How to Effectively Use Video Conferencing in Professional Communication


Do you use Video Conferencing at work? Follow these tips to optimize your use of this new and necessary technology.

Most of us have Skyped on occasion. We may choose to FaceTime family that is far away. Still, Video Conferencing is not our go-to way of connecting with others.

Video Conferencing (or VC) is slowly becoming more widely used in some professional environments. Some high-tech startups are using VC as the default mode when communicating internally. Yet, a study by Technalysis Research found that "Email and phone calls still far outweigh other methods of communication and collaboration, even with younger workers... Less than 25% use more progressive, future-looking methods internally and the number is lower externally. Those who do, however, are much more satisfied with quality and effectiveness."

Is Video Conferencing more effective than other methods of communicating?

According to a study by LifeSize, 90% of users say video conferencing makes it easier to get their point across and 98% say that VC helps with relationship building throughout a company. Words account for only 7% of someone's impression of you when communicating emotion in-person (Mehrabian and Ferris 1967) and 14% telephonically [source: ContactPoint] which tells us just how important body language, facial expression and tone of voice are in professional communication.


Choosing Your Mode of Communication

Do you suffer from phone anxiety? Do you default to email when it would be more effective to have an in-person conversation? If either are true, then the jump to VC may feel huge at first.

In Communicating for Results (Thomson Learning, 2001), Professor Morten Hansen calls for face-to-face communication when the situation or the topic are complex. And yet, a study by Carlos Ferran and Stephanie Watts, published in September 2008 in Management Science found that "communicators using video conferencing face a higher cognitive load than face-to-face communicators because of a variety of challenges, including those of identifying who is speaking, detecting movement, coordinating eye-contact, turn-taking, and conversation pacing. Video conferencing also consumes greater cognitive attention due to heightened self-awareness."

When the stakes are high, our communication is more effective when we can see each other.  But how can we make sure we use Video Conferencing effectively and not add to our already heavy cognitive load? How can we make sure we are getting the most out of this powerful technology? And how can we get people on VC in the first place?

How to Use Video Conferencing More Effectively

Go Out on a Limb

Choose one or two contacts you feel comfortable with and suggest VC for your next meeting. It's not as necessary to jump on VC for a quick call. But if you are presenting slides or working through a tricky situation it can improve your effectiveness to move it to video.

Have an Outside Eye

Before dialing in, pull up Photo Booth or a similar program so you can see what they will see. Check your light (it's better to be front lit than backlit). Make sure there isn't anything too distracting in the frame. You want the environment to be as simple and uncluttered as possible.

Don't Talk to Yourself

When the call begins, hide your view of yourself. Don't get caught in the trap of talking to your own reflection! Instead, channel your energy into the light of the camera of your computer. While you cannot make direct eye contact while Video Conferencing, you can fake it with a trick on Skype. Click outside of the program so the person you are talking to becomes a small box which you can put as far to the top of your computer screen as possible. This makes it look like you are looking at them when you're looking towards the camera.

Use Embodied Cognition

If the phone is a microscope for the voice, then Video Conferencing is a microscope for the body. Far too often, we see people on the other end slouching or checking their phones. This behavior is magnified on VC. It makes you feel like they are not invested or interested. And that can make you less aware of your own physical impression. Make a conscious effort to show up physically and be 100% present:

  • Rid any extraneous energy. Avoid talking with your hands or shifting in your seat.

  • Pay close attention to your posture. Imagine a string gently pulling the top of your head upwards and remain open across the chest.

  • Dress the part, completely, from head-to-toe. Even if they aren't seeing your feet, wear shoes that make you feel powerful. If you're dialing in from home, wear earrings or comb your hair.

Showing that you are present gives them more reason to do the same, and tells them you are invested.

Separate Content from Delivery

Make bulleted lists of points you want to hit or certain questions you want to ask. Keep it in a sticky note open on your desktop. Feel free to go to it whenever you need to.

Be Intentional

As much as you can, rid UMs, apologies and question marks. These unconscious behaviors can be magnified while Video Conferencing. Speak deliberately and with intention. Use the power of the pause to know what you want to say before you say it. VC gives you the ability to visually signal that you are thinking, so take the time to do that!