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How to Better Engage Teams: Hosting the Perfect Zoom Call

July 16, 2020 Sam Witts

Before COVID-19 forced us to adapt to working from home, most of us hadn’t given too much thought to our home office setup—or how to host a high-quality video conference call.

Seemingly overnight, our schedules have filled up with video calls, and even though we are physically separated from our coworkers and clients, we are in closer contact than ever before. But, has the constant connection actually led to meaningful engagement?

Here’s the thing: Just because we have all adapted to using a new technology or format, it doesn’t mean we’re making the most of this technology. Employee engagement is critical as we strive to meet the needs of this unprecedented moment, so leaders should embrace every opportunity to improve the quality of their video interactions with their team members.

As we transition into a new phase of working from home, with many organizations choosing to make working from home a permanent part of their workforce, our ability to host comfortable, engaging video conference calls is incredibly important.

Is your home setup conducive to productivity and comfort? Is your face well lit and framed on the video feed? Is the sound quality on your calls good, or are people rushing to turn down the volume when you speak?

It doesn’t have to be so complicated! Some trial and error, along with a bit of preparation, can turn you into a Zoom professional—or at least make you look like one, helping you to more meaningfully engage with your teams.

Here are some tips on how you can host the perfect work Zoom call:

Perfect Your Background

Just like how you decide how to dress for a call, you can alter the background on your video as you see fit. A bad—or great—background can completely change the tone of a video call. A cluttered or busy background can be distracting for others on the line and potentially undermine the message you’re trying to send.

For leaders, showcasing an interesting background is a great way to promote your authentic self. You can tell a lot about someone’s personality from how they have set up their space, and viewers tend to notice when someone has a particularly interesting background.

If you’re working remotely from a spot without a great natural background, you can always rely on built-in capabilities within Zoom and Microsoft Teams to showcase an artificial background that shows off your personality. Creating a backdrop that is simple, but not empty, can make the difference between the attention being on you, instead of what’s going on behind you.

Check Your Lighting

You don’t have to be a Hollywood director (or a social influencer) to notice the difference between good and bad lighting. You might not realize it until you see yourself on-screen, but it’s not uncommon to be sitting somewhere that is either too dark or so bright that you’re barely visible.

Finding a balance, or creating one, can elevate your Zoom meetings to a more professional level. Luckily, there are many ways you can do this without spending all your money on lighting equipment.

First, make sure your camera angle is appropriate in terms of lighting. Sometimes the only lighting adjustment you’ll need is angling the camera away from or toward the light source. Next, assess if you need to use or buy an external light. Sometimes buying something like a ring light is the best option for adding light into a dark space. Lastly, experiment! Move things around, reposition your chair, or place your computer somewhere new. You won’t know what works best until you see it for yourself.

Test Audio Quality

Have you ever been on a call and had to suffer through muffled, quiet, or echo-y audio? It’s frustrating, and worst of all, it’s easy to miss most of what’s being said. Now, consider that you might be the person bringing bad quality audio to the Zoom call.

That’s why you should always test your input and output audio before a call. Have an internal call with a colleague so they can listen and check for you. If you can’t find someone, video conferencing software like Zoom usually include an audio input test where you can hear for yourself.

If there are issues with your laptop’s internal microphone, there are a few fixes. Some webcams come with a built-in microphone, but check reviews first, as many aren’t the best quality. There is also external recording equipment that ranges in price but is usually much higher quality than built-in microphones. If the issue you run into is simply acoustic troubles like echoes, try a different room. Large, empty rooms can cause audio to sound echo-y and less pleasant.

Stay Ahead of Trends—But Don’t Forget the Basics  

Technology is constantly changing, and as we all adapt to working from home in the long term, new trends, features, and functionality will become available. Become an early adopter and bring new ways of hosting remote meetings to your team. And, be sure to ask your teams for feedback. What is working? What isn’t? By opening up lines of communication, you can address the unique and changing needs of your remote workforce.

At the same time, some business meeting etiquette will always stay the same, and it’s important that we make a purposeful effort to be mindful and thoughtful during video calls. It’s easy to open tabs in your browser and work on other projects, but if you’re on video, it’s obvious to other participants that your focus is elsewhere. Even when not speaking, do your best to be aware of how you’re appearing to everyone else. Consider the best video call you’ve been on recently. How did the host facilitate the meeting? What technology was used—or not used? How was chat integrated into the video call? Then, emulate that experience and enhance it with other practices you discover along the way.

THE BIG TAKEAWAY

As we strive to continually engage our teams and organizations during a time of major transition, we all have the power to make video calls tolerable—and perhaps even enjoyable. The first step to engaging employees during a time of crisis is to ensure you have the means to thoughtfully reach them. With these quick tips, you are well on your way to making the most of remote technology, and improving the look and feel of video conferences at your organization.

Read our other COVID-19-related content for more critical resources for leaders rising to the challenge of leading in times of change and transition.

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