As a totally remote team, we can be a little obsessive about making sure that our video calls are easy to follow and participate in. And participation on video calls is even more important for us as one person at Hanno is deaf.
These guidelines are designed to make our calls as smooth as possible and break down some of the barriers of remote collaboration and communication.
If you’re a client working with Hanno, every one of our shipmates will thank you if you’re able to adopt some of these guidelines 😄
We strongly favour Zoom for video calls. After a lot of testing, we’ve found that it is the best video platform for handling calls with lots of participants, especially when some of them are on less reliable connections.
Remote group call etiquette
A few tips we’d recommend on all group calls can improve the conversation a lot:
- Mute your microphone if you’re not speaking: this is essential on a large call so that background noise from one person doesn’t degrade the call for everyone else.
- Raise your hand if you’d like to speak when someone else is talking. This is a simple visual cue that everyone else can follow.
- Show a thumbs up or thumbs down sign to agree/disagree on a group call.
- Make fewer ‘listening sounds’ on group calls. If you’re saying “uh huh”, “yup”, “definitely” while someone is talking, this can interrupt and distract them and make it harder for others to follow.
Improving your audio and video
Let's take a look at an example of a bad call at Hanno: you'll see that many people have bad camera quality, poor lighting and awkward off-center camera angles. Some don't even have microphones!
Take that as an example of what not to do! Here are some practical tips that can make calls a much more enjoyable experience:
- First, the most obvious one: find the quietest environment possible before joining the call. Don’t make calls from noisy shared spaces.
- Speak up immediately if you can’t hear on a call - even if it’s not fixable on the current call, making people aware of potential issues allows them to fix it next time. Most of the time, they’re probably not aware that it’s an issue.
- If you happen to be in the same place as another participant, don’t sit in the same room! If you do have to be in the same room, make sure that you never have both microphones switched on at the same time.
- Be aware of environment quality: hard surfaces + no sound insulation in your room + bad microphone = echoing and bad audio for other participants.
- Get the fastest internet speed possible. Pay careful attention to upload speed, not just download, because this is usually the bottleneck on most video calls. If you’re a full-time remote worker, invest in high-speed internet.
- If you're on a bad connection, you should compensate for this with the best microphone input you can get hold of. You can also look to improve your webcam, but improved video resolution won't help quite as much because of connection. But a better lens with better focus and light handling can still be beneficial.
- If you have an accent, be aware that you’ll need to take extra steps to compensate for that. Someone with a perfectly clear accent might get away with a poorer quality microphone, but you’ll want to overcompensate so that your accent doesn’t make the call harder for others.
- If you have a lot of facial hair you need to make sure you have good lighting, video and microphone to compensate for that. It’s harder for other people to see your facial expressions or read your lips.
- If you're in a gloomy room, move somewhere with more light. Then sit so that light is in front of you (optimum), illuminating your face and definitely never behind you.
- If you're travelling occasionally, make sure you have a portable solution for calls (especially the microphone) that can last you for short trips. Even if you’re travelling, don’t force others to try and hear you through your laptop’s built-in microphone.
- If you're travelling heavily, accept that you'll need to carry peripherals in your luggage (an external mic and cam) even if that feels like redundant weight. Otherwise, you're compromising your ability to do your job - both on internal calls and also on client and group calls.