I spend around 75% of my time online, on video, with clients either live or recorded. I've been conducting business this way ever since we came out of the financial crash in 2012 and fully expected this to continue unabated.
The percentage may increase as the world of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality comes tumbling in.
So I've made all the mistakes you can imagine, but like you, I learn from my mistakes so here are my ten tips for you.
- If it's a meetup with several people, treat it like a proper meeting and make sure you have agendas, objectives etc. and you're mindful of the timings.
- Any materials you're using – PowerPoint decks, PDFs, etc., should be easily accessible online – upload the to the software to start with or have them open on another screen. Invest in some additional meeting space by having more than one monitor. I use four simultaneously; it allows you to have multiple documents at a glance.
- You'll be sharing screens, so make sure nothing can embarrass you or distract the group. Backgrounds, programme icons or shortcuts and worse still, any programme pop-ups. Disable them all and turn off any sound notifications. Treat your desktop just like a meeting room. Remove your landline (remove batteries) and mute your mobile. Disable the front doorbell and hush your dog.
- Use a headset with built-in mike; otherwise, you'll get that awful echoing and noise distortion. Leave that to early 90's shoegazing bands. If you don't have a headset, make sure your mike is far away from the speakers as possible. Better still buy a Bluetooth headset – they cost £50.
- You need adequate lighting when appearing on video. Nothing fancy. I use a 9 LED light set up when recording to proper video, but for live video meetings, I use a three-light setup—two to the side of me shining on my face and one above the webcam.
- In a face to face meeting, you would give people eye contact, so do the same on video. It's tricky; I agree because their picture is not where your camera is. Purchase a flexible webcam holder that can position your camera just above or below where the images of your group are. That way, you can continuously look into the camera.
- Preview the video of yourself before the meeting so that your head and shoulders appear in the camera. Ideally, zoom to your head. Switch off the "follow face "function.
- Avoid fuzzy stripy clothes and be aware of what's behind you on camera. Naturally moving objects and people are a distraction, a window will kill your lighting, and a bookshelf is a bit old hat nowadays, and it doesn't make you look more intelligent.
- Have backup WiFi in case of shut down, even if you have your phone ready to toggle a WiFi zone. After all, you will be setting up 15 minutes before the start time won't you?
- And finally, you can wear what you like below your shirt or blouse but beware you may have to stand up on the odd occasion, and your Hawaiian shorts may not be the right image to give.