How to Switch to Virtual Video Calls During the Coronavirus

Have many of your meetings turned to virtual video calls during the coronavirus panic? As we adjust our businesses to stay safe and well, there are things to consider and body language tips to use on virtual calls. If you would rather watch a video than read a blog, here is the video:

What do you need to know to go virtual with your meetings?

  1. Pick a service to use. There is Zoom, Free Conference Call, Skype, etc. Many are even free, but check their limitations (especially on the free versions). Look for information on how many can be on the call, length of call, scheduling calls, international numbers etc.
  2. Check with your IT department BEFORE spending any money. Your company may already have purchased an account or there may be certain firewalls or other considerations which will make one service better for you than another.
  3. Take the tutorials! When you decide on what to use, learn as much as you can and make sure you have others on the call learn how to use it too. The host particularly needs to understand how to launch the meeting, mute and un-mute people, record, watch the chat box, etc. Learn how to share screens and change hosts if you will need to do that. How do participants raise their hand to indicate they have a comment? Every service is different and just because you know one service, does not mean you’ll easily adapt to something else.
  4. After the basic tutorial, check out all the bells and whistles! Some services have white boards you can write or type on during the meeting just like in your conference room. Some of them will let people chat privately in break out rooms.
  5. Check with your legal department. Are there any disclaimers or nondisclosure documents you must send to all? Are there restrictions on recording the call?
  6. Share the tutorials or create a decorum document that is sent to all the participants. Many a meeting has spiraled down and out because participants didn’t check to see if their computer set up will work with the system.

What should be in your virtual video decorum/protocol document?

  1. Specific requirements for the video service you chose. Do you need to have a certain version of windows or use a certain browser (Chrome over Explorer or something) for greater success?
  2. Links to tutorials or create one yourself. Most people will be more apt to watch if a co-worker takes them through it. Simply record a quick “how to” of specifically what they will need to know. Start from where they find the link to sign on, to audio and video, chat box, etc.
  3. Use of headphones. Do you expect everyone to be on headphones? Will the discussion be private in nature and you need to make certain other ears do not hear? If so, check the headsets ahead of time to make certain you can hear clearly. Sometimes blue tooth headsets don’t work as well. Is the microphone attached going to make you clear enough?
  4. Bandwidth. What type of wi-fi signal do you need for maximum success. The more people on the call, generally the better your wi-fi needs to be. (One tip- muting all participants helps and sometimes you may need to take off their video if the connection goes wonky.)
  5. Background/location. Is this a call with clients? Remember you are making an impression with a messy office or poor lighting. You probably want to avoid doing the call from your vehicle or in a noisy coffee shop. Keep your background simple and your light source in front of you for the most success. If video calls will be a consistent occurrence, perhaps invest in screens which can even have company branding on them!
  6. Noise. Are there extra phones which need to be silenced? Are workers at home and need to think about pets interrupting?
  7. Facilitation. will the host ask people to comment, or will they simply start speaking? Do they need to raise their hand to add to the conversation? Can people have side chats in the chat box or no? Think through all the video calls you’ve been on and if it was an issue, address it in the document.
  8. Phone vs. computer. Is it acceptable to be on the call using the video on a phone or only the computer? Is it okay to be listening with no video on? (You know if they don’t have the video on, they are trying to do other tasks during the meeting…)

Body Language on the Video Call

Use these body language tips and include any you think relevant in the protocol document for virtual video calls. Want to watch instead? Check out this other video.

  1. Sit back from your screen. Don’t be a talking head! Your facial expressions will be scrutinized if you are too close. Microfacial expressions of doubt or disgust will be amplified! You want to be able to give as many body language signals as you can and lessen the focus on only your face.
  2. Position your computer to your advantage. If you need to use a cell phone, purchase a stand to keep your phone from falling over. Your arm will become tired from holding it and you will find it difficult to keep from being a talking head!
  3. Gesture! Let the participants see your gestures. We have a difficult time trusting people when we can’t see them. Hiding your hands is equated to hiding information. Try to keep your gestures in the screen so it isn’t just fingertips popping in and out.
  4. Connect your gestures to your spine. This means you must continue to breathe and not stiffen up. When you stop your gestures connecting to your posture shifts, people have a hard time trusting you. Need an example? Watch this video.
  5. Energy. You will need a little more energy and animation for video calls because you are going from 3-D (you) to 2-D (you) on the other screens. This flattens out energy and expressions a bit.
  6. Keep a pleasant face when you aren’t talking. It is key to remember someone is ALWAYS looking at you! If there are more than a couple people on the call, you may not see all the people at once. You don’t know who can see you and who can’t. Try to keep your face positive by thinking good thoughts about the person speaking. It is very easy to “check out” or start having resting *&%! face.
  7. Eye contact. This can be difficult in video calls. Do you look at the screen or the camera? This is one reason sitting back will help. You obviously can’t keep true eye contact. Do what feels comfortable to you. The more important thing is to be consistent with your focus. If you are looking all over the place or your eyes are darting around, this will be distracting and will be perceived as you are less prepared or intelligent on the topic.
  8. Observe the body language of others. Active listening is critical to video call success. Since body language tends to be muted on video calls, watch making wrong assumptions about people’s interest or other emotions. Remember tip #1. If you are seeing primarily face, any frown could be read as more anger than is true.

Other tips for virtual video calls:

  1. Set expectations at the top of the meeting. If you sent out a protocol document, review the most important parts because you know not everyone will have read it. Review the agenda, time allotted, introduce participants on the call, etc. just as you would a normal meeting.
  2. Review the next steps at the end of the meeting. You won’t have a clear indication of who was really listening or taking notes during the call. Therefore, it is more important to review the action steps, next meeting date and expectations at the conclusion of the call. Written meeting minutes or the recording with specific parts to review should follow up the call.
  3. If you are making training or workshops virtual, explore all the ways to use the service to keep the meeting interactive. Add polls, games, videos, smaller chats in the virtual rooms, etc. You will probably have to rework your usual workshop. If you typically use role play, for example, how will you achieve this in the virtual setting? Are there videos or on-line content you can have the participants do ahead of time? Can you have them complete surveys or other informational activities to learn more about them?

Virtual video calls can be a good alternative to in-person meetings and training if enough thought and preparation are completed ahead of time.

Moving Image Consulting is here to help you with your virtual meetings and to train your teams on how to be perceived in the best way possible when going virtual! You CAN still look like you in someone’s computer screen if you know how! Check out all our videos on the Moving Image Consulting YouTube channel, visit our website and call us at 630-234-1392.