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Let’s face it; those 9am Monday morning ones can be a real challenge.

It’s not just the fact that you’ve been up since 7am trying to get the kids ready, have had to take the dog out, or that you’ve got tons of work to get done, which can make video conferencing calls tricky.

When you’re working from home and having to juggle a domestic and a professional life, not still being in your pyjamas at 10am can sometimes be a real gold medal achievement.

It doesn’t help that other members of your team always seem to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and are happy to appear on video on the call. Steve, of course, has already run 5km, Samantha has just baked a batch of muffins while Fred has written a thesis on quantum physics all before his first cup of coffee.

There’s plenty of reasons why many of us, while being quite happy to take part in virtual meetings, chose to do so with the camera and video function firmly turned off.

Camera shy or camera confident?

It’s not just that we haven’t showered in time for that 9am zoom or that we haven’t quite got our heads around the meeting.  Many people just don’t like seeing themselves on video.

For some, it can be inhibiting and can sap their confidence in what they are trying to say or bring to the meeting. The most experienced leader can crumble when they are on video even if it’s just a call with people they know. The most extrovert extroverts can find it cringy and stressful, particularly if you are engaging with a new client for the very first time.

Then there’s the whole headphone issue too – will your in-ear buds fall out just at that crucial moment and will everyone laugh at your big DJ headphones with mic attachment?

What about the kids? Are they going to wander into the room and ask for a drink? What if there’s gaps or awkward silences?  Will the cat jump up on your keyboard? Will my broadband be up to it?

Will people judge my décor and wallpaper?!

Our Internal Comms Director Carly asked why video calls were not everyone’s cup of tea on a LinkedIn post with some fascinating results. As well as all of the above, people said they could focus better on what’s being said at the meeting with video off. Autistic colleagues can find them exhausting and distracting, while video call fatigue is a big factor.

In her blog, Corporate Comms expert Susana Ordaz says the reasons why people don’t want to use video can run pretty deep.

“The basic elements of interactions, such as taking turns to speak in group meetings or facing silences in conversations, become more puzzling and can lead to anxiety and fear of misinterpretation,” she says.

Crucially the video element in virtual meetings can mean people are staring at themselves for hours every day, that can take a toll, particularly on people who may suffer from body dysmorphia.

On the flip side, lots of people have been missing that face to face contact we were so used to pre COVID-19. They like being able to react to people’s expressions and facial clues as they present their latest report or ask for feedback.

For some, video calls are a chance to see colleagues again and to catch up, share a joke and a bit of banter.

Some platforms even allow you to use different backgrounds. One of our clients here at The Surgery looks like he’s always on a beach in Miami – it’s a great ice breaker and can help everyone feel relaxed (excuse the pitch but if you’d like to create your own business Zoom background drop us a line. Pitch over, thank you!)

Tips and tactics

According to Easy Meeting, a US-based video conferencing platform, there are plenty of solutions available if you want to feel more confident about video meetings.

They say using camera preview before going live can help as you can adjust the angle of your laptop, and change the lighting or background so that you’re happy with how you are presenting yourself and how you look.

If you’re organising a call as a line manager, try not to have too many people on one video call either. Sitting in front of a sea of faces can be off-putting for even the keenest video callers and can put a strain on the platform. As a rule, most operators say we shouldn’t be inviting more than five participants on each business video call.

There’s a time limit as well – more than three hours of video calls a day is enough to leave anyone feeling a little frazzled.

And of course, don’t judge. If people really don’t want to video call for whatever reason, then be inclusive and let them be part of it in whichever way they feel comfortable doing so.

UK tech firm Tech Interactive has more practical tips to help with video call conferencing;

  • Setting your webcam at eye level can make you appear more natural and more professional on the call – don’t fix it at an angle where people can see up your nose!
  • Prepare and plan for the meeting as you would have prepped for one pre-COVID-19 and know how to share your screen. You might suddenly get asked to present that report to everyone!
  • Set aside one room in your house with a clear background and good lighting where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Video call friends and family first. It’s a great way to practice.

Whatever we think about it, video conferencing is here to stay. Here at The Surgery, we find it more personal, fun, and engaging. It’s great to be able to do ‘face to face’ while being socially distanced, but of course, we understand the reasons why not everyone is so keen.

Just remember if you get your webcam angle right you CAN still do them in your pyjamas, we promise not to tell anyone!