We’re all doing quite a bit more video conferencing with family and friends these days thanks to COVID-19. For those of us who have made our living on the internet and built our businesses through video conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype, etc. this uptick in video calls is mostly business as usual. However, for those who have spent their careers in more traditional, colocated offices, or who’ve never been on a Zoom call, being thrown into one might be a pretty new experience. Chances are you’ve been on a call with someone like this recently. For the newly initiated, here are a handful of tips and tricks to make your Zoom calls a good experience for everyone. A little bit of etiquette and sprinkle of effort can go a long way toward making video calls more natural and more enjoyable.
- When you aren't talking, mute your microphone. This makes sure any background noise or sudden noises (think doorbell) do not interrupt the call. It’s the equivalent to closing the conference room door in an office. The shortcut for muting on macOS is ⌘ + ⇧ + A.
- One person talking at a time – always. If someone else is talking, wait until they’re finished before chiming in. There may be a bit of lag between participants and muting helps ensure you don’t end up creating that awkward start-stop-start dance. These types of calls don’t really allow for side conversations – you just don’t have the ability to step away for a private conversation. If you need to side chat with someone that’s another call entirely.
- Sit still; movement is the enemy of clear audio and video. Avoid walking around with your iPad, laptop, etc. Limit otherwise distracting motion as much as possible. If you need to stand to close the rings on your Apple Watch, shut your video off.
- Position your video camera at eye level. You don’t want your family looking up your nose, at your ceiling, or down at the floor, do you?
- Test your setup before your call. There is nothing more distracting than waiting for someone to adjust their camera or figure out their audio settings.
- If you have a dedicated microphone, use it. A decent microphone can make a real difference in your audio quality. Better audio means less distractions for your audience.
- Consider your surroundings. Find a place that has good lighting (natural if possible) and has an interesting, but not too distracting background. Avoid having windows behind you. Webcams aren’t great at balancing the indoor and outdoor lighting, you may end up looking like a silhouette to your audience. Sitting near a window, with the natural lighting hitting your face is ideal. If it’s late at night, use the room with the best lighting you can find.
- For regular meetings where everyone is expected to deliver an update (say on a daily standup) establish a format for efficient handoffs between participants. i.e participant one hands off to the next person and so on.
- Wear headphones. Zoom’s noise cancelling is usually pretty good but sometimes you might get the dreaded echo from a user who isn’t using headphones and who doesn’t mute.
- Avoid the temptation of looking at yourself by using the “Hide Self View” feature. Doing so means you’ll pay more attention to the person who is speaking instead of checking your hair.
Feel free to share this post with your coworkers, parents, or whomever needs to hear this advice before your next Zoom. You'll be glad you did.