Given a choice between going solo or tackling a work project as a group, introverts tend to favor solitude. For most jobs though, occasionally collaborating with the team is unavoidable. Usually this means being corralled into a board or meeting room, but more often these days, it also involves video conferencing.
While not all introverts dislike public speaking, some may find chatting in a video conference stressful. Having your peers look intently at your face on their screen and listen closely to your voice may have you asking yourself anxious questions: Am I having a bad hair day? Do I have something in my teeth? Am I stuttering or mispronouncing words?
Nevertheless, video conferencing etiquette is an important part of today’s workplace and we’ve put together some best practices to help you feel more comfortable on screen.
Prepare with notes
Shyness is just a part of the introversion package. Being an introvert can also mean having feelings of overstimulation in large groups. This can cause distractions that sometimes derail your train of thought. Often, introverts can get their thoughts and ideas across dazzlingly in an email or a one-on-one conversation, but when called upon to speak to a group, they take an uncomfortably long time to respond or freeze up altogether.
Why not combat these potential concerns by preparing for a video conference with notes written ahead of time? Before the conference, consider creating an outline of what you’d like to talk about during the session. This is especially important if you’re expected to give a presentation. With notes to guide you, you can just glance down at them if you lose focus. It may be tricky to anticipate questions, but feeling prepared will surely boost your confidence.
Practice before the conference
If you’re not used to video conferencing, you may end up looking a bit clueless — sitting too close to the camera or practically shouting into the microphone. In other words, your initial discomfort being on camera may be noticeable. Why not try a dry run?
You can find out how you look and sound by simply having a practice round right before the video conference. Getting on a call with someone you feel comfortable with beforehand can give you an opportunity to play around with the camera angle, microphone volume and the environment you’re seated in. This person can give you the feedback you’ll need to ensure that you’re good to go before the actual meeting starts.
This is also a good opportunity to ask how the clothes you’ve chosen to wear look on camera against the background as certain colors and patterns may look better than others. You can even run through a few recitations of “Imagine an imaginary menagerie manager” to limber up those vocal chords.
By practicing ahead of time, you’ll feel less shy, and more confident when you connect to your next video conference.
Remember the goal
In a video conference, your sense of audience engagement may not be as strong. It may be easy to lose yourself in concerns about your listeners becoming bored. To help head off these concerns, try to remind yourself why you have an audience in the first place: you have something to say that they want to hear.
Whether they’re there to learn something only you can teach them or some information they need to do their job, it’s unlikely that they’re analyzing every single thing you say or do on video. By focusing on what you came to say, you can get it out and move on, without overthinking it.
If you’re simply participating rather than presenting during a video conference, it may be helpful to set a simple goal like asking at least one question or making one comment. Otherwise, it can be easy to let the whole conference pass by without chiming in.
Know where to look
Sadly, Emily Post isn’t around to tell us how to be good video conference participants. If she was though, she’d surely say that making eye contact is key.
Eye contact over a computer? It might be slightly counterintuitive, but looking into the person’s eyes on screen won’t always give the appearance that you are looking at them on their screen. To give this appearance, you must instead look into the eye of the camera. This is partly the reason that video conferencing cameras are often mounted as close to the screen as possible.
Beyond this, it’s also wise to not look down at your phone or work on another task during the video conference. Anything other than listening or taking notes may be considered rude. In fact, you should remove any possible distractions from the room. Shut off the TV, turn off any music, and close unnecessary tabs in your web browser (and you may even want to shoo Mittens out of the room to avoid any untimely caterwauling).
Some folks can show up to a video conference and be outgoing and bubbly off the cuff, but if this isn’t you, preparing may go a long way toward making you feel more comfortable the next time you’re on camera during a meeting.