Making the most out of your video conference when working remotely

March 20, 2020
One of the biggest challenges presented by working from home is communication. Emails are great for many applications, but it isn't always as effective has an in-person meeting. Video conference calls are one way to close that distance and bring you closer to your fellow employees, no matter where they are. Check out our guide to making the most out of your video conference when working remotely!

Two people on a video conference call while working from home.

Why use video conference?

Any business owner will tell you that one of the most important aspects of running a company is communication. It's easy to do when Jack from Marketing is in the office next to you, but when your employees and coworkers are dozens, sometimes hundreds, of miles away, it can be difficult. 

Email is great for sending information, but there will always be something missing from text-based communications. We can't hear the tiny inflections of tone in someone's voice and we don't see the expressions on their face. Humans are social creatures, and all of these cues are just as important to the way receive a message as the words themselves

Standard phone calls close the distance a little more. You can pick up on vocal patterns and it makes the conversation seem a little more real. However, there is still a puzzle piece missing. 

Video chat or video conference calls check many of the boxes required for effective communication. You can see who you're speaking to and hear the tone of their voice. Of course, it may be a little unnatural at first - we seldom sit two feet apart from one another during a conversation. However, having those extra bits of information can go a long way to making sure the message is clear. 

Apart from business communications, video chat has become one of the primary ways we communicate with one another. Whether you're checking in on relatives who live in another city or just chatting with your friends, this technology has connected us like never before.

Popular video conference services

While the concept of video chat has been around for a while, it hasn't been a practical solution for very long. Most people didn't have webcams, internet service providers didn't provide the necessary bandwidth, and the software was in its infancy. 

Today, almost everyone has a camera, high-speed internet is everywhere, and there are plenty of high-quality platforms a business can use to connect, such as: These are just a few, but there are dozens to choose from. Your company may already have a subscription to one of these platforms, so ask your IT department to get an account set up before you begin working remotely. 

How to make the most out of your video conference call

Make sure your hardware is adequate

First things first. Before you can use a video chat service, you need to make sure you have the proper equipment

Computer system requirements. This refers to the power and performance your computer is capable of. Streaming live video can demand a lot of your computer, and so it's important to have an adequate CPU, enough RAM, and a good network card. 

Webcam. Most laptops and phones come standard with webcams these days. However, it's important to make sure that it's properly set up. If your laptop doesn't have a webcam, or if you have a desktop without one, it isn't expensive to get a decent one. While some services support 4K video, this is far from necessary. A camera with a resolution of 1280x720 (720p) is perfectly fine. 

Internet connection. Using the internet for voice calls doesn't take much bandwidth, and it doesn't take a super fast connection to send cat pictures to your coworkers, either. Streaming video, however, requires a lot. That having been said, most services will adjust your video quality (i.e. your resolution and frame rate) to accomodate slower connections. 

However, having grainy, choppy videos can undermine the purpose of a video call. The better the quality, the easier it is to pick up on those details that make chatting face to face helpful. 

Preparing for your video conference

When hopping on a call with a coworker business partner, it's important to treat the interaction as though you were meeting in an office. There are of course some elements beyond your control, but paying attention to the following can ensure that your message gets across as intended. 

Limit distractions. Sometimes, the benefits of a video call can also become a downside. While you might not be able to see your coworker's cat playing over the phone, you certainly can through video. That's why one of the most important steps to take is removing as many potential distractions.

Mind your surroundings. It's common for people to worry about their surroundings when using video chat. While you certainly don't want to show off a messy room, it's not necessary to have a blank, spotless background. Simply try to find an area in your house that you're comfortable having others see.

You don't need to worry about finding a place without family photos and you don't need to move your trophies, diplomas, or kid's drawings off the wall. In fact, these items add an extra little bit of personality to the call, which can be important human touch.

That having been said, it is important to make sure your surroundings aren't too distracting. Make sure to mute any devices, silence cell phones, and turn off TVs and radios. You may have personal items that you want to keep private, so make sure to find a place for those things that are out of frame before starting the call. 

Find the best lighting. Finding a place that has decent lighting can be important to the quality of the video conference. Unlike high-quality cameras, most webcams don't function exceptionally well in low-light settings. The picture can become dark or grainy if the shadows are too prominent or if there isn't enough light. 

Natural lighting from windows can be a perfect light source, but it's important to make sure the sunlight isn't directly shining into the camera. If it's dark outside, a normal overhead light source or a lamp will do just fine. Whatever you have at your disposal, the point is to make sure that your face is lit well enough to make your facial expressions clear to those on the other end.  

Dress the part. What you wear when participating in a video conference call will depend a lot on who you're talking to and what sort of policy your company has. Most of the time, it's acceptable to dress more casually than you do at work. However, you probably shouldn't wear pajamas! 

If you're speaking to someone outside the company, such as a client, you may consider putting on something more formal (at least on your top-half). 

Considerations while on your video call

In addition to the other tips above, there are a few extra things you can do to make sure you, and the others on call with you, have a good video conference experience.

Make sure to mute your microphone if you aren't talking. This can cut down on the background noise and make communication more clear. Also, it can help cut down on data usage if that is a concern.

Try to avoid talking over one another. This might mean giving an extra few seconds for people to finish a thought, especially because sometimes there are connectivity or latency issues. 

Most of all, just be mindful of one another's circumstances. Internet can have hiccups, kids may shout, dogs may bark - these are all things we do our best to limit, but there will always be situations we can't avoid. 

by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Specialist at Germania Insurance.