Remember to shower before your next video conference

Tearsa Coates is the newest author to the Meetings Improved Blog. She is a Senior Client Decision Manager at Decision Lens. Enjoy her first of many posts!

One of our colleagues, Jared, is leaving the Arlington office to join our West Coast team.  Although we are all excited about his new adventure, it won’t be the same here without him.  Jared has a wry sense of humor, which can only be fully appreciated when accompanied by his facial expressions.  Which is why I’m campaigning hard for him to attend future internal meetings via video conference rather than teleconference.

But Jared’s sense of humor isn’t the only reason that I’m politicking for video conferencing.  It is generally accepted that about 80 percent of communication consists of non-verbal cues.  Being able to read expressions of joy, confusion, hesitancy, agreement, and frustration enhances our ability to understand each other, saving time and preventing errors.  Further, research from Forbes (The Case for Face-to Face) shows that people actually look forward to multitasking during teleconferences, hindering their focus on the discussion.  So, “dialing in” may actually compromise the efficiency of business.  Finally, in this economic environment, it’s difficult to justify the expense of traveling cross-country for routine meetings.  (Check out Polycom’s Video ROI calculator.)  ConsidBest Practices in Video conferencingering all this, you can see why I’d surmise that video conferencing is the next-best thing to meeting in-person.

Now, as a professional facilitator, Jared is king of the teleconference.  But a video conference is not just a teleconference with a camera.  There are a few unique annoyances that one must prepare for.  So I drummed up this short list of tips for Jared to keep in mind.

1.    You’re Not Talking, But We’re Still Watching

Unfortunately, buddy, you’ve just lost your ability to surf the web, daydream, or scratch anything above your knee during a call.  When it’s not your turn to speak, it’s normal to drift off a bit.  But because there will be so little on the screen besides you, every move that you make unrelated to the meeting will be more pronounced.  (This especially includes reading email, as there is something eerie about watching someone’s eyes darting back and forth across the screen.)  So sit up straight, look straight ahead, and keep your hands folded on your lap.  It’s for the good of the team.

2.    Break Down and Use the Headset

Yes, I know you will look like a telesales rep and probably muss your hair.  But, to date, this archaic device still yields far better sound quality than its sexier cousin, the Bluetooth.  If you rely on the computer microphone to pick up your voice, the team will have to cram around one laptop to hear you.  That would be selfish.

3.    Mind The Gap

There may be a slight video delay during our calls, making your status updates seem as if they are being dubbed from another language.  Try shutting down concurrently running programs that eat up bandwidth.  (This will also help with Tip #1.)  And don’t forget to pause regularly so we can catch up to you.  I promise to personally repeat any jokes that fall flat on your end due to poor timing.

Despite these minor disadvantages, I am convinced that videoconferencing will keep us all connected and help us to remember that there is a real person on the line.  But, if all fails, I’ve built a solid case for why Jared should hop on a plane and visit us every once in a while.

Best of luck, Jared!