The Most Important Skill Workers Need Today Is Video
In a world when business functions fully online, video presence is essential for success…
Australia has weathered the COVID-19 storm well until Melbourne found itself caught in a second wave. Victoria made world headlines recently when the State Government introduced curfews, mandatory mask-wearing and heavy fines for social distancing breaches. It also saw entire industries forced to shut and a further quarter-of-a-million Melburnians forced to stay home without a job. Except for essential services and jobs that cannot be performed virtually, the rest of us who still have jobs are now working online.
Who would have thought that videos would feature so prominently in our daily work interactions?
If you’ve asked me a year ago, I would have said face-to-face interactions were the best ways to close a sale, motivate your staff and build business relationships. Nowadays, I rely on videos to do all of the above.
When you’re on video, you’re on a screen. You don’t enjoy the nuances that you have from face-to-face interactions. Non-verbals are harder to read. Not everyone says what they are thinking or feeling. And the distractions are endless.
I believe one of the most important skills to have today is a strong video presence. How else are you going to succeed in an interview? Hold a meeting? Tell the staff what to do? Build relationships? Or, close a sale?
The Virtual Presence
Technology as a business communication tool of the future is not a new concept. In October 2019, Forbes Insight, in-collaboration with ZOOM, released ‘The Visual Advantage’ – a report on the changing landscape of the global workplace. According to the survey, globalisation, the rise of the gig economy and increasing demands for work-life balance have resulted in more work being performed remotely from home. The report concluded that video conferencing was a good substitute for in-person interactions. At the time, the researchers were predicting that up to 77% of companies worldwide will adopt some form of remote working or telecommuting within the next three years. It did not predict a deadly virus that would force the entire world to adapt to technology in less than 3 months.
Some of the key findings from this report about the effectiveness of video conferencing are worth discussing:
1. Work is becoming more collaborative
73% of respondents in the survey listed better teaming and collaboration across workgroups as the most important criteria for productivity. As the nature of work evolves, greater demand is put on communication platforms that can enhance work over greater distances.
2. Technology is transforming the nature of work
AI, machine learning, robotics, automation and other related technologies are reducing the number of repetitive, routine tasks and creating more strategic, decision-making and critical thinking roles. Critical thinkers managing diverse and dispersed groups will need greater interaction and therefore a more effective communication medium.
3. Video conferencing is comparable to ‘being there’
Video conferencing is probably the closest we can get to simulating a real face-to-face interaction because of its visual and audio characteristics. Here are some of the reasons identified in the report:
- Video conferencing can promote teamwork and collaboration.
- Video meetings can drive engagement of remote workers.
- Video meetings can enhance the productivity of remote workers.
- ‘Seeing someone’ where they work and how they work help managers and workers to establish trust.
- Video meetings can improve work-life balance for employees to feel that they can meaningfully participate in the business even if they are working at a distance.
Everything at the time points to video conferencing as the communication tool of the future workplace. The first time the world tested out this theory was during the pandemic. Most of us have adapted to communicating via videos simply because we were not left with any other options. Very few of us can honestly say, we have a great presence on video.
Download the Forbes Insights ‘The Visual Advantage’ Report here.
How to develop a video presence for effective working from home
Not everyone is a natural on camera. The communication tactics that we have mastered in the boardroom is not going to work for us on a computer screen.
According to Harvard professor and behavioural scientist, Andy Molinsky, elevating our video presence will require us to adopt an engaged persona in an environment that normally does not lend itself to that. Sounds ominous? Not really, if you know what to do. Thankfully, everyone is trainable.
Here are some tips I used to train my clients to develop a strong video presence:
1. Look at the camera
How many times have you heard the phrase ‘Look at the camera!’ If you want to look good in a photograph, you look at the camera. The same applies to video meetings. Your Zoom meeting is a camera trained on your face, so look into the lens when you are zooming.
Speaking into the cold, dark lens of a camera will take some practice. You will not feel natural or comfortable at the start. But others like politicians, entertainers and media personnel have done it so you can do it too.
One of the hardest things to learn is how to stay focused on the camera while others are talking around us. A Zoom meeting is even more distracting because it comprises of multiple split screens. Keep looking at that black dot. Nod your head. Acknowledge a reply but don’t stop looking at the camera because that’s what your team will see on their screens.
Here is the good news: The more you practise on Zoom, the better you will become. So, don’t be bashful of the camera the next time you are online. Stare into it. Project confidence and smile. It helps.
2. Speak clearly
I always teach the participants in my workshop to use a slightly louder-than-usual voice when they are on camera.
In addition to being audible, a strong voice demonstrates a sense of authority, credibility, and confidence. Your team is working away from the office during a lockdown. They will need to know that their leader is in control of the situation. Your voice is one of the best ways to convey this message.
Pick your words carefully and speak clearly so you can get your point through easier. It’s important to remember that speaking clearly and audibly does not mean you shout into the microphone. You shouldn’t mumble or speak too quickly either.
3. Frame yourself
Framing is important if you want to achieve the right video presence. The farther away or the more obscured you appear, the less engagement you will get from other participants.
In a Zoom meeting, your head and shoulders should dominate the screen. If your head is cut off, you are too close. If your chest or torso is in view, you are too far. If you can only see your head on the screen, adjust the camera’s angle so your head and shoulders are visible.
One of the exercises I do regularly in my career coaching sessions is filming a client when they are participating in a mock interview. The camera does not lie. It picks up on all the unconscious movements that the individual does during an interview that can be annoying to the interviewer. It’s an effective way to polish their performance and to prepare them for the real job interview.
The background is important in video meetings. You have to be careful about what you put behind you and how the camera picks things up. A few weeks ago, I watched a segment on Black Lives Matter on CNN. The commentator was a black activist who had many interesting points to make but he had a large vase of white orchids directly behind him (as a backdrop) and on camera, he looked like he was sprouting two huge giant orchids from his ears. It looked weird.
4. Don’t be your saboteur
Any form of distraction in a video meeting will sabotage the messaging. So, keep the cat and your three-year-old out of the room when you are in a meeting. One or two distraction from your curious cat or precocious three-year-old can lighten the mood for your team but if you are doing an important sales presentation online, remove all distractions. The customer is going to be impressed with the cat or your toddler – no matter how cute they look.
Practise staying on mute, so you don’t unintentionally say or make inappropriate sounds. Staying on mute will also minimise any distractions from your surroundings. Unmute when you want to speak.
Don’t forget to turn off your camera if you are doing something visually distracting – like stirring your cup of tea or scratching your nose.
5. Be mindful and aware
In a face-to-face meeting, it’s easy to be aware of others. In a video conference, it is harder. You may be tempted to check your text messages or read the news update, but you run the risk of being caught out when someone asks you a question and you were not paying attention.
Turn off the mobile phone. Close all tabs and pay attention to the meeting. If you find it hard to stay focus for long periods, consider having regular, shorter 15-minute huddle meetings. Never forget that when you are on video, you are on camera. The camera records everything live.
When conducting a video meeting, be mindful of how long you are speaking and how often you speak. Don’t be tempted to hog all the limelight. If you want your staff to stay engaged in their work during remote working, you let them speak at meetings.
6. Take advantage of chat windows
Chat windows are great appendages for your Zoom meetings. Share articles and documents via the chat platform. When others are talking, use the chat to respond, offer comments or ask questions.
Video meetings are not going away. Now that the world has tried it and knows it works, it is highly likely video meetings will continue to feature in modern business activities – long after the pandemic crisis is over. Developing a strong video presence can make you a better communicator. It will certainly help your future career.