7 things you should be doing to ace your Zoom video calls

During the era of social distancing, many of us have had to quickly adjust to many things, including working entirely remotely for perhaps the first time in your life. Remote work brings about a lot of changes: establishing an “at-home office“, setting your own schedule, and no pesky commute.

When offices around the country closed down in March, many wondered when they would see their coworkers again. Enter the Zoom video call. Depending on your business, you may have to hop on a video call at least once a day. If you have questions on how to act on a video call, don’t worry you’re not alone. Ladders spoke with Tim Ihlefeld, President and CEO of Harqen, an interviewing software company, to find out what professionals should be doing during video calls in order to remain professional.

7 tips for smooth video calls

1. Test your technology

Ihlefeld recommends logging on to whatever platform you are using for the video call at least five minutes beforehand. You should validate the link and make sure your technology, like your camera, microphone and WiFi, are working.

2. Dress exactly as you normally would if this meeting was in person

While you might be tempted to dress down for a call that you make from your bedroom, Ihlefeld advises against that.

“When you’re on a video meeting, video conference, whether it’s for an interview or for a meeting, you are conducting business,” Ihlefeld said.

You should present yourself the exact same way that you would if this meeting was taking place in a conference room. Before a meeting, you should get up, , take a shower, brush your hair, put on appropriate business attire, and proceed accordingly.

If you have a video interview, you should dress up just the same as you would if the interview was in person

The need to wear a tie or a jacket for a regular business meetings…nobody’s doing that. That’s not what’s required,”  Ihlefeld said. “However, if it were an interview, I certainly would advise people to do that, because you want to present your best self and part of that is dressing the part.”

3. Look at the other people on the screen

For many people, this is the first time you have had to use video calls in the workplace.

Don’t get too hung up on where you look during your video call, but  Ihlefeld advises you not to look directly at yourself or at the camera.

In fact,  Ihlefeld advises that you minimize yourself on your computer, or make your video as small as possible on the screen.

“If you look at yourself, you can get distracted,” Ihlefeld said. “All you’re thinking is ‘Oh look at my hair,’ or ‘My shirt is wrinkled.'”

Next thing you know, you’re trying to fix yourself while on the video call, and that looks weird to others.

You should be looking to the people on the other side of the call, at the middle of the screen, if possible.

4. Conduct yourself exactly as you would if this was an in-person meeting

When it comes to how best to act during a video call, Ihlefeld recommends acting exactly as you would during a regular in-person meeting.

If you usually take notes during meetings, you should continue to keep a pen and paper in front of you during your video call. If you have questions to pose during that meeting, come prepared with those.

Speaking during a video conference call can be intimidating, but Ihlefeld encourages you to speak just as you would in an in-person meeting.

If you usually use your hands while you speak in order to get your point across, it’s okay to do that during your video call, too.

5. Control what you can control

While some things are uncontrollable, like a firetruck passing in the middle of a conference call, there are plenty of things that you can control about your work from home situation.

Take a look at a few of the things that you can control:

  • Your background. You should try to have a neutral background. A blank wall or window sill will do for a video call. If you don’t have an area in your house that provides a nice backdrop for a video call, Ihlefeld says there is nothing wrong with using a virtual background, but that you should stick with that neutral theme. A tidy living room, window sill, or nature scene with a few trees all work as neutral backgrounds. “That’s another great thing in terms of controlling the things you can control in terms of a positive environment,” Ihlefeld said, regarding using a neutral Zoom background during a video call.
  • Some interruptions. Minimalize distractions and interruptions. If you live with others, let them know ahead of time when you have calls, and remind them to keep it down and stay out of a certain area. With younger children, this is harder to accomplish, but adults should be able to let your video call run smoothly.
  • Faulty wifi. Ihlefeld advises those that have multiple people working from home to invest in a WiFi booster to avoid any WiFi crashes while video conferencing. 

6. If you are a host, take control of the meeting

If you are hosting a meeting, you want to make sure that you provide structure to each meeting.

If you’re hosting the meeting, Ihlefeld advises preparing an agenda and providing that to those attending the ahead of time.

One main difference with video calls is that you oftentimes get people talking over each other, and it is very hard to understand through your computer, whereas the human ear in a conference room would be able to tell who is speaking and possibly what they are saying. As a result, when this happens during a video call the meeting leader can be there to ask certain people to talk at certain times.

Many video call platforms also have chat dialog boxes where people can ask questions or raise their hand to make a comment.

“As the leader of a conference, I use that quite a bit because we want to get everybody’s point of view in here,” Ihlefeld said.

After a video meeting is over, it’s also extremely helpful to send out a follow-up email that summarizes what was discussed during the video call. This email can contain the key takeaways, assignments, tasks, and any decisions points that may have been made.

7. Don’t let the technology intimidate you

“Don’t let the technology intimidate you, because you this technology is not brand new,” Ihlefeld said.

Those who have never used video calls before should understand that it’s actually not completely new to them, just a different variation from what they are used to.

“If you prepare ahead of time, take the appropriate steps, you’re going to have a good meeting,” Ihlefeld said. “From a technology perspective, something drastic would have to happen to really disrupt your call.”

Jennifer Fabiano is an SEO reporter at Ladders.