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Tag: home video conferencing

The Secret to a Successful Remote Work Experience

Here’s my #1 insight as an employee who never physically met a colleague during the pandemic.

I just left a great job where I worked with a lot of talented people. I always felt connected to those colleagues. We talked regularly, explored the creative process in real time and produced strong video storytelling together.

But I never met any of them in person. Not once.
(Well, I actually did meet one in the New York City office during my interview process right before the world shut down.)

That, of course, was due to the pandemic and some coincidental timing during this chapter in the journey of my career.

Connectivity Denied
I came on board a few weeks into the pandemic.

Like many employees during the forced separation of our Covid-19 experience, my colleagues and I worked from home and relied on the magic of technology to stay tethered.

In many ways, it was remarkably straightforward. Email and instant messaging have been in place for years as the main way to communicate in the corporate environment. So that translates perfectly into any work-from-home scenario.

Using the phone can certainly keep you connected, but the art of the phone call has been on the decline. Many people prefer not to use voice comms when tapping down their thoughts and using an emoji or two will do just fine.

But, of course, I experienced no in-person group meetings in corporate conference rooms. No one-on-ones in the same space. No water-cooler chats.

All of that in-person connection opportunity. The ton of visual communication cues. The raw physical experience. It never existed.

Initiating a video conference meeting (like Zoom, Teams or Webex) was really the only tech tool available to replace the massive gap.

The Power of Video Conferencing
It’s not like remote work and video conferencing from home never existed before. But often, there was an in-person meet-and-greet along the way.

But remote employees hired after March 2020 have been part of this unscheduled social experiment of extreme work isolation over these past fifteen months.

I was one too.

Regular webcam meetings were absolutely essential to building and maintaining my work relationships. And I’m not just talking about group video conference meetings that I hosted or attended. It’s often the impromptu chat that can make all the difference. And I believe that one-on-one conversations are most effective when you can see the other person on your computer screen.

A couple former colleagues liked to poke fun at me for my insistence at always having my webcam turned on during our meetings and impromptu conversations. That’s fine. That’s what I needed to do.

Interestingly, I ran across more than a few people who chose to never turn on their webcams. They existed to me only as disembodied voices. Some apologized for not being ‘camera ready.’

For those of you who have similar inclinations, I would say we’re all Zooming from home with limited conditions. No one lives in a professional TV studio with perfect lighting and an art-directed background.

Using a virtual background can help, but I gave up that imperfect trick months ago. I now prefer showing it like it is. My home office may appear a tad cluttered. So what? (Hey, I’m the parent of an eleven-year-old boy, and I’m the home IT guy. It’s my reality. It’s my authentic space.)

But if you feel that using a virtual background to mask ‘imperfections’ will help you to turn on your webcam, then I’d say it’s worth doing.

Can You See Me?
Call me old fashioned, but I prefer to see the people I work with. (Even projecting a photo icon helps.) Visual communication is so critical to build solid working relationships. And I think this is true for most of us.

For those people who I never got to see, I’m not here to judge their choice. I’m sure they have good reasons. (We were all struggling through a pandemic!)

That said, I must confess that I just couldn’t develop as strong a connection with those individuals as I wanted. Maybe that’s my own problem. But I do think we all need a little visual now and again to help make it real.

It Shouldn’t be a Secret
By now, I’m sure it won’t surprise you to read that my secret to a successful remote work experience…

…is to just turn on your webcam! The rest follows.

They say simply showing up is a key to success. If that’s true, then I think you’ve got to show up for your close up. It’s as easy as that.

This will apply beyond the pandemic. I’m sure video conferencing from home isn’t going away as the workplace shifts into a new post-pandemic norm.

And for those co-workers who don’t report to the same office, this best practice couldn’t be more relevant. (Lots of my former colleagues live in different cities.)

Day 1
And as I look forward, I take these important visual communication tech tips to the next chapter in my career.

I’ve got my webcam set, my lighting prepped and my audio triple checked.
(Yes, it’s important to be seen, but they’ve also got to hear you clearly!)

Testing. Testing. One… two… three.
Here we go!

My anticipation feels like the first day of school.

I love it.

Let your Hands Do the Talking on your Next Zoom

Now’s the ideal time to add your hands into your Zoom conversations. Here’s why.

If you like using your hands when you talk, communicating on Zoom and other video conferencing platforms is the perfect place to apply your style. In fact, this digital ecosystem is an ideal space to apply your non-verbal communications techniques.

I’ve talked before about the importance of using non-verbal face cues during Zoom meetings to generate maximum engagement, but your hands can also play a powerful role in effective Zoom communications.

Unleash the Power of your Hands
Any number of gestures that might feel forced or unnatural during an in-person meeting can work really nicely in the Zoom universe.

  • Giving a thumbs up
  • Raising your index finger to make a point
  • Using one hand to represent an idea or thing
  • Holding up both hands to punctuate an “either/or” explanation
  • Moving a stretched hand diagonally upward to demonstrate success
  • Waving goodbye to make a solid Zoom exit instead of just disappearing

Welcome to the Stage
Your hand gestures can either stand alone or join your spoken words to provide emphasis. You’re essentially following the same rule book as when presenting on a stage.

You may not feel like you’re walking on stage every time you join a Zoom, and many people don’t. But you shouldn’t make the same mistake.

