Five pitfalls of video calling, and how to avoid them

Video calling is a great way to continue meeting with your coworkers and clients when forced to work remotely. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean things can’t or won’t go wrong. In this blog, you’ll find five common pitfalls and tips on how to prevent them from happening altogether.

For nearly a year now, the Corona crisis has remodeled how we work, and has made working from home a very normal thing. We now connect with our coworkers and clients through a computer screen. This is often very convenient, but it isn’t without its faults; we need to be wary of the pitfalls of video calling.

Pacing while on the phone

Video calling isn’t just about the call itself, it’s also about everything that happens around it. I am usually an avid wanderer while on the phone, and I am not alone! Pacing around while on call is often associated with higher creativity, and is a very normal behavior to the absence of a stimulus you normally get in face-to-face conversations. Unfortunately, it has been quite difficult to keep this up while video calling.

What’s more, there are definite security concerns about video calling, like the usage of passwords, waiting rooms, or links, to name a few. It’s important to always use safe tools and continue taking the necessary precautions.

Here are five pitfalls of video calling, with tips on overcoming them:

1. Preparation time

Maybe you’ll recognize yourself in this. If you plan an appointment somewhere distant, you’ll likely be ready on time, or maybe even way too early. However, with appointments that are close by, you tend to be late.

Whenever I have an appointment somewhere that involves traveling, I always first sit down to prepare; I do some online research and note down practical things, like the address and information about the company and the person(s) I’ll be meeting with. When I get to my car and start driving, I can relax and listen to some music or an interesting podcast. Of course, on my way I also think about what I’d like to talk about in the meeting. When I arrive (early), I am always well prepared and ready for my appointment.

A video call is comparable to a meeting with absolutely no traveling involved, with no time to get ready on the way. This causes me to miss a large part of the preparation process.

One way to solve this problem is to set an alarm thirty minutes before your meeting to simulate that preparation period. It will force you to visualize the meeting and prepare more appropriately, just as you normally would.

2. Less small talk

When I have a video call, I tend to skip the chitchat and get to the point of the meeting as soon as possible. I don’t do this on purpose but I guess somehow the nature of video calling is more formal. We don’t have the opportunity to make jokes while shaking hands, grab a coffee and talk as we take the elevator up to the meeting room. We skip all that important stuff and just get straight to the point, missing an opportunity to connect.

The solution? Start your video call with ten minutes of small talk. This will help you break the ice and get to know each other. You can even have a virtual cup of coffee together!

3. Technical issues

No matter how advanced your video calling tool is you can always expect a technical issue to show up, or ten! Maybe you can’t hear each other, or maybe your screen is frozen. There is always a problem to solve, and that costs everyone involved valuable time.

To prevent technical issues, test all your systems before you have your meeting: sound, video, connection, battery, platform… That way you reduce the chance things will go wrong during the video call.

4. Lack of body language

When you are video calling, you can see and hear each other, but you miss the small nuances. Body language is very important during meetings, whether it’s the way people shake hands, walk, sit or look each other in the eye. Most of that isn’t picked up when meeting online.

This will get better once you get more used to video calling; you’ll learn to pick up nuances and body language from the screen. As a quick tip: your facial expression matters. Try not to look disinterested, nod along, and make an effort to look at others or the camera instead of yourself, as many report doing.

5. Stage fright

Some people have a lot of experience being on-screen, and some are simply naturals at it. While few are comfortable during video calls, others are shy and intimidated at the idea.

This all comes with practice. I recommend filming yourself regularly, following it up with a performance review from time to time. The more you do it, the easier it’ll feel, and you’ll slowly become better at talking in front of the screen.

Raymond te Veldhuis
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