How to have a good video conference meeting

  • Describe some of the challenges around video conferencing
  • Explain why it suits some people more
  • Identify some tricks to use in videoconferencing

Visual, Vocal. Verbal.

We choose our medium of communication for many reasons: cost, convenience, confidence.

And sometimes the medium dictates the method. When we have a choice of medium this is often dependent on habit and personal preference.

Introverts email people in the next room. Paranoids are scared of “committing anything to writing”. Some phone addicts think it’s the only way to communicate.

People choose ways of communicating that they feel most comfortable with, even if they are not most effective.

Essentially, we all communicate through three media: written text (emails and letters), vocal voice (phone) and face-to-face. The information then is verbal (words only); vocal (words plus voice) and visual (voice plus body language). The question is, what do the extra-signals add? 

Is it easier to detect emotions over the phone or face-to-face? Why are lawyers so keen on letters and young people prefer the phone? 

The paradox of video conferencing is precisely that it is face-to-face or talking heads.

You can not see hands and lower torso for those tell-tale signs of anxiety: twitching, rubbing and wringing. You can not see much about how they are dressed, and you can not easily pick up small audible or olfactory cues. 

Eye gaze patterns, which are so important, can be unusual and unnatural. If you use the screen to look at your interlocuter in the eye, which is natural, it may appear that you are not really looking at the person.

Perhaps you should look into the camera which looks more natural to the receiver but feels odd.

Watch the screen and you notice how close some people are to their computer/camera and are therefore very large in the picture. Also, some appear to be looking down on you in a sort of dominating way.  This might be intentional, and it can have an important impact on the message.

So in the interview, if the asset manager, or indeed client, sits too close to the camera which s/he looks down at (as opposed to eye-to-eye), he or she may come across as dictatorial and authoritarian

Compare the amateur with the professional, not in what they say but how “the set” is arranged. It makes a difference. Lighting is important: it can illuminate or obscure. 

Also, the feeling, and indeed the reality, of distance is important. You can feel physically threatened by an angry interviewer; intimidated by a big person or one who sits too close. The online interview can make you feel more confident.

Presenters know about the power of feedback, both verbal and visual. You can tell quite quickly ‘how you are coming across’. Are they interested, sceptical, distracted?

The more the people on a video call, the smaller their image and if they are on mute, the less valuable the feedback that you are likely to get.