Getting the Most Out of Video Conference Software; When to Use It, Pro Tips

As those of us fortunate enough to still have jobs rely on video conferencing platforms for meetings, experts and fast-learning newbies offer tips on how to present yourself in these virtual settings. Not surprisingly, the mute feature figures prominently.

Getting the most video conference

The mute button—not a moot point for hosts

If you’re the meeting host, mute everyone upon entry to the meeting. That way, you don’t have to referee everyone talking at once.

Evil grin bonus tip for hosts: you can also mute individual participants.

For participants, too much sound is a turnoff. With a nod to the 1970s television series “All in the Family,” stifle yourself. If the host hasn’t already muted you, mute yourself.

When you want to speak up

In Zoom, if you’re muted and want to speak a few words you can: use the little blue hand icon to virtually raise your hand to ask to be called on. To interrupt, press and hold the space bar to turn on your mic. When you release the space bar, your mic will return to being muted. Unless, of course, the host mutes you first.

Chiming off. Especially if this is a big group, consider turning off the chime that dings every time someone joins the meeting—unless you’re waiting for one key person to join.

If you’re the host, get online early

Then, stand by to answer questions via other channels such as phone, email, and social media. Remember, there will be newbies dialing in or clicking in for the first time who may have problems. You’ll be able to resolve issues before your official meeting start. When the call ends, don’t sign off until the last person leaves.

Bonus tip for hosts: don’t start a private conversation with one of the participants at the end of the meeting. Begin a separate call. You never know—someone else could be lingering on the video conference.

Keep up appearances

Make sure your webcam is at or above eye level because you will look more natural. You’ll also look better if you sit back a little from the webcam instead of sitting right on top of it. If your workspace is your kitchen table and the background is last night’s dishes in the sink, take advantage of virtual backgrounds offered by video conferencing software.

One Zoom pro hangs sarongs to hide her china cabinet in the background. If you’re fortunate enough to have a home office, set up your space to show a personal and professional background.

Bonus pro tip: if you’re really tech savvy, try downloading a picture of the Oval Office to use as background. Let us know how it works out.

Dress for success

You want to look professional. But don’t overdo it. One Zoom newbie dressed up for her first meeting, including shoes. Heads up: the camera doesn’t show your feet. Her next meeting, she skipped the shoes but added more makeup.

Bonus pro tip: some videoconferencing software, including Zoom, allows you to activate a filter to touch up your appearance. The feature won’t give you a facelift or subtract 50 pounds, but you will look subtly—and believably—better.

Lighten up

Your light source should be in front, not behind. But direct sunshine may be too much.

Quality zigzagging as you Zoom? If your internet connection isn’t great, the quality of your meeting may go in and out. Trouble shoot by turning off your video and using only audio because audio requires less bandwidth.

Keep crashers out

Sadly, hackers are using the boom in video conference calls to bomb meetings with obscene, racist, and annoying content and graphics. The FBI has tips on how to keep out party crashers:

  • Do not make meetings or classrooms public. In Zoom, there are two options to make a meeting private: require a meeting password or use the waiting room feature and control the admittance of guests.
  • Do not share a link to a teleconference or classroom on an unrestricted publicly available social media post. Provide the link directly and only to specific people.
  • Manage screensharing options. In Zoom, change screensharing to “Host Only.”
  • Ensure users are using the updated version of remote access/meeting applications. In January 2020, Zoom updated their software. In their security update, the teleconference software provider added passwords by default for meetings and disabled the ability to randomly scan for meetings to join.

Lastly, ensure that your organization’s telework policy or guide addresses requirements for physical and information security.


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