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Videoconferencing Think Before You Link

March 15, 1999
Related Topics: Featured Article
Here's a warning if you're going to be in a videoconference meeting: Don't let the sight of yourself shock you. If you haven't seen yourself on video, or haven't done so lately, be aware that the sudden image of yourself on the monitor can be mesmerizing or shocking. Before the conference, give yourself a rehearsal, using either the videoconference equipment the meeting will use or a home video camera.

Here are some suggestions from Communispond for putting your best face forward at the videoconference:

Rehearse in advance.
If your videoconference debut is an important job interview or presentation, a rehearsal is even more critical. You'll be able to practice getting your message clear and concise, and your delivery confident and smooth. Furthermore, you'll be able to see and correct posture, mannerisms and facial expressions that may be getting in the way of making your best impression

Be still.
At your regular staff meetings you may be accustomed to engaging in side discussions, interrupting the person who is speaking, tapping your pen on the table, and shifting your position. These are all no-no's at the videoconference. The microphone is very sensitive and will pick up your off-handed comment to your neighbor at the table, the sound of your knuckles cracking, and the shuffling of your feet. Any movements you make when someone else is speaking will grab attention away from the person who is speaking.

Adjust your pace.
When it's your turn to talk, speak clearly and make a deliberate pause after each thought. Although the sound quality of videoconferencing equipment is good, for technical reasons there is a slight delay between your speaking the words and the listeners on the other end hearing them. A little pause after each expressed thought, and a longer pause between you and the next person to speak will prevent overlapping that might cause listeners to miss what is being said.

Maintain your distance.
In a face-to-face meeting it feels natural to lean forward toward your listeners to draw them in to what you are saying. On camera, such leaning looks like lunging and may make you seem aggressive. To the viewers on the other end, it will appear that you are coming on too strong. Any shifts in your bearing will be exaggerated by the camera. Sit straight in your chair, and don't lean forward or back when you are speaking, but maintain a consistent distance from the camera.

Tone down your body language.
In live meetings and presentations, big, bold gestures convey conviction and intensity. On camera such moves come across as herky- jerky. For the videoconference, talking with your hands should be confined to slower and smaller movements.

Simplify the visual aids.
If you're using visual aids, take particular care to make them easy to see and read. Off-white paper is best, because of the glare problems with stark white. If your visuals include bullet points, there should be no more than four lines on each page, and no more than four words on each line. It's important to tell viewers what they are seeing before you start talking about what it means.

Choreograph the event.
The basic rules of running a good meeting are more critical when the participants are at distant locations. Send out the agenda in advance, and clarify the objectives and time frames for each item. Get the people on your side together for a planning session to decide who is going to talk about what, and who will be the host or moderator. The moderator should introduce each participant, and their names should also be clearly printed on tent cards in front of them. At the end of the meeting, the moderator should summarize what has been discussed and decided, and make sure everyone knows what has been agreed on, what the next action steps are, and when the group will be convened again.

Dress for success.
The camera sees white shirts and shiny jewelry as glaring. Bright reds, bold plaids, and busy prints don't project well either. Black clothes make faces look overexposed. Bulky and baggy outfits can make you look much heavier on screen than you do in real life. Take your cue from television anchor people: light blue instead of white shirts, solid ties, quiet colors, clear rather than tinted eyeglasses, subtle jewelry and tailored styles.

SOURCE: Tom Hill, Communispond, New York City, February 4, 1999. Phone: 800/529-5925.

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