Working from home is here to stay. Looking at working patterns across the globe, one in six companies only employ remote workers with no office-based staff at all. What’s more, over half of global companies are now hybrid, with a significant proportion of staff working remotely. At least 50% of workers around the world claim to work from home at least once a week, too.
If you’re new to remote working, you’ll quickly find it requires a different skill set, even if you are taking home a job that you know well. Video meetings and client calls are often the hardest things to get used to. They are quite different from their in-person equivalent, with a different atmosphere and a special etiquette required.
Here, we offer some advice that will properly equip you to look and feel confident when video conferencing from day one.
- Know your tech inside out and back to front
By now, we’ve probably all been in meetings where the first few minutes were spent incredibly awkwardly. Someone hasn’t worked out how to turn their camera on, another requires lip reading since their microphone isn’t working, and everyone else is shouting out, “We can’t hear you!” and “We can’t see you!”
If you have new, unfamiliar tech or a crucial meeting coming up, we always recommend you learn to use your equipment almost automatically, to the point you barely have to think about which buttons to press and where they are.
Doing so will mean you can focus on the people you are talking to from the very moment they appear on your screen.
- Work hard at looking natural
Unfortunately, it’s much easier to come across as unnatural or rigid on a video call.
There are good reasons for this. With people occupying such a small space on your screen, it’s very difficult to spot all the small but vital social cues they are giving out. With just the head and shoulders visible, a lot of positive body language is missed. Some psychologists say that 90% of social cues are lost, especially when there are multiple faces on screen.
You are working very hard to spot this missing information about people’s attitudes and feelings that you would normally passively absorb during an in-person meeting. This means your own posture and body language change. Your shoulders tense and your eyes are set to scrutinize the screen. In turn, this is making you harder to read for everyone else.
Knowing that you might appear more awkward than usual is half the battle won. Work hard on looking at the camera when speaking to give the illusion that you are directing eye contact at your audience. Check how your body language might appear using the small image of yourself, although not too often. Be conscious of smiling and looking open.
One other simple tip that will help others “read” you better is to make sure your camera is at your natural eye level. You can therefore avoid peering down at people, which can appear rude as well as being unflattering. More on how to look your best next.
- Flatter yourself
You’re at home, so it’s tempting to pull on your casual clothes. However, for best impressions, it’s always good to make it look like you’ve made an effort. A smart top or shirt and tie, groomed hair, plus the same level of makeup you might wear to the office will make you look and feel more professional.
Pick a well-lit spot to work in. Natural light is the most flattering, but if you can’t make that work in your home, then consider some small clip-on lights for your desktop to illuminate your face.
Keep backgrounds unfussy and neutral. Plain walls are best and the fewer personal items on show, the better. You would much prefer for your colleague and client to be listening to what you have to say than be checking out the books on your shelves or your taste in art.
- Keep small talk to a minimum
All the lighthearted, fun chat that is part of office life is difficult to translate to a virtual environment. This is partly because of the lost body language we discussed above, and partly because even the best tech has the slightest of delays. As all the best comics know, comedy is all about perfect timing. Sadly, any quick-witted one liners that might normally have people rolling around in stitches will have zero effect here.
So, try to keep small talk minimal. Exchange pleasantries at the beginning and end of your conversation, but try to keep focused on business as much as possible.
- Learn the art of voice modulation
Voice modulation is all about controlling the strength, pitch and timbre of your voice for effect. It’s a very familiar skill for public speakers, television presenters, and actors.
We all vary our voices naturally. For instance, consider how your voice goes up in pitch at the end of a question. Learning voice modulation gives you more conscious control over your voice. In a virtual environment, where body language is partially lost, using your voice to get your message across is especially important.
The basics of voice modulation include emphasizing key words and your final point to make sure your message is clear. Exaggerated pauses are vital on video calls, too, as they give a chance for everyone to keep apace, despite the inevitable delay. Varying volume and pace keep an audience engaged as well.
Any changes to your normal speaking voice should be subtle, however. Going too far with voice modulation can seem unnatural.
Where to get additional help with these skills
If you are interested in learning more about body language and voice modulation, then you should consider taking a course in media training in Dubai. Skills learned here have a whole range of applications. You’ll learn how to present yourself publicly, both in person and on camera. You’ll be trained to appear less self-conscious and nervous and to speak clearly and concisely to a range of audience types.
These skills will have a big impact on your career long-term as well as improving your video-conferencing skills in the short term. You’ll feel better equipped to attend and even present at virtual networking events, conferences and seminars. You’ll be more confident in pitching to clients and stakeholders, and attending job interviews. Any investment in your online presentation skills is a wise one.
Hisham Wyne is an award-winning copywriter, brand consultant and content creator based in Dubai. He has over a decade’s experience in helping brands get their messages right. From crisp web copy and zippy brochures to in-depth company profiles and analytical annual reports, Hisham makes words work for you – so you can sell better, gain visibility, and give your brand a unique voice.
During his time in the Middle East, Hisham has collaborated extensively with blue-chip companies including Twitter, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Harley-Davidson and Aston Martin, and helped government concerns such as the Dubai Internet City, in5 and the Dubai Design District.