Just like video conferencing changed the way you connect with your workplace, the increasingly popular mobile video conferencing is triggering an evolution in how and where you connect. Without the need for a stationary computer or a bulky laptop, you can meet with your co-workers and clients anywhere you want. However, there is more to having a conference than just turning on a webcam and talking to someone on the other side. Here are a few pointers on how to avoid embarrassing yourself.
Can You Hear Me Now?
This annoying phrase has been uttered by mobile users more times than anyone cares to count. However, it highlights a common issue with mobile devices: range and signal intensity. While commercial solutions for mobile conferencing, like the Blue Jeans Mobile Video Collaboration suite, attempt to optimize the signal and use available bandwidth to the fullest, they can’t create something out of nothing. A poor quality, erratic wireless connection or network signal will ruin your video conferencing experience.
To compensate, always ensure that the place you want to be conferencing from has adequate connectivity. For networks, check the signal strength in advance. While coverage can be excellent, some buildings are constructed in such a way that they act as natural barriers for phone signals – don’t just assume it’ll work. In extreme cases, they can block the signal to the point where it becomes unusable. If you’re relying on a Wi-Fi connection, ensure you are in range and have a good quality signal. Understanding the way the signal propagates is of great help in planning your mobile conferencing. io9 offers an excellent article on the subject.
No, They Don’t Hear You
Even with excellent signal strength, you can still run into technical troubles. While the market for smartphones and other mobile devices exploded (as TechCrunch points out over 156 million devices were bought by consumers in just the first quarter of 2013 ), they are still only machines. While durable, they can and will fail. To minimize the chance of them doing so in the middle of a call, exercise due diligence.
This means ensuring that you have a full battery charge before you start calling and have a charger within arm’s reach. Video conferencing is on the expensive side when it comes to power consumption and the last thing you want is it shutting down in mid-sentence. Furthermore, built-in microphones tend to fare poorly when conferencing and usually allow for background noise to seep in and pollute the conversation. Microphone peripherals can be expensive, particularly if they are Bluetooth based, but they are far better than shouting at your smartphone and hoping for the best.
Wait, They Do (And They Are Laughing)
Of course, no amount of technology will replace ensuring your behavior is spotless. The Wall Street Journal hosts an excellent article describing how much harder it is to come across as likable on video rather than in person. This also means that it’s that much easier to come across as unlikable. There are several ways to minimize the risk of appearing as the latter, beyond excellent personal hygiene, general politeness, and attention to what you wear.
Distractions are the biggest problem and they are a lot more pervasive in mobile video conferencing. It’s easy to just put your microphone on mute and just nod along as you listen in, while browsing the Internet, enjoying the view, or even playing games on your device or computer. Problem is, these will cause you to lose focus and stop paying attention – or worse.
But even if you are paying attention, you can embarrass yourself if you don’t exercise caution while choosing the place to attend a conference. It’s tempting to use whatever’s comfortable, especially if you don’t have to transmit video, but it’s very easy to become the hottest topic in your company due to poor choice of location while conferencing. Imagine turning the mute off while eating and broadcasting the sound of your dining across the entire conference. Hardly the best impression you can make.
All three points boil down to one piece of advice: Think before you attend a conference. The vast majority of errors and mishaps originate from a lack of thought or due diligence. Fact is, they can all be sidestepped and avoided entirely if you take a few moments to think about what can go wrong during the conference if you decide to attend it in particular circumstances. You’ll be surprised at just how many things can fail and result in unwanted attention from other attendees. Murphy’s law is amusing when you read about it. Less so when you live it.