Working remote means I’m on a lot of video calls. I’ve come up with a bunch of little tweaks to help with attentiveness and mindfulness during the call. It is important to show you’re listening.
Look at the camera often
When you’re in person you look at people’s eyes to show them you’re listening. Doing that on a video call requires a bit of counter-intuitive body language by looking at the camera. You won’t be looking at the person but they’ll see you looking directly at them. It’s a subtle difference but I’ve found it highly effective.
Also try to place the video call window up the screen towards the camera. Also decrease the size of the window so the person’s eyes are naturally closer to the top of the window (closer to the camera). When you’re not looking at the camera while the person is speaking it’ll still look like you’re generally looking at them. If you see someone’s eyes darting around during a call it’s easy to assume they’re distracted.
Don’t get on a video call unless the other people have your attention. There’s nothing more dismissive than seeing people on the call absorbed in something else. Give the speaker visual cues you’re listening including the occasional nod. Mark yourself as do not disturb and turn off distractions.
Show your hands
Once in a while I’ll lean back or do something to have my hands show up on camera. Why? It shows I’m not typing. If I’m not typing then I’m not doing something else like chatting on Slack or coding. This is just another subtle way to show you’re paying attention.
Take written notes
Hand-written notes force you to not use the keyboard and further pay attention. I generally let people know I like taking hand-written notes so they know why I look down once in a while. Sometimes looking down can be disruptive particularly in 1:1 meetings – conversations will naturally pause. If you need to be less obvious when taking notes then stick with typing notes.
Lighting, sound, camera
Make sure you’re properly lit and don’t have a light behind you that’s washing out your image. Use a headset or headphones to prevent feedback. Try using a higher quality microphone as well instead of the built-in one. If your camera is lower resolution consider getting a decent USB one. Looking and sounding good helps eliminate distractions from any message you’re trying to convey.
Turn off your own video preview
If you can, turn off the little window showing your own live view once you’re sure your lighting is good. You’ll find that once that preview is gone you’ll look more at the person on the other end of the call.