Smile! You’re on Candid Web Camera!

By Heather Baldwin

Pop quiz: You’re a district sales manager with seven sales representatives who report to you. They’re scattered across five states and you want to meet face-to-face with them each week without putting anyone on the road. What do you do? The answer for a growing number of sales managers is videoconferencing, which has evolved dramatically from its early days of jerky, awkward images and cumbersome technology.

“The big challenge sales managers have is they don’t get enough time in the field with their reps. If you can’t be there in person, the next best thing is being there on video,” says Peter Moriarty, president of FaceToFaceMeeting LLC, a company that designed its Internet-based videoconferencing product specifically for the scenario above – a district sales manager holding regular meetings with his dispersed sales team. FaceToFaceMeeting enables up to 10 people to be seen live, Hollywood Squares-style on a single screen, as if they were sitting around a conference table meeting in person – with a picture quality so smooth and clear you might as well be watching TV.

Still, that improved picture quality makes it more challenging to be there on video than it does to be there in person because it lets us study our conversation partners far more closely than we would in a live meeting. Thus successful videoconferencing isn’t simply a matter of switching on a Webcam and presenting ourselves as we would in person. Instead it requires more preparation and awareness. Here are Moriarty’s tips for presenting yourself well.

  • Place the Web camera on your monitor at eye level or no more than a couple inches above it. Placing the camera below the monitor makes you tilt your head down to look at it, a position that would give even Kate Moss a double chin.
  • Some lighting can be helpful, but it should be in front of you and not shining directly on you. If you have a white wall on the other side of the monitor, consider bouncing light off the wall so it lights your face evenly. In addition, if there are windows behind you pull the drapes or blinds or reposition your setup so the windows aren’t in the background.
  • Before initiating a FaceToFaceMeeting, check your image and surroundings in the monitor to see what your reps will see. “Clean up the messy desk or credenza or aim the camera away from it,” says Moriarty. “Neatness counts in person and during a videoconference.”
  • Make sure the camera isn’t picking up any extraneous background movement such as a fan or mobile. Not only is it distracting to others on the videoconference, it’s distracting to the technology. FaceToFaceMeeting’s software contains unique algorithms that allow full motion, high-quality video, but the more background movement the more bandwidth is needed to send it, which ultimately could slow the video.
  • If your FaceToFaceMeeting is with only one or two of your reps, drag their images to a position at the top of the monitor just below the camera. Then your eyes need only drop a few inches to see them when they speak.
  • When it’s your turn to speak, remember to look at the camera, not the person’s image on your screen. Looking at the camera will make your image appear to be looking at the other person’s real eyes. The process of shifting your eye contact between the Webcam when you are speaking and your reps when they are speaking will take a certain amount of practice before it becomes second nature.
  • A microphone will pick up your voice from about 18 inches away, so move it out of view. Your image will be much cleaner without the microphone and you’ll be less likely to swat it with your hands if you make a dramatic gesture.
  • Dress for the videoconference as you would in person. If you’re meeting with your sales reps and would normally do so sitting at a desk wearing a tie, then that’s how people should see you during the videoconference. If you usually wear glasses, leave them on.
  • Wear solid colors as they stand out well on camera. Avoid stripes and checks since movement of these patterns can cause pixilation or a break-up of the image.
  • Observe the same societal rules you would in person. Don’t pick your nose or your teeth; don’t scratch your face or play with your hair; don’t hunch over your desk; don’t multitask. Put 100% of your concentration into the videoconference.

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