Taking conference calls from home surely isn’t new but it’s been on steroids as of late due to the ongoing pandemic. With most people forced to stay indoors, many have to adjust and get comfortable real fast performing tasks usually done from an office space and instead get it done from the comfort of their homes. In this blog post, we’ll be focusing on video conferencing calls and how you can make the experience seamless so you’re fully confident in doing it no matter where you are.
Top video conferencing solutions
I figured this is the best spot to mention the background removal and replacement app that we’ve made called XSplit VCam. VCam functions as a virtual camera which essentially means it behaves like a physical webcam that you can select in other apps.
To get started, open XSplit VCam and set up your desired background (or blur whatever your background is). Then go to whatever app or tool you’d like to use it on and select it as your web camera in place of your normal webcam, and voila! everything is now in place! Here’s a short video on how to use VCam with any of the apps and solutions we’re about to mention below.
You can download VCam at xsplit.com/vcam.
There’s a lot of apps that exist but we’ll just highlight the trusted ones which most of you are probably familiar with already. Please note this is not a comprehensive list nor a review as our goal is to simply list down the most commonly-used solutions today. There’s a lot of available resources out there that do comparisons but we find this one from PCMag to be the easiest to digest.
Arguably the most popular conference call solution for both small and medium businesses today, getting started with Hangouts is as simple as having a Google account which most of us have. If you’re into Google’s ecosystem already, it just makes so much sense to use this tool right away.
Back in the day, Skype was easily the most well-known conference calling solution thanks to its relatively intuitive and straightforward interface. Since then, there have been some roadblocks here and there but Microsoft has been constantly making improvements to the app by overhauling the user interface, adding features and making logical integrations.
Like Hangouts, Zoom is one of the most popular video conferencing solutions for businesses today. It has arguably also benefitted the most from the current pandemic as it’s seen a large bump-up in its total number of active users.
What sets Zoom apart from the rest of the competition is its extensive number of features that are simply just not available to other solutions in the market.
GoToMeeting, while not as popular as other solutions mentioned above, is likewise a good option as it’s pretty capable in providing basic video conferencing needs. It’s not as feature-rich nor is the user interface as intuitive, but it’s reliable enough to get the job done.
Getting set up with any of the mentioned video conferencing solutions is about halfway through, perhaps even more. The other half is carrying out yourself well during the meeting, and we believe it can be achieved if you follow some simple but important tips that you’re about to read below.
Video conferencing tips
You can only become fully comfortable taking conference calls from home if you’re confident everything is correctly in place. So preparation is a big key here. A lot of the tips elaborated below are things that need to be done before the actual call. Remember, doing a call with your colleagues remotely is not really too different from a physical meeting so the basic principles apply.
Familiarize yourself with the tools you’re using
We mentioned all the tools/solutions above, now it’s time to get used to them. They are very similar to each other in that you can mute/unmute your microphone, present your desktop, and so on and so forth, so it really boils down to how things are arranged and how their interface looks.
Understand that you’ll likely use various functions of the tool that you’re using as the meeting progresses so familiarizing yourself with them goes a long way here.
Make yourself presentable
I know working from home gives us a lot of flexibility that is simply not attained while working from our typical corporate environment. But it still works and there’s a line that needs to be tread so you can differentiate work from home. In this case, it’s you and how you look.
Yes, XSplit VCam does the dirty work of prettying up your background so you don’t have to but the app doesn’t make yourself presentable. So go ahead, dress appropriately, make sure you look dap enough like you always strive to when working in an office space.
Have proper framing and lighting
This goes hand in hand with making yourself look presentable. While VCam’s detection is cutting edge, there’s still a big benefit in having good lighting and framing yourself properly.
You should also make sure to re-calibrate when you make changes or if you’re not satisfied with the overall look. We’ve written more tips for making the most out of VCam here.
on time early
Well, the same applies to any standard meeting but it’s especially crucial for remote ones. Being at least 10 minutes early allows you to conduct the necessary checks and ensure everything is in place and set up correctly. How many times have we endured calls where the first 5 minutes is about asking participants if they can be heard clearly and vice versa?
Coming in early also saves you from panicking in case something happens. I have been in meetings where someone arrives late, seemingly have to run 500 meters, and is huffing and puffing trying to catch a breath. Not a good look and the same is true for online meetings.
Mute yourself when not talking
Working from home means you likely have other people with you at home which makes it imperative to only let your microphone hear you when it’s your turn to talk. And even if you’re alone, your microphone is likely to easily pick up any background noise from a whirring fan beside you, to your neighbor’s dog barking, even a loud vehicle outside your apartment. These types of noise can distract your colleagues and disrupt the overall flow of your meeting.
One quick tip is to make use of keyboard shortcuts that mutes/unmutes your microphone. Almost all video conferencing services mentioned above support that in one way or another.
Make sure your colleagues have your full attention and it’s reflected during the call. A very common thing people do is ‘multitask’ during calls but not only does this come across as rude, but it’s also distracting. Remember your webcam feed is being constantly shown for the entirety of the call so anything that’s not about you reading or listening will surely be more noticeable.
Again, it’s easy to relax and think you’re doing this in the comfort of your home but that doesn’t make the call or your meeting any different from how you’d otherwise do it from your office. So pay attention and stay focused all the time, the same way you’d like people to do for you when you’re talking.
Even as someone who’s done conference calls remotely many times in the past, I can understand why it’s hard for people to just naturally get used to it. But with some practice, and applying the tips we mentioned above, getting comfortable and confident with the whole process is doable.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter. Do you have any other tips that you’d like to add to what was mentioned above? Or do you maybe disagree with some of what was mentioned? I’d like to hear it out so don’t hesitate to write in the comments section below.