Sunday, October 4, 2009

Videoconferencing Best Practices: 10 Verbal and Nonverbal Communication Tips

I first got involved in enterprise video communications in 1990 and videoconferencing the following year. The company I work for was in the early adoption stages of group-based videoconferencing and the main objective was to save travel time of busy physicians by keeping them off the road and in their clinics for meetings and patient appointments. Since then I've seen things come full circle with many organizations adopting videoconferencing as means to reduce travel costs. For many in the industry, videoconferencing isn't the next big thing, it's just that people are starting again to take notice. Much really hasn't changed in the way people use videoconferencing for either meetings, education and training, broadcasts of conference keynotes and plenary sessions and good old business television.

As part of my job in the early days, I both managed a small videoconferencing studio and began creating job aids for clients on how to adapt their presentations to this new medium of videoconferencing. Many of the documents found their way to our corporate web site that was launched years later and I thought it would be helpful to share some of those best practices here.

This first post, Videoconferencing Best Practices: 10 Verbal and Nonverbal Communication Tips, gives some helpful tips on how to present yourself on camera and proper clothing attire for corporate videoconferencing.

Verbal and Non-Verbal Communications

For videoconferences, verbal and non-verbal communication is equally important. It’s not only what you say, but how you say it. If you are the moderator of session you need to focus on the camera as well as your guests speakers. This keeps you connected to your audience and the discussion. Be aware of your posture, sit forward and don’t slouch in your seat, you want to look attentive and engaged.

For meetings, it is very important to stay engaged because everyone can see and hear each other. Distracting mannerisms and facial expressions can be all picked up and exaggerated on camera.

For instruction, it is important for the instructor to look into the camera to directly address the class. The pitch or tone of your voice should be natural and varied so you don’t sound monotone. Pace your instruction by viewing the non-verbal communication of the students on the monitor.

Verbal and Nonverbal Communication Tips
  1. If possible have more than one presenter, change of pace will keep attention.
  2. Keep your comments moving in a logical flow.
  3. Use verbal illustrations to relate your points to the participants.
  4. Summarize your main points.
  5. Clearly state what you expect the participants to do with the information.
  6. Speak slowly and look at the camera.
  7. The best option is to try to stay seated or stand in one place. Try not to pace.
  8. Look at the camera, not your notes.
  9. Keep your arms unfolded
  10. Keep hand gestures close to your body. Try not to gesture wildly.

Preparing to be in front of the Camera

Video cameras and microphones are a lot less forgiving than our eyes and ears. A very important detail is how you appear on television. If you follow our simple tips below, you’ll avoid many of the common mistakes that can distract your audience, and keep them from focusing on you and your message.

Clothing Do’s
  • Wear comfortable clothes.
  • Most business suits are appropriate. Jackets look professional.
  • Blue, brown, black or gray suits work well. Solid colors look best.
  • Select off white or pastel colored shirts and blouses.

Clothing Don’ts
  • Avoid tweed and striped jackets or shirts.
  • Avoid bright-saturated colors, especially red.
  • Avoid white shirts and blouses.
  • Avoid bracelets, buttons or rings that could make noise on the table.
  • Avoid patterned geometric ties and designs.
  • Avoid plaids, stripes polka dots or black and white checks.
  • Expect that you may wear a clip-on lavalier or lapel microphone.