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Watch that little red dot (reprise) By David Smith on Apr 9, 2020

Video call

A few years ago I wrote this piece about the need to develop new skills to be able to present effectively to a camera. In this time when so many are working remotely, the skill is even more important than ever. It’s worth another read…

Do you dread the request to have a video Zoom, Teams, Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts Video or some other video session with a client? Many don’t feel comfortable with the medium. Talking to a camera is like talking to a dead fish. It’s also complicated by the fact that the technology often doesn’t meet its promise. Sometimes video quality can often be poor due to connectivity issues and audio can also be impacted as video chews up the available bandwidth.

Well the news is both good and bad.

The good news is that we’re going to see over time a collision of technologies that will significantly enhance the video calling experience. Imagine:

  1. Your workstation or office wall becomes a 3D (without glasses) Ultra High Definition screen equipped with high fidelity sound.
  2. You are connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN) delivering gigabit connections. Yes, you will get it one day!

All of a sudden video communications takes on broadcast TV quality as good as sitting across a table from someone.

That brings me to the bad news – once this happens it is likely that its use will explode. I suspect business travel may reduce as a result. (Of course COVID-19 has changed the game with an explosive increase in use and the death of business travel. The question for the post COVID-19 era will be whether or not these changes will be permanent).

Now many will be saying….no way. I still need to meet face to face and to a point that is true. Depending on what you read, 60% or more of human communication is non-verbal (eye contact, facial expression, posture & gestures etc). So meeting face to face is more powerful as you’re more able to pick up these nonverbal cues. This is all very well until like now with COVID-19 you have no choice. Now the question is – how do I get the most from these remote communications technologies).

However, with technology delivering much greater clarity this will surely change. Communicating with someone in 3D in ultra high definition with high fidelity sound you will be able you to pick up these nonverbal signals.

Now the really bad news is – not only will you be able to pick up these nonverbal signals so will the person you’re communicating with will too as they look at you!

So now comes the challenge. It will be a requirement that everyone in business becomes comfortable with this medium and can ensure they are effectively communicating and conveying the right impression. These skills need to be learnt. Talking to a camera is very different from talking to a person. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t start now. (in fact with COVID-19 you have no choice). Consider the following. Firstly the technology:

  1. Have you got a place that is free of background noise? This noise can be very distracting and make it hard to hear.
  2. Do you have a high-quality microphone? Lapel microphones are best. You want the sound to be as clear as possible. The further you are away from the microphone the more likely there will be an echo or lower quality of sound.
  3. What about your webcam? Built-in webcams are often fairly low quality. Higher quality webcams are high definition and can auto-adjust for lighting conditions.
  4. Have you considered lighting? Buying some video lights doesn’t cost a lot but can make a big difference. Shadows across the face or being generally dark is not a good look. Make sure you don’t have something bright behind you as that darkens your image as the camera adjusts for the light.

Secondly, consider how you’re presenting. Consider the non-verbal cues.

  1. Eye contact. The common mistake is to look at the person on your screen. You actually need to be looking at the camera. It requires practice but when you’re talking looking down the barrel of the camera it gives the impression that you’re looking at the other person. Equally when they’re talking try to focus on the camera rather than their face on the screen.
  2. Posture and gestures. Set your chair and find a comfortable position where you’re sitting straight. Sitting with one leg forward and one back can straighten you up. Be careful with gestures. Big expansive gestures don’t really cut it in the video world. If you’re like me you may need to scale it down a bit.
  3. Facial expressions. Try to be as natural a possible. Visualise that the camera is the other person sitting across the table.

Then practice makes perfect. You’ll then be ready for communicating in this COVID-19 world and the rest of that 21st century as you keep your eye on that little red dot!

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