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Sarasota Friday, Apr. 3, 2020 11 months ago

Tips for successful videoconferencing

Having trouble getting used to working from home? We can help.
by: Harry Sayer Staff Writer

Everyone is working from home now, and it's something we're all getting used to. Although the idea of sitting at a screen to speak with your co-workers seems casual, there are easy ways to mess up. Here's a few tricks on how to be your most professional, even from home. 

Do - Find a fun background! It'll liven up that daily meeting without showing your dimly-lit apartment

1. Watch your background.

Your living space says a lot about you, so think about what you have behind you during a call with your co-workers. I like a "Star Wars" action figure collection — complete with bounty hunter Dengar — as much as the next guy, but it might not be the best backdrop as you discuss important work issues. And if your workspace is a little drab, why not make your own background with one of these? 

2.  Mute your microphone/cellphone/surroundings. 

You’ve probably picked up on this by now, but video conferencing isn’t good for people talking over one another; it all gets muddled real fast. The way I look at it is the person actively speaking is the person with talking privileges, and the rest of the group needs to stay absolutely silent. That silence extends to your cellphones, your gadgets and your surroundings. No one needs to hear your cellphone going off, the dog barking next door or your drunk neighbor having a midlife crisis. Bring a sense of zen to these stressful times.

Don't: Dress Casually. Dress up right, you'll feel better.

3. Dress appropriately.

This is a gimme, but staying at home is not an excuse to dress like a bum. You don’t have to dress up to the nines, but try to look professional when interacting with your work mates. A good button down shirt is good for guys, rather than a T-shirt or Hawaiian look that makes it seem like you aren't taking things seriously. It should provide some structure to your day as well, and I think we all need that these days.

4. Don’t FaceTime out of the blue.

You know what’s uniquely annoying? Getting a FaceTime call you weren’t expecting. I can’t even tell you why. Maybe it’s being dragged into an interaction where someone can see your whole face — it’s kind of rude! So yeah, don’t do that. Text someone before a FaceTime call, so they can get comfortable before answering. 

Don't: Get distracted during the call. You don't want to be the person not paying attention.

5. Don’t be distracted.

I know that meetings can be long and sometimes boring, but remember to be respectful with your posture and actions as well as your words. Your co-workers will all be staring at a screen, and you’re going to be one of the few things they fixate on. You don’t want to be fidgeting or spinning in your chair and distracting the group from the speaker. Or worse, be caught checking your phone or playing video games.

6. Keep your roommates away.

Every day there is someone, somewhere, giving a presentation from home that’s interrupted by someone stumbling into the frame behind them.

It might be your significant other who loves you dearly but didn’t realize he or she was supposed to wear pants that morning. It might be your crappy roommate Brad, who drinks the milk straight from the carton and decides to do so right in front of your computer camera. Don’t let your co-workers learn about Brad. Make sure people living with you know that you have a meeting, so they’ll stay away. 

Don't: Allow your pets to disrupt the call. Yes the laptop is warm, but that doesn't mean they should jump on your laptop.

7. Watch out for your pets

Yes, I know that our pets are thrilled we’re at home more often, but that doesn’t mean they should join your meeting. Be it a cat who loves jumping on counters and walking on your laptop to your dog who can’t stop barking because he loves you so much, make sure your pets are safely away from your work space. Your boss is on a conference call with you, not Mr. Whiskers.

Harry Sayer is the Black Tie Reporter for the Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and previously worked the Black Tie beat for the Observer newspaper in Winter Park and Maitland. You can catch him at one of Sarasota's fundraisers and shindigs. 

See All Articles by Harry

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