Secrets behind a productive, informative video conference

Wednesday, May 15 2013

The best video conferencing software can transform any presentation into a fantastic whirlwind of accessible information, but the technology is only as good as the people who wield it. An incorrect approach can ruin the best-laid plans, so if you want to create, organize and implement a successful video conference, check out some of the following steps.

Test your equipment and systems at least an hour beforehand
This should go without saying - mechanical failure is the bane of any presenter, but if you catch a problem early enough, you'll likely be able to fix it. Arrive no later than an hour before your conference to ensure that every cable and projector works as expected.

Check the room to ensure proper lighting
Even the best cameras can function poorly in dim lighting, and unless you want to hook up a night-vision scope to your laptop, you must ensure that your presentation room has adequate lighting. It is never a bad idea to carry a few portable spotlights with you just in case, but in a pinch, you can open and adjust blinds to ensure the room has enough natural light.

Neutral is better when it comes to fashion
Everyone loves to dress to impress, but if you have hundreds of virtual attendees at your meeting, you should dress down to avoid becoming a distraction. It might sound silly, but bright colors might bother some viewers. According to Northwestern University's Information Technology department, neutral colors like black, grey, white and beige are your best options.

Inform your audience of your location
When you begin your presentation, state your name, title and location clearly so your remote viewers know where you are broadcasting from. Then, you can welcome groups from different geographic areas.

For example - "My name is Chris, and I am the marketing coordinator for ABC corporation, broadcasting to you live from Albuquerque. I would like to welcome our New York-based viewers, hailing all the way from the Big Apple!"

Look into the camera and annunciate clearly
During a video conference, it is your ultimate task to give the audience an impression that you are standing in the room with them. The best way to accomplish this is through slow, steady speech patterns that will convey a sense of professionalism and authority. What's more, you should look into the camera as much as possible - this will create the illusion that you are speaking to each attendee specifically and heighten the overall sense of engagement.

Consider multiple cameras and a video operator
While your virtual meeting will not have the angles and staff of a newsroom, you can at least vary your viewers' experiences by switching cameras periodically during a presentation. If you set up a few different pieces of equipment, you'll be able to communicate that much more effectively. For instance, if you had three cameras, you could point one at the projector screen, another at your side profile and the third at a close-up of your face. A handheld device can be used to switch between feeds, or you can hire a production assistant to take care of the leg work.

Don't forget to mute when listening to audience questions
If you are entertaining a live audience, be sure to mute your microphone if you answer a question. A spectator's voice can rebound off the walls and create an echo in your microphone, and this feedback can cause confusion in remote attendees. In addition, if you rustle or cough or make a sudden sound, this could drown out a question or startle any unsuspecting listeners.

The best video conferencing technology carries incredible communication potential, but only if you use it properly.