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How to wreck a video call (and how not to)

Can you imagine a time when you didn’t know what Zoom was? Video calls have become a cornerstone of lockdown survival, and despite the government guidelines changing, a fair few of us are still using Zoom, Microsoft Teams and similar platforms for work. If you’re still video calling your customers, here are the four worst ways you can ruin the call (as well as how you should be representing yourself and your business).

‘What’s that behind you?’

When you’re meeting with a customer or client in the office, do you make sure that the office looks clean and tidy? Cold mugs of tea cleared away, desk cleared of clutter? It’s something that we should still consider over video calls. You may be calling in from your home office or your sofa but presentation is still important, and your background is a part of that.

Check what’s in the background of your shot, and the things that are drawing your eye - these are the things that customers and clients will be looking at. It’s also worth noting that you shouldn’t be able to see any personal information in the shot (think about what’s on the pin board or whiteboard behind you), as you may be breaking GDPR regulations. Services like Microsoft Teams give you the option of blurring your background, so you can keep everyone’s privacy intact.

‘Oops, you’ve frozen!’

There is nothing that kills a video call faster than an unstable internet connection. If the picture is freezing or the sound is cutting out, you’re likely to frustrate your customers and clients quickly. This is going to lengthen calls between your customer and your business, and it might also mean you move to telephone, which can seem less personal than a video call.

A wired internet connection is always going to be more reliable than using Wi-Fi, and it’s definitely something to prioritise if you’re talking to customers frequently over video chat. If you are depending on the Wi-Fi, think about where your router is positioned, and whether a TP-Link adaptor might be helpful to turn that wireless connection into a wired one. Also think about what pressure you’re putting on your internet connection - when there’s an important call going on, tell the kids to get off Netflix for an hour.

‘Were you trying to say something?’

One of the most difficult differences to manage between in person meetings and meetings over video call is the ability for multiple people to talk at once. On the majority of video chat platforms, the service prioritises a single person speaking. This means that you can end up with another person talking where sound isn’t coming through, or background noise overwhelming the chat. 

Whether it’s a video call with a fair few people in, or it’s a call that’s one-on-one, making space for others to speak is absolutely vital. Talking over another person is disruptive in a unique way over video calls, and as such we need to wait for one person to finish before we rush in to say our piece. As for background noise, consider using a pair of headphones over video chat. That way you can keep the content of the conversation completely private. 

‘Let me just get the door!’

Another key difference between remote working and working from the office is the way that interruptions are managed. In an office environment, you may be having a meeting in a closed space which people know not to disturb. From home, there are a number of things that can interrupt you; the doorbell, the dog and the kids to name a few.

Planning for these interruptions and deciding what you’re going to do in advance is one of the ways you can manage them. It’s impossible to control everything; sometimes that grocery delivery could arrive slightly early, or the dog could come bounding into the room barking - but contracting how you’re going to respond can help. Letting a customer know that the doorbell might go, or that you might have to ring them back in ten minutes allows the customer into the situation; the customer knows that you may be disturbed, and what will happen if you are. If you do agree to call them back, ensure you call them back on time! 

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