the sound system is, and if your firewall or security software will conflict. Have this all settled in advance so you can jump right into it.

2. Test connections ahead of time. This is a bit of a reiteration of Know Your System, but it’s important enough to merit its own number. What kind of connections do you have available? 3G? Fiber Internet? Speed is important, but not nearly as important as having a connection that isn’t going to stall out on you. Astronauts in space are still using Windows XP because it’s a solid system they know won’t fail on them. Be like the astronauts and opt for a simpler, but more solid and dependable connection.

3. Look the part: Video conferencing can make anywhere part of the public arena, even the living room, so make it professional. Dress as you would were you in the office, clean up the background where your video conference will take place, and make sure there is sufficient lighting. Make sure you won’t be sitting too close, or too far away. Reduce background glare and, even more importantly, background distractions. Mute cellphones, turn off music, make sure your cats or kids won’t interrupt (just hand them an iPad). Likewise, if you’ll need to refer to documents or details during the meeting, have those open and ready to go when the conference begins.

4. Have a trial run. Heck, have three – the more you run through the process, the less nervous you’ll be when it’s actually go time. If you’ll have multiple employees appearing in video conferences, type up a few beginners tips to pass out, and include them in the trial run as well. If you’re using a system that requires participants to create a login or dial-in, skipping this step will guarantee confused emails the day of your meeting asking how to get on the call.

5. Pay attention. Give the video conference your full attention. That means no texting in your lap or opening up web browsers instead of looking at the meeting attendants. While you’re speaking, look into the web camera as though it were the eyes of the person you’re speaking to. When it’s not your turn to speak, look at the window that displays meeting attendees. It may help to email an outline to attendees beforehand in order to keep the conference on track — video conferencing is best when kept short and to the point anyhow.

6. Work around weaknesses. One of the biggest issues with video conferencing is the delay between participants replies; it is quite easy to cut off other speakers or have a jumbled discussion with everyone speaking at once, as there may be some delay between when someone starts speaking and when it reaches your screen. Allow time for replies and speak clearly. Also, be aware that even if you have a high-def solution set up, the person you’re video conferencing with may not. Some systems get grainy when they attempt to process quick movement (blame the slow refresh rate), so try not to fidget. If you’re using a smartphone or cellphone, find a sturdy stand to avoid shakiness.

7. Take advantage of strengths. Low refresh rates and poor sound quality aside, video conferences do allow you to share documents and information over the Internet, and have other added bonuses like recording. There are several pieces of software available that do this, and many conferencing clients will provide such a service if needed. Likewise, video conferencing has come a long way in the security realm. Users who need a more secure setting now have options such as meeting in a virtual room with a moderator, requiring PINs or moderator approval to join the discussion, and data encryption for information that is being shared during the conference.

Video conference image via ShutterStock