How to Prep for a Video Call

How to Prep for a Video Call

You’ve gotten accustomed to the “new normal” of frequent video calls instead of meeting in person, but every time you jump on a call, you realize you’re not as prepared as you’d like to be.

Whether it’s a misplaced external webcam, not being comfortable with the particular tech you’re using, or anything else, your new goal is to master video calls. This guide will help you gain confidence so you’re sure that every video call you make ends successfully.

Prepare the Room

At this point, you’ve seen many backgrounds while on your video calls, and they tell you a lot about the people you’re speaking with. (For example, you can tell that Jim from IT hates doing dishes as the pile of plates and bowls have cascaded out of his sink to all over his counters.) It’s important to you that your background makes you look professional, so how can you prepare the room so you’re not readjusting yourself for every call?

If possible, take your calls from the same place every time. If you’re working from an in-home office, position your webcam with the door out of view, and if possible, a window in front of your face for natural lighting. Once this is set, work on your background. Consider removing personal belongings, like wedding photos or a collection, but you don’t want things to be too sterile, either. Aim for a neutral background with as little distractions as possible, but don’t be afraid to show a little personality.

If you’re back to working in the office, try to find the quietest space possible with the best camera angle. Camera positioning is the most important aspect of preparing the room. You’ll want to aim the camera away from congested areas so there aren’t people walking around in the background if possible.

Minimize Interference

There’s nothing worse than your video call getting interrupted, except for when that interruption comes from your own home, be it a spouse “quietly” searching for something in the room you’re in, children barrelling in to find out who you’re talking to, or your neighbor’s dog barking endlessly at a delivery person.

Set up a system of alerting your family that you can’t be interrupted, such as posting a sign on the outside of your door. And be close enough to shut your windows if the outside sounds get too loud.

Dress the Part

You wouldn’t show up for a client meeting in your swim shorts if you were working from your office, so don’t show up to a video call in them either. Dress professionally, even if you’re dressing down slightly. Limit the accessories you choose to wear on your call. Jewelry can be reflective, and anything that dangles, be it a necklace or bracelet, can make a lot of noise.

And while many may joke about looking professional only from the waist up, you might not want to follow their advice. 

Limit Noise

A quality microphone will help you be heard loud and clear to other participants, but make sure there aren’t other sounds that are coming through to the meeting. Stay clear from loud environments when possible — working from a coffee shop may give you good scenery, but it doesn’t provide a great meeting environment — and remember to mute yourself when you’re not talking so any surprise sounds (incoming calls, the doorbell, you’re neighbor swearing about their lawnmower) don’t find their way into your conversation.

Know the Tech

Using new technology can wreak havoc on a video call. When people aren’t familiar with how to use the system, you can expect awkward fits and starts…that is, if the call even gets started in the first place. Before trying new tech, make sure to test it out with a peer so you’re confident that you can log in and use the software successfully.

In that same regard, come to each meeting with patience for your counterparts, just in case they’re experiencing any technical difficulties on their side.

Oh, and one of the easiest ways to prepare for a call is to double check your wifi before starting. Make sure it’s on and you’re within range. If you’re having trouble, connect directly with an ethernet cord.

As you can see, many of these steps require one-time set up for success and the rest are easy to implement for each call once you get the hang of them. There’s no need to feel insecure about being seen on video. Being “face-to-face” builds a connection so follow these steps and you’ll feel confident every time you sign in.

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Erin Ollila

Erin Ollila is a content strategist and writer who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform — and even transform — its intended audience. Reach out to her on Instagram at @ErinOllila, or visit her website erinollila.com.