Audio and video conferencing have never been more accessible. But there’s more to a good conference call than having the right kit.
We ask the experts for their tips on how to maximise the effectiveness of a video call.
1 Find a suitable room – with good availability
“Never deploy an audio device in an open office space, because the performance will suffer,” warns Joe Casari, head of Yealink UK. “Closed environments always work best.”
“Choose your room carefully,” says Adam Feakins, head of sales and operations at Videonations. “Installing equipment in a room that always gets booked up for internal meetings will limit the availability of your conferencing system. Huddle rooms have become much more popular for quick and intuitive interaction.”
“Try to use a conference room away from the noise of the wider office suggests Anne Marie Ginn, head of video collaboration at Logitech EMEA. “Make sure that smaller ‘huddle spaces’ are equipped with a suitable video device, so video meetings can take place on the ﬂy, enabling every employee to operate at peak productivity regardless of their working location.
2 Optimise audio quality so all can be heard clearly
“Being heard clearly is fundamental to effective communication,” says Ginn. “Conference calls cannot be a successful alternative to face-to-face interaction without quality audio. Place the video conferencing device centrally, where all participants can be heard. Remove anything like laptops that can block the audio path. If you’re using a large room, consider omnidirectional extension mics to help everyone be heard clearly.”
“The outside world can easily creep into a meeting space, adding unwanted noise that distracts from your business,” warns Randall Lee, director of strategic and channel marketing at Yamaha Unified Communications. “Noises, like a buzzing air conditioner or light fixture, detract from the meeting space and can be detrimental to a conference. When selecting your conference equipment, it’s important to consider technologies that can help cancel out these noises and focus on voices in the conference.”
3 Adapt the space to make it conference-ready
“When designing new conferencing spaces, take maximum advantage of the ﬂexibility to create ‘kinder acoustic spaces so audio technology works more easily. Noise builds quickly, especially in spaces where there are a lot of dense and reﬂective surfaces. Consider acoustic panelling, curtains or even canvas or prints on walls to limit reverberations and block ambient noise from outside,” advises Lee.
4 Be aware of your environment and the impression it gives
Daniel Creigh, head of UK & Ireland at Zoom Video Communications, says this is especially important for people who work from home. “Dirty clothes in a pile, an unmade bed and so forth give the impression that you’re not a professional to be trusted with serious work. Clean up and have a simple background. A plain wall, a potted plant or a bookshelf works perfectly. Zoom provides virtual backgrounds to help disguise even the most recklessly cluttered environments.”
5 Be courteous, especially when working remotely
Yamaha’s Lee says it’s a good idea to warn conference participants if you are working remotely and have no control over your environment. “Although it’s always best to take a conference call in a quiet location, it’s not always feasible, especially if you’re on the move. Let your fellow attendees know when you’re in a less than ideal place. Acknowledging the unwanted background noise will help attendees feel more comfortable about letting you know they’re having a hard time hearing you. Try your best to find a quiet corner and utilise that mute button!”
6 Turn on your video and show yourself in the best light
“Unless your appearance or distracting, turn ON your video,” advises Creigh. “Video is crucial in building trust and engagement in virtual communications. Look at the camera. It takes a bit of getting used to, since you want to look at the other participants faces, but try to look at the camera when you’re talking.”
And make sure you get the lighting right. “Position yourself so that most of the light is coming from in front of you (behind your monitor), instead of behind you.”
For Polycom’s Ginn, camera positioning is key: “When setting up a video call, make sure you’re using a well-lit room with a neutral background, and that there’s minimal clutter. Camera positioning is critical – if a camera can’t be wall-mounted, ensure it is on a stable surface, with the lens positioned at eye-level for the most natural conferencing experience.”
“Avoid people making unwanted and distracting appearances in the background,” says Feakins. “And keep focused, as you’ll always be visible to all other participants on screen.”
7 Give mobile workers tools to communicate clearly
“Integrated laptop webcams can’t accommodate extreme changes in light and dark, so make sure you provide a suitable external webcam that has a high quality sensor to compensate for subpar lighting,” suggests Logitech’s Ginn.
Videonations’ Feakins recommends accessories for smartphones: “Remember an end point such as a portable audio-conferencing device or headset can make a world of difference to the quality of a meeting with remote workers, compared to a standard smartphone.”