h the spread of COVID-19, global teams and remote work is now the norm, video conferencing is a necessary tool that can prove invaluable to your business. From virtual meetings to engaging webinars, a video conference can provide a catalyst for great ideas, expand your reach, and help you achieve specific goals.
But despite their popularity, we still see companies and individuals making major mistakes when it comes to video conferencing. This results in a lot of wasted time, frustration… and in some cases, completely losing your audience.
So, what are the best practices of video conferencing?
Here are 26 rules everyone should follow (there’s also a free, downloadable checklist at the end, to make it easy for you):
1. Make sure everyone knows about the conference well in advance. Then, send two reminders: one just a day before and another one hour before starting.
2. If possible, conduct a dry run with at least one presenter the day before.
You don’t have to go through everything; just make sure things work on the technical side.
3. Designate someone ahead of time to take notes and vet any questions people have, since time is limited. (Most conference software allows participants to submit questions through chat.)
4. Call in 10-15 minutes early to double-check that everything looks good, and to welcome participants as they arrive.
5. The administrator (or moderator) should introduce the meeting or presentation, about two minutes after the scheduled start. (Two minutes gives just a little more time for people to call in, without annoying the others.) By beginning the conference, the administrator ensures things get off to a good start and eliminates any awkwardness for presenters who aren’t prepared to introduce themselves.
Set the ground rules at this time, including letting others know how questions will be handled.
6. If the conference is in the form of a meeting, make sure any follow-up is clearly assigned to the appropriate participants.
7. Send out a recording, slides, or any other pertinent information within 24 hours of the conference.
8. Jot down any lessons learned.
9. Can you repurpose? Depending on the goal of your conference, you may be able to use clips on your company’s blog, YouTube channel, or recruiting and/or promotional materials.
10. Consider hosting a follow-up live discussion or informal Q&A.
11. When writing your presentation, keep the audience in mind. Look for opportunities to engage them through questions, picture illustrations, and real-life examples. (When introducing a product or a piece of software, real-time demonstrations are valuable.)
12. Conduct a dry run with your administrator the day before. You don’t have to go through your whole presentation, but you want to get familiar with the conference software and make sure it’s working properly.
13. If you’re delivering a webinar, decide in advance whether or not you want the audience to see you.
The advantage to being visible on screen is you can use facial expression and gestures to show emotion and clarify points. In contrast, keeping only your slides visible may make you less nervous and allow you to use more notes.
14. Practice, practice, practice!
You may know your material well, but it will sound different out loud than it does in your head. Going through your presentation once or twice before delivering it will make a major difference in how you sound to the audience.
15. Call in at least 15 minutes early, to make sure you’re properly set up and prevent any nervousness from having to rush. Close out any applications on your computer, especially those that make your personal information visible.
16. Show some enthusiasm: If you aren’t interested in this event, why should others be?
Get to know your material well so that you can make it come alive for those listening.
17. Do not read your slides (a.k.a. death by PowerPoint). As with any presentation, best practice for slides is to use big fonts and as few words as possible–it’s up to you to explain, elaborate, and engage. (Moderate use of numbers and statistics can be beneficial–but don’t go overboard.)
18. Speak at a good pace. Most people tend to speak too fast when presenting, so slow it down. Exercise special care if you’re demonstrating software, to make sure the audience is with you.
19. Schedule pauses in your presentation to handle questions.
20. Stick to a predetermined time for your core material. Additionally, make sure there is plenty of time scheduled for questions, both during and after your presentation.
21. Conclude with a sum-up and actionable advice; focus on key takeaways.
22. Provide your contact information and social-media handles when concluding, so it’s easy for others to reach you. (Or spread the word about the great information you just presented!)
23. Make sure you have access to the conferencing software. (This may require you to download in advance.)
24. Call in a few minutes early, so you don’t annoy everyone else. Also, make sure your phone or device is on mute.
25. Don’t interrupt: If there’s no opportunity to submit questions through chat, make sure to write them down so you can ask when given an opportunity.
26. Reach out to the speaker or moderator after the presentation if you’d like more insights, or to let them know you enjoyed the conference. Doing so promotes a better working relationship–and may even lead to unexpected opportunities.
(For more tips on general presentations, check out the previous articles “How to Maximize the Impact of Your Presentation” and “You Need to Fix These 8 Presentation Mistakes Right Now.”)
Putting it into practice.
Putting together a video conference is a lot of work, but it can pay rich dividends if it’s done right. Keep these rules handy (here’s that free, downloadable checklist I mentioned), and make sure your next video conference is a success.
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A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.