How to Use Video to Effectively Communicate During the Coronavirus Crisis

Now that you—and practically all of your managers and employees are working from home—the use of video is no longer a “nice-to-have.” If you or your company aren’t already using videoconferencing to communicate with media, clients, customers, prospects and your staff, you should seriously think about getting on board—and fast.

It’s important that people hear, and yes, SEE a demonstration of confidence and conviction from you during these very uncertain times.

Whether you’re doing an interview on CNBC from your den, or a holding a company-wide conference call first thing on Monday morning, you need to make the most of videoconference technology.

Here are some best practices to help make all videoconferences and remote interviews more impactful:

Practice. Don’t make your first video call an important one. Before getting on with a client, a reporter, or your whole organization, make sure you’ve gotten used to the technology you’re using.

Focus on the camera and assume you’re on air at all times. Resist the temptation to look at yourself. If you’re looking at yourself on the screen while you’re talking, it will seem like your attention is elsewhere or that you’re less confident in your answers.

You want to give the impression that you’re focusing on the anchor who is interviewing you, the client, or your team with direct eye contact. It might be helpful to practice with some internal calls to make sure you have the hang of it.

Delivery. Practice means not just getting the technology right, but also practicing your messages and themes in advance.  Have a list of the items you want to cover and practice articulating those themes before going “live.”

Home Studio. Ensure that you have a clean, work-appropriate, distraction-free setting. Everyone understands that people are working from home, but make sure your background is as professional as possible.

For example, make sure the bathroom door isn’t open behind you, that your kids’ toys are put away out of sight, and that no one will wander in unexpectedly. Make sure all ringers and other beeping notifications are turned off, including landline phones and cell phones, as well as apps on your computer.

Check your lighting (be careful if you are sitting near a window, the natural light can interfere).

Be Honest About Home Distractions. Despite our best efforts, occasionally things happen. If your dog barks or the kids suddenly start shouting during a call, it’s okay to admit what’s going on.  Don’t obfuscate—that may prove to be unintentionally humorous. (We all remember the infamous BBC dad interview!) Remember, we’re in this together!

Appearance. Optics matter. Dress business casual (at least) and demonstrate you’re still running a business.  Now is not the time to look like you’re on vacation or sleeping in or made a decision to try out that goatee. Show you’re working and that it’s business as usual—only from home.

Equipment. Be aware of your audio and video settings. Often, the most overlooked issue is whether the microphone and speakers are working. Do not take this for granted and make sure to check that your microphone is unmuted and that your camera is on ahead of every scheduled meeting/interview.

Importantly, have your web camera and monitor at eye level so you can look into the camera and simulate eye-to-eye connection with the anchor or other attendees. (This also helps avoid unflattering angles such as the dreaded double-chin.)

Tone Matters. Be mindful of having a measured, but positive tone and not shouting or showing too much intensity.  Give encouragement to your team, and avoid volunteering unnecessary and hypothetical bad news (e.g. “We haven’t lost any business yet, but we always think about layoffs.”).

When you have to convey bad news, do so, but again, don’t volunteer unnecessary scenarios.

Be Accessible and Visible. We may be hunkering down physically— but remotely, you should be communicating regularly, directing teams, being there for clients and even speaking to reporters as appropriate. Even if business isn’t going well and you don’t have great news to share, be there for your people and don’t hide.

Limit Participants When Necessary. Only invite meeting participants who need to be there—whether meeting with clients or internally. Given the number of moving parts and current environment, don’t invite people to participate if they’re not essential to the meeting—too many people can actually be detrimental.

With that, have an agenda so there is structure to the meeting and that it doesn’t last forever. Also make sure to utilize your technologies’ features. Most allow you to mute participants who aren’t speaking. 

Master these skills to make sure that your business continues to function—and yes, even thrive—during these very uncertain times. You’ll be that much of a better communicator when the crisis is over, whether you’re still working from home, back in the office, or out on the golf course!

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