10 Video Conference Mistakes Exposed

Video Conferencing Can Bring Focus to Distributed Teams

Sign on to a video conference and suddenly the miles between you disappear. Simple as that, you’re working at the same table, just like the old days. Done well, live image streaming centers our online attention and enhances remote relationship building in a big way. According to a 2011 survey conducted by the 1080 Group for Citrix, we use video conferencing because it adds a personal touch to a web conference and it allows us to show something not easily shown from a computer screen.

Where is the value for you? 

My opinions are evolving as I expand the role of the camera in my virtual business analysis work. Having worked virtually in some capacity for nearly 10 years now without the benefit of video, I’m intrigued by what a live image can add to distributed meetings, yet cautious about the differences that remain. I’d like to share some of my observations and the adjustments I’m trying to make.

When to Use Video Conferencing Technologies

In a short time I’ve learned the value of cameras to enhance a live client demonstration and to join multiple meeting rooms. I also now opt for cameras during one-on-one collaboration.

Live Demo

The first application I encountered was a sales demonstration. It makes sense that including face-to-face conversation with remote Clients, Product Owners, or Project Sponsors would help to connect at a personal level when showing a prototype or conducting a distributed focus group. Trust-building is often hailed as the key value point of using webcams. Being able to look each other in the eye adds an important element that leads to stronger relationships and reaching agreement.

Join Multiple Meeting Rooms

Visually connecting your geographically separated meeting spaces via satellite takes dedicated equipment for a quality image and audio, but yields great rewards.  Gain local insights, deter group think, and “mine the gold” by treating each location as a facilitated breakout group. Put the full group broadcast on hold to work in local isolation for a fixed timeframe, then reconnect to the video conference session to debrief on the synergies and differences with each group’s ideas.   Synchronized activities open up participation to contributors from many locations working in concert.

 One-to-One Collaboration

Conducting a video-enabled working session with remote collaborators augments a one-to-one chat with a sense of bonding and better understanding of the emotion behind the words. Seeing each other’s visual cues is so important when sharing an assignment – anxiety, confusion, and displeasure are visible and manageable.

10 Video Conferencing Mistakes to Avoid

‘Fessing up now, it’s not always chocolates and roses for me in the virtual world. Growing pains are pretty common. Here are 10 common mistakes and how to avoid them.

  1. Assume that the enabling technology is intuitive.  When I’m depending on a webcam (or any other collaboration tools) as a critical component of virtual interaction, the last thing I want is to fumble through the interface with a live audience.  Be familiar with your tools – ‘nuff said.
  2. Skip the Practice Session.  Few revelations have shocked me more than seeing the way I really look and move on camera. Instead of being surprised, build your confidence by recording a few practice sessions and adjusting your approach with a little feedback from yourself or a trusted colleague.
  3. Don’t Prep Video Participants Ahead of Time.  Confusion about what others are seeing can divert the conversation into the mechanics of video conferencing.  Instead connect early on to make sure those to be on-camera are comfortable there before their participation is critical.
  4. Use the Camera View for All Collaboration. Presenting on camera doesn’t mean that everyone will comprehend what’s said.  Instead make an effort to use a sharing tool or collaboration space to be more productive as a group. Sometimes your virtual team needs to see more than your pretty face – intermix exhibits and props and note-taking views in your virtual agenda.
  5. Ignore My Surroundings. Clutter, background noise and other distractions directly impact the quality of my videoconference broadcast.  Instead be aware, shut out any ambient sounds that your microphone may pick up, and make sure there’s nothing that will take away your viewer’s focus.
  6. Avoid Eye Contact.  Not knowing where to look my eyes wander, making it seem that I’m disinterested in what’s going on.  Instead when you pose a question to the audience, lean in to the camera, making ‘eye contact’ and pausing.  When a participant is answering look at them through the camera’s eye. (Click here for more tips on How to Appear Engaging via a Web Cam.)
  7. Don’t Moderate the Discussion.  Just because I see everyone doesn’t mean that I no longer have to shift my facilitation approach for remote participants.  Remember your remote facilitation skills to ensure that everyone contributes in an open and thoughtful way.
  8. Disregard Visual Cues.  Becoming obsessed with the meeting process and note-taking can so occupy my mind that I don’t look at the faces. A good portion of what I had to learn about facilitating virtually had to do with adjusting for the absence of visual cues, now by adding in video I can once again see everyone’s expression and don’t have to guess.
  9. Invite Everyone to Turn Cameras On.  The value of teleconferencing decreases when I increase the number of onscreen participants.  A large number of video-enabled pods distracts from focus.  Instead switch off who is camera-enabled and take turns.
  10. Host Solo.  Managing the process and technology behind an engaging video conferenced meeting or workshop is no simple task.  Recruit a knowing partner to watch over issues of participant connectivity, switching presenters, break out room set up, polls, and so on. Then you can remain focused on the audience and the camera as your facilitator’s lens through to them.

How to Measure Success

What I strive for – for myself and for any team using video conferencing – is a smoothly functioning environment that models after professional broadcasters. In terms of performance factors, this interprets into:

  • Hosting Other Participants. Taking the leadership role during a videoconference means to share the spotlight with others, coordinating the changeover with ease, and moderating topics and presenter activities, helping everyone feel at ease on camera.
  • Tool Proficiency. Knowing your equipment and applications so well it becomes second nature and can run on instinct as you’re focused on presenting or facilitating.
  • On Camera Presence. Being at ease and confident in front of the camera [something that is not second nature to many of us]. Just as you polish a presentation, rehearse your “scenes” to truly engage with your audience once the camera is rolling.

Working with partners and using techniques to engage with others on camera we can create an exceptional setting for business analysis with distributed groups.

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  1. Ok, I just got that you need 2 people when doing this. The Host and the Assistant. So that appears to mean that like it or not I have to find “more help” if I were to try to become a Virtual BA.

  2. Charlotte DeBenedictis says

    I am a Sr. BA (12 years) Investment Banking/Brokerage field and am seeking a consulting position where I can work remotely with the occasional on-site visits. I am finding it extremely difficult to get a position. Any suggestions?.
    By the way I was in the banking industry for 25 years both in front and back office so am an SME on trade processing end-to-end. However, I don’t have the technical skills

    • That’s a tough one Charlotte, a dilemma I struggle with myself. You may find that you’ll need to start any new consulting relationship on-site in order to build relationships and trust. Over time you can assess the responsibilities you’re charged with to define those activities that can obviously occur off-site, like writing, planning, and individual interviews. Negotiate work-from-home activities on a trial basis and let your client build confidence that there’s no loss in quality or quantity. Good luck!

  3. Michelle Swoboda says

    Great insight Joan. I would add that having the participants comfortable with their picture is valuable too. I have been in video conference rooms where people will not look at the camera and visibly shrink from talking. I would talk to them prior to the session and ask how you can help them get the most out of the session.

    • Thanks for emphasizing the “hosting” responsibilities Michelle. Yes, whether your camera is capturing a roomful of people or solo participants sitting in front of their laptops, gentle guidance and attention to individual anxieties can help put your video conferences back on track.

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