Skillfully Participating in Video Call – by Peggy Bud

COVID-19 and Social Distancing have changed how we do business. We are no longer gathering in Board rooms, having face-to-face meetings or large conferences in convention centers. We are now meeting ‘live’ via video-conferencing. We speak to our colleagues, clients and customers over a variety of platforms. Professional conferences are being scheduled on-line. This change has occurred almost overnight.

“Is everyone ready?” Do we all have the skills, knowledge and confidence to effectively communicate via video conferencing? Will we be able to build the same connections and forge strong relationships via video versus a face to face connection?

To gain a better understanding of the skills required to successfully and effectively conduct business through video conferencing, I called my friend Rebecca Surran, a former News 12 Connecticut award winning TV news anchor and now the Managing Director of Authenticity TV +Video.

Shifting from face to face meetings to on-line video conference calls, Becky made a very insightful analogy. Moving from the Board room to on-line communication is like an actor going from performing to a live audience and now performing in a television studio. I found this to be an ah-ha moment!

She explained there are two factors to consider. How do I look?  How do I sound? Most of us, when planning a meeting, sales call, or conversation with a colleague, focus on ‘what we are going to say.’ My motto ‘It’s more than what you say; it’s how you say it’ is most applicable. Understanding the key attributes to effective communication is even more important than ever.

How do you look?

Video calls are professional meetings. They are now being attended through video conferencing. Dress like you would if you were NOT working remotely. Many people have shifted their mind-set to ‘I’m working remotely’ therefore ‘I don’t have to get dressed.’  If participating in a video call, then you DO need to dress like you were going to work. Remember it takes only a few seconds to make a first impression.

How do you look to the listener?  Are you looking into the camera? Are you at eye level with the camera? Adjust your camera or your computer to ensure you are not looking up or down, but directly into the camera. You might have to raise your laptop or use an external camera. I discovered my camera was in the lower left-hand corner of my laptop. I got an external camera to ensure I could look directly into the lens.

Can the listener see you? Have you analyzed the lighting in your ‘home-office?’ One big mistake is too much natural light in your room. If your back is to a window, you’ll appear in a shadow. In this case, either choose a new location or try using a shade or screen to block it. To ensure your face is well lit, try placing a lamp in front of you.

What’s going on behind you? That’s what the listener sees and may become a distraction. You want the listener paying attention to what you are saying, not trying to read the book titles on your bookshelf, appreciate the art on your wall or imagine who the people are in the photos. Organize your clutter; reduce as many distractions as possible. This is the best way to ensure your listener will be focusing on you not what’s going on behind you.

Many of us feel exhausted after a video call. Becky helped me understand why. When on a video call it is important to keep as still as possible. When sitting in a meeting, we are usually moving around in our chair; we are all a bit ADD. We may get up to get a cup of coffee. Yet, when appearing on a small screen, you don’t get a lot of ‘real estate’ so even the slightest hand gesture can appear exaggerated. It’s also important to maintain a neutral but pleasant facial expression. Look at the speaker, smile if appropriate, nod or even frown if you are in disagreement.

When we communicate in person, we get immediate feedback, verbal and non-verbal. During a video conversation, it is more difficult to get the same type of feedback. One reason is when you look into the camera you really aren’t looking at the person, although the person feels like you are. This creates a disconnect.

 How do you sound?

Check to see which of your microphones sounds better; the mic on your earbuds, your computer or other device. You want to be heard, but you don’t want to be screaming. Your voice should be clear; distorted audio will immediately detract from your message. Also be aware there may be lags with your audio, so your intended message may not be the one that is delivered.  Bad connections, which can cause faces to freeze and words to sound distorted, can easily cause the listener to get misinformation or incomplete information.

When people are talking over others or interrupting, it impacts the conversation. Come up with a method to let others know you have something to say; raise your hand, nod, look like you are ready to jump in. Then use active listening to ensure the conversation is continuing. Use transition words such as In addition; I want to add; Another point; A new idea and paraphrase the key idea. These are strategies to use to demonstrate you understood what has been said. 

Your words are only 7% of a message. That means how you sound is very important. Make sure you are not speaking too rapidly. Use a confident tone; don’t yell OR whisper. Use facial expressions to help you get your ideas across. Over video, it is more difficult and often distracting to use your hands.

To quote George Bernard Shaw, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion it has taken place.” Video conferencing is a new skill for many people and can create unforeseen problems during important meetings. Perfecting your skills will only happen with practice; be aware of how you look and how you sound. Begin by remembering to look directly into the camera when speaking and to look at the speaker when listening. Video conferencing isn’t going to go away so keep practicing! If you want professional coaching, please contact me, Peggy Bud.

About Peggy Bud: Peggy is a Communication Coach, Trainer and Speaker. She coaches and trains clients on how to Skillfully Participate on a Video Call by using her knowledge of the cognitive-neuroscience of language. She teaches clients Effective Communication strategies and techniques; enhancing written and oral communication, developing listening skills, creating concise and powerful resumes and memorable elevator pitches. Clients come from a variety of industries (medical, legal, financial, insurance, engineering, and education). She has spoken at National Conferences, Women’s Summits, Rotary Clubs and Libraries. She can be reached at  Visit her website:

Author: Steve Eschbach

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