I've been asked several times to create a horrendously basic list of 'best practices' for video chatting. Instead of writing article after article about the same thing times infinity, I'll just do it once more, here.
Instead of getting too deep into every topic under the VC sun, I will just touch on the main points to help both the home and small business user have a better meeting. Sure, not everything will be feasible and some won't even be so practical depending on your equipment, your room and your wallet.
You (the do's and don'ts)
If you have a laptop with an integrated camera or are using a tablet or a smart phone, you're kind of screwed. Just don't move the device around too much and hope the people on the other end don't get seasick. While you're at it, don't put your face so close to the camera that it takes up the entire screen for the other person.
Camera placement is very important in the scheme of things. For the home user, if you find yourself on video calls often, it's a smart move to invest in a USB camera so you place the camera in the most appropriate place. If at all possible, place the camera in the middle of your display. Sure, part of the screen will be obscured, but it will provide the best eye contact and cameras are small anyway. Having the camera on the top of the monitor will result in it capturing the top of your head (making it appear as if you are looking down at someone). Having it below the screen will result in the camera looking right up your nose.
Correct (or even adequate) lighting makes you more visible on screen and helps you to not look sickly. For the home user, I would recommend a simple diffused light behind your monitor (or laptop if you're going that route). I personally use a $10 lamp from Ikea that shines the light up and diffuses off of the ceiling. If you're video conferencing all the time and it's important to look your absolute best, you may want to think about key, fill and back lighting. Do to the extensive nature of all this, I won't go into here, but there is more than enough information available online from people better able to explain it than me. Just understand that lighting is important to put your best face forward.
Make sure to minimize ancillary noise prior to starting a video chat. If you find yourself in a noisy area, stay on mute until you need to speak and apologize profusely for your lack of good judgement on where you set up your meeting. Better yet, buy a comfortable headset that has an integrated mic. Your cubicle neighbors will thank you.
Before your next (or first) video chat, look at what's behind you. Anything in the background will be captured by the camera. If you're having a job interview via video, you better believe that you're going to get judged if you have Justin Bieber posters on the wall behind you.
Do: Be prepared ahead of time. Make sure everything is set up and ready to go well ahead of your meeting time.
Don't: Get distracted. It's hard to maintain focus when you're looking at a little head on a monitor, but you shouldn't let yourself get distracted by your phone, email or squirrels running around outside. It's disrespectful.
Do: Wear pants. Just in case. Trust me.
Do: Turn your phone off or at the very least put it on vibrate.
Don't: If you're using a laptop with integrated webcam, when you type hard, your camera moves. So stop it. And while you're at it, quit adjusting the lid of your laptop during the call.
Do: If you want to initiate a screen share, close Outlook (you never know what confidential or inappropriate email may pop up on your screen). Also close any web browsers, because "you never know"...
And there you have it, the simple keys to a better video conference. I hope I never have to write this article again...
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