People really don't like to videoconference. Ask anyone who does it on a regular
basis and, at best, the response will be neutral. At worst, the response will
be militantly negative. Since the costs of installing and using videoconferencing
technologies have dropped dramatically over the past five years and the installation
base is continuing to grow, the end result is an increased level of dissatisfaction
in the videoconferencing user community. However, this can change! More and
more corporations, hospitals and universities continue to install videoconference
technology because they see it as an effective way to share limited resources,
reduce travel expenses and increase overall productivity within their organizations.
In order to maximize their return on this investment in technology, the end
users need to be trained on how to use the technology effectively.
Let's look at some basic information. When we communicate, 10% of the meaning
is contained in the words we choose; 20% is contained in the style of delivery;
70% is contained in non-verbal cues or body language. That's why videoconferencing
can be so much more effective than a voice-only conference call.
Let's look at some other facts. When we engage in a face-to-face conversation,
all parties walk away with an 80% level of common understanding and agreement
of what was discussed; in a voice-only meeting, this level drops to 40%; when
the meeting is held over videoconference, the level rises back up to 60%.
The natural assumption, then, is that meeting over videoconference is the next
best thing to being there. That is true for the way most people engage in videoconference.
However, when used properly, videoconference can actually be BETTER than being
there in person. People just need to know how to increase their effectiveness
in a videoconference. These tips will help.
1. Proper camera placement
If you're making your presentation from the front of the room, the
camera should be placed at eye-level with the seated participants (at the end
of the conference table or the back of the classroom.) That way, when you're
looking at the people in your local room, you automatically maintain good eye
contact with the people at the far end. You should place a display monitor with
the camera so that when you look at the people on the monitor, it appears you're
looking them directly in the eye. This keeps people at the far side connected
with you and helps them feel like they're part of the presentation.
2. Practice, practice,
Be familiar with the equipment you'll be using, including the
placement and operation of the cameras, microphones and remote controls. Make
sure there are fresh batteries in all the devices which require them. Practice
your transitions from the audio visual devices you'll be using. Be fluent and
3. Use your voice and your
Vary the pitch and tone of your voice to add emphasis and meaning.
Use appropriate facial expressions and gestures. Remember, the camera doesn't
like rapid or "throw away" gestures, so hold the gesture a little
longer than you may be used to for local presentations. No rocking or swaying.
These gestures get amplified over video and become very annoying in a short
amount of time.
4. Be careful how you dress.
Avoid busy patterns and narrow stripes. Stay away from green
and yellow. If you have blond hair, wear dark blue or light beige. Brunettes
should wear medium gray or dark blue; light gray gives a tanned look. Redheads
should wear medium gray or dark blue to add intensity. If you have white or
gray hair, choose pink or rose colors; violet and light blue will give pink
5. Slides can make or break
a virtual meeting.
If you're using information from a computerized slide show like
PowerPoint, the minimum font size is 36-40 points. Anything smaller will be
illegible on the far side. Avoid saturated colors like deep reds, blues and
greens. They smear and bleed over video. Use graphics to help illustrate your
ideas. Minimize the amount of words actually put on the slide. Encapsulate the
idea and then expand on it verbally.
6. Maintain the face-to-face
If you use other sources of visual information like a PowerPoint
slide show, a whiteboard or videotape, remember to switch back to your face
as often as possible. Maintaining the face-to-face connection is critical for
7. Lighten up.
The space used for videoconferencing should be lit with indirect
light sources. Turn off the downcans.1 They create inconsistent light
levels and will result in raccoon eyes and deep shadows under the chin. A videoconference
room should have 70 foot-candles of light at the face (not desktop). Indirect
lighting (bouncing the light off the ceiling or walls or some other device like
½" paracube diffusers) will reduce fatigue on the people in the room. Use
color-corrected lamps to achieve a light temperature between 3200 and 3400 degrees
8. Break often.
Remember, videoconferencing is very intensive and focused. Plan
for a 10 minute break every 50 minutes or so. Let people stretch their legs.
Use the 10 minutes to catch your breath and get ready for the next segment.
9. Comfort is important.
Make sure the temperature is set at an appropriate level and
the chairs are ergonomically correct.
About Sandra J. Sharer, Director of Finance
Sharer brings over ten years experience in finance
and accounting for technology-related companies to Logical Transitions, Inc.
First with an audio visual systems integrator, then a computer software and
silicon developer, and most recently, a fine and performing arts organization,
Sharer has provided the focused, detailed, reliable information critical in
running a successful business.
Sharer has spent many years working with her husband, Scott, who is recognized
as an expert in the field of videoconferencing. Supporting his work and assisting
him gives her an understanding and appreciation for the technology. Her financial
background lends a qualified perspective on the implementation of high technology.
She believes training the end-user is absolutely necessary in order to maximize
the return on the investment of capital, whether it's as simple as e-mail or
as complex as videoconferencing.
Sharer is a certified trainer at Logical Transitions, Inc. She holds a Bachelor
of Science in Business Administration from the University of Missouri
1. The light fixture in the ceiling is known as pots (recessed) or cans (surface-mounted
on a track). Pointing the cans to bounce off the walls creates indirect lighting
and avoids shadows below the chin and hollowed eye sockets.