Bad Video Conferencing Advice



 Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Most articles about “video conferencing best practices” are fluff pieces (yes, including several written by yours truly). There is one piece of advice however, that is wrong. It’s bad for the user’s experience and for video conferencing in general. The most egregious error in these articles is to “look into the camera” and not at the person you’re talking to.

It's not my fault you put the camera in a stupid place.

If you aren’t looking at the person you’re talking to, then what is the point of video conferencing? Video conferencing is a way to have meetings with people who aren’t in your physical location, that’s it. In a normal meeting would you NOT look at the person you’re talking to? Of course not, unless you’re a sociopath, but that’s not the problem we’re talking about here. If you’re instructed over and over again to look into the camera (wherever it may reside in the room) then you aren’t getting the benefit of looking at the person you’re supposed to be having a meeting with. At that point, you may as well turn the camera off and call the other person on the phone. So much for non verbal communication.

For a real “best practice”, it makes the most sense to place the camera as close to where you think the person you’re talking to will be on screen without actually obscuring them or any content you need to see. This gives you a better experience than just looking into the camera because you can see the other person and have some semblance of eye contact. So stop looking at the camera, look at me and let’s have a meeting.

Postscript
Video conference vendors use the trick of looking into the camera during a demo to make you think there is “perfect” eye contact, even if the camera is placed in locations nowhere near the participant’s image on screen. Pay attention to that the next time you’re in a demo.

Bryan
Follow me on Twitter @bryanhellard

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