If all the world’s a stage, then so is every Zoom.

And Zoom can be such a hands-friendly place because the medium effectively makes you a presenter every time you talk.

We are Children of TV News
This may seem counterintuitive. You’re probably more focused on Zoom draining your mojo, because you’re feeling unnaturally cramped into a tiny on-screen box.

But that box is a not-so-distant cousin to the all-mighty television screen. And for decades, we’ve been conditioned to apply significance to a singular face that’s talking at you based on the norms of TV news.

Sure, today the market is clearly oversaturated with countless YouTubers in little boxes. And your own circle of contacts might curate an additional few dozen mini faces to regularly stare at.

Open Hailing Frequencies
You may end up feeling like an anonymous face projecting yourself to an often faceless audience. How much of an impact can you really have on a pandemic-numbed and Zoom-fatigued population?

It may be difficult to believe, but for every second that you’re visible on a Zoom, you have the power to move the needle.

Using your hands properly will make you even more effective.

Amplify your Moment
To take advantage of this opportunity, you don’t need to be the official ‘presenter’ who owns the digital floor for an extended period. If you say just one sentence, your viewers will see you as the presenter in that particular moment.

The floor is yours. Use it!

And it doesn’t matter if you’re a little thumbnail image in Gallery View. Then, the movement of your hands can carry even more weight. That’s because your small image makes you more difficult to read. Your non-verbal face cues might be invisible. But a solid hand gesture is hard to miss.

Get your Hands in the Shot
I’m sure you know the importance of setting up your webcam shot to properly display your face. Now you’ve got to make sure there’s room in your Zoom box for your hands to show up.

The trick here is to reduce all of the extra headroom space you probably have in your shot. (That’s the extra area between the top of your head and the top of your shot.) Instead, you want your webcam to show off more of your midsection. That’s the area where your hands live as they rest on your desk.

This technical adjustment is usually easy to make by simply tilting your webcam. That redirects your shot down to just above your desk. Just be sure your shot is wide enough. You don’t want your webcam to cut off your head!

Practice Assertive Communications
After spending so much time on Zoom meetings, everyone should feel like they’re able to successfully contribute to the conversation. And as in any environment, you’ve got to effectively assert yourself.

Yes, that can be especially difficult to do when restricted to a Zoom box. So it’s important to use every technique at your disposal.

Sometimes the answer is to just let your hands do the talking!

How to Use Microsoft Word as a Teleprompter for your Next Zoom

This easy reformatting trick in Microsoft Word will help you present better when reading your notes during your next Zoom meeting.

It’s always important to establish eye contact with your audience if you want to create a strong connection. The same is especially true when talking via Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. And the only way to do that is to stare directly at your little webcam. That can be difficult when you’re also trying to pay attention to all of those little boxes of faces on your screen.

There’s also the reality that many of us have had to Frankenstein together more advanced work stations at home with multiple monitors, creating even more eyeline complexities.

In short, a lot of people aren’t following the best practice of looking directly at their webcams these days. If you’re even close, I think most folks on the receiving end are relatively forgiving.

Now, I’m not saying that’s okay. I’m saying that’s what I’ve seen happening. And because it’s generally become acceptable to look slightly off camera while Zooming, there’s a huge opportunity to exploit in that little space between where you should look and where your eyes are likely focusing .

Create your own Teleprompter
If you’re presenting to your Zoom audience, and you’ve got notes or perhaps a full script to read, you should position them on your screen right under your webcam to reduce the effect that you’re reading. A physical page of notes taped under your webcam can work, but I’m not talking about an analog solution. Move that Microsoft Word window up. Keep it all digital.

The closer you can get your Word doc to your webcam the better. It’s like activating your own little teleprompter. The result will be remarkably close to the appearance that you’re effortlessly talking to your audience and not reading your script. And because your audience has been conditioned to seeing others look off screen, they likely won’t notice your visual trick.

Don’t Let your Eyes Ruin your Illusion
That said, they will see you reading your notes if your Word window is still at its normal width. Your eyes will clearly be moving left to right and from line to line. (Then, the jig will be up!)

You need to make your Word window thinner… only 8-10 words across to correct the problem.

But then how are you supposed to see a complete line of your script if only part of it is now visible?

Here’s the fix:

Use Web Layout
Change the view in Word from Print Layout to Web Layout.

Once you do that, you can shrink the width of your page, and the text will automatically wrap to fit your thinner Word window.

Then, all you need to do is scroll down the page using your mouse or trackpad as you’re reading.

Congratulations, you’ve effectively created your personal teleprompter!

How to Adjust the Default Settings
Here are the easy steps to make the change to your Word doc:


On Word’s top menu bar, click on View from the Home menu.


On the left, you’ll see Print Layout and Web Layout. Click Web Layout.


Then, click on Zoom to adjust the size of your text so you can easily read it.

That’s it!

 

Advanced Tip: Minimize the Ribbon
To get your notes even closer to your webcam, collapse Word’s top ribbon.

On a Mac, press Command + Option + R.
On a PC, press Control + F1.

Another Tool for your Virtual World
Living life on Zoom during these many pandemic months has been draining for all of us. Reformatting Microsoft Word to serve as your pseudo-teleprompter is one way to make your Zoom presentations a lot easier.

 

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