Video conferencing has quickly become a primary mode of communication for many businesses, with platforms like Zoom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams seeing soaring growth in recent months.


But holding a business meeting over video—instead of in person—brings up some important concerns:


  • How do you make video meetings as engaging and lively as in-person meetings?
  • How do you put forth a professional image to clients when your team is working from home?
  • How do you overcome the inevitable technology challenges employees will have?


“The number one thing is how you keep people interested in what you’re talking about” when you’re meeting virtually, says Karen Laos, a leadership coach in San Francisco who helps clients improve their video conferencing skills. “If someone doesn’t feel connected or interested, they’re simply going to tune out.”


Here are five tips for holding more effective meetings via video conference:


1. Train employees how to use the video conferencing platform

Many video meeting issues are due to employees not fully understanding how the platform works. Laos recommends business owners and leaders host mock meetings to teach employees on how to use at least the basic features correctly. This includes the mute button (so they turn off their microphone when they’re not talking to avoid background noises disrupting the call), turning on and off video, the screen layout options, screen sharing, and private and public chat. Most video conferencing platforms offer online tutorials that can be easily shared with your team.


“A lot of this is about making your team feel comfortable, so they can focus on their presentation skills rather than the technology,” Laos says.


2. Help employees create the best backdrop 

You don’t want to be too prescriptive about how and from where your employees video conference—especially since everybody has a different situation at home. But you can provide some general guidance, such as, when possible, putting a lamp in front of them (instead of behind them) to illuminate their face and sitting with a wall close behind them. 


“It can even be a blank wall,” Laos says. “That’s better than seeing someone’s entire living room or basement behind them.”


Some video conferencing platforms now offer virtual backgrounds, which may be an OK solution when someone simply doesn’t have a good alternative. But Laos cautions that those can come off as hokey and inauthentic. “I would say it’s better to show your humanity,” she adds. “This is not the time to be absolutely perfect.”


3. Follow the usual meeting protocols

Just because your meeting is online doesn’t mean you should overlook traditional meeting best practices, like sending out an agenda beforehand. Laos recommends establishing protocols, such as determining whether team members will raise their hand over video or use the hand-raise feature on the platform to signal when they want to speak.


4. Focus on video presentation skills

Keeping video meetings lively and engaging will encourage more active participation—and prevent your team or the client from tuning out. Some basic best video presentation skills to train your team on include:

  • Looking into the camera when talking.
  • Smile when talking—and listening—to portray a friendly, engaging image.
  • Use gestures when appropriate, but make sure the people on video can actually see them
  • Moving through presentations quickly, and aim to spend no more than two minutes on each slide. 


You can practice your video meeting presentation skills by recording yourself on video, as several platforms offer recording as a feature, Laos says. Then you can play it back.


5. Use the extra features opportunely

The conferencing platforms offer many extra features to make video meetings more dynamic and interactive, including polling (for when you want to quickly gauge your team’s views on an issue), breakout rooms (for when you want a video meeting to break into subgroups) and emoji reactions. Familiarize yourself with these and incorporate them when it makes sense.


As video conferencing takes on a larger role in the business world, you’ll want to make sure you and your team become pros at it.

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