I am pretty confident that most people have at some point, or another, had a video call or conference … whether it was for work, or even to tell Aunt Sally hello during her travels afar.  In fact, based on the latest article from TechCrunch, stats from Facebook show “400 million people are making audio and video calls each month” … a continual dramatic increase, month-over-month.

Therefore, it is with no surprise FuelNOW embraces the use of technology for obvious reasons – we’re digital technology mover-and-shakers by nature, but we also like video chats and conferences to help facilitate engagement and collaboration.  We do video calls amongst fellow FuelNOW-ers … with customers and partners … and even during some of our interviewing!  Why wouldn’t we?  It has helped us in so many ways.

I would say at least half of our daily interactions between us FuelNOW-ers is through video chat and conferences, which at some level has inspired me to share some of our tried and true tips on what we use to effectively conduct virtual engagements:

1. Camera vs. Screen.
I know people are still getting acquainted with cameras and technology in a way that effectively extenuates how they would perform a conversation without it.  Point in case: when you talk to someone at the store, do you turn your cheek and talk over their shoulder when you speak to them?  In most cases that would be a no.  Therefore, a big tip to anyone doing a video call or conference, don’t forget that looking into the camera … and not generically at a screen …  is the preverbal way to establish and maintain direct virtual eye contact.  And, yes … the individual across the cyber stratosphere you’re in the video call with can tell!

2. Dress the part. 
Some will argue that video calls and conversations in the work setting lend an unspoken advantage to not having to get dolled up just to be in a meeting. I actually somewhat agree with this – but, on the opposite, I will say that there is still something about dressing the part that still has value.  For conference calls taken at home where the video is absolutely not in use – who can tell, right?  But, note to self – make sure you are absolutely confident that when you log into a GoToMeeting – Zoom – etc. that the host doens’t have video calls turned on by default.  Call me evil, but I have been entertained by participating in webinars and other virtual meetings where the host didn’t realize this default was set and there were some pretty funny situations going on for the entire webinar and video collaboration participants to see!   I won’t mention them here, but I’m sure over coffee I’d be willing to laugh over a few with you 🙂 . So, my tip is always dress the part from head to waist!  And, if you happen to be doing a virtual, video interview – you definitely want to dress the part.

3. Prepare your surroundings. 
Have you ever tried having a conversation with a leaf blower in the background?  Pretty frustrating.  So, why is this basic element of common sense something we all tend to forget when participating in video calls?  Don’t forget – out of respect for everyone on a video call – pick a quiet place to participate in a video call.  Also, think ahead – if you suspect 30 minutes into an hour video call that an entire high school football team is getting out of school and is going to be entering the same Starbuck’s coffee location as you … you might want to go find another place!  In fact, if you’re out-and-about and want to try a pretty cool open workplace that offers soundproof booths to take quiet calls, you should try WeWork.  But, case in point, you show your respect for others in a video call when your dogs aren’t barking in the background.  And, if you are in a situation where you can’t get away from background noise – mute when you aren’t talking.  This also goes for those who are heavy breathers!

4. Avoid a “Can you hear me now?” situation.
We all know the Verizon wireless commercials” Can You Hear me Now?”.  Although jovial when watching the commercial, not so much so when trying to actually have a video call.  Therefore, another word to the wise: Be sure to tweak your video and audio settings ahead of a video call to make sure (1) any of the latest updates to the software haven’t reset any settings that you’ll want to adjust, and (2) that an external headset and/or microphone may be the better option than internal video and audio components.  Most people get this – but, every once in a while I sometimes forget to check this and cause a few minutes delay in a meeting because I’m trying to franticly get situated.  You are better off giving yourself 5-10 minutes time in advance to a video call to check your tech-readiness.  In my experience, I have never regretted doing this!

5. Meeting multi-tasking.
Most of us are prone to taking notes during a meeting, regardless of whether they are in -person or virtual.  No biggie – this shouldn’t change based on the type of meeting you’re engaging in.  BUT, have you ever been in a meeting when you’re participating virtually when another set of people are participating in the conference room?  And, if so, have you ever had the privilege (insert sarcasm) to listen to someone sitting so close to the conference audio technology that you can hear only their keyboard typing over, or above, the actual conversation?  I won’t even try to count how many times I have witnessed this situation.  Or, even better, got to hear the lovely sounds of lunch wrapper crumbling … pencil tapping … paper brushing over the speaker inadvertently (and the list goes on).  I know we’re human and nobody has explicitly said they do these things on purpose.  But, my last tip is to remind us all to these funny circumstances that can impose distraction on video calls.

To all of my fellow video-calling, virtual collaboration-embracing friends … I hope you find this piece helpful!  I can imagine some of my tips seem blatantly obvious but sometimes we all need a little refresher course.  And, if you have a few moments to be entertained, I thought I’d finish this piece with a little humor …  a funny video that I think you will enjoy 🙂


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