Love ‘em or hate ‘em, video calls are a way of life these days. While they’ll never replace physical face-to-face interactions (whenever those come back), they do provide opportunities to strengthen existing relationships and even start new ones. Whether you're a personal Zoomer or a business Google Meeter, here are a few really basic things you can do to make video interactions more meaningful and human.
If you’re going to be on a call, then ONLY be on a call.
Close out of your email program and web browser. Turn off your phone. Going without for a few minutes won’t kill you and will help you pay full attention to your conversation. SPOILER ALERT: no matter how chill or subtle you think you are, they’ll know if you try to multitask—and they won’t like it.
Use your video–even if they don’t use theirs
Leaving your video on during a video call (duh) is an act of good faith that means something to your conversation partners even if it doesn’t feel like it. Even if you have a photo that shows when your video is off, it isn’t the same as giving someone a real live person to interact with. Otherwise, why are you doing a video call in the first place?
Look them in the eye—not in the screen.
Remember that if you want to make direct eye contact with someone, you need to look at your camera and not at their face, which may cause you to look down or to the side. It takes a little getting used to, but it will go a long way in helping you connect with your conversation partner. And they won’t think you’re trying to look down their shirt.
When you mute your audio, the line goes dead on the other end and it can feel weird and empty. This is not a nice thing to do to someone. Unless you're in a group call and they tell you to do it, DON'T.
Know that when you’re dealing with technology, you-know-what happens.
Regardless of how good your internet/wi-fi connection is, video calls can go sideways in a heartbeat with bad audio, frozen video, and other things. THIS IS NOBODY’S FAULT, so don’t get your knickers in a twist– just take a deep breath and make a mental note of where the conversation was when the glitch happened. When you do reconnect, update the person on what you remember and pick up where you left off as best you can. Being calm will help the other person be calm and give you both a better chance of getting back to a meaningful conversation.
Finally, don’t forget your pants. Happy zooming!