Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Day 60: Conferencing WITH video

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Go to Day 59 or Day 61.

Thanks to Corona, I am doing currently about 30-50 conference calls per week. Based on 8 weeks of experience (best estimate: 300+ calls), I can only recommend: Turn your video on.

I am a kind of hybrid. My education and my initial job were purely technical. I started my career as software developer writing C code. Then I turned to the dark side. At first I became a manager and afterwards a sales guy.

Due to this upbringing, I nowadays talk in my job to several different groups: managers, procurement and engineers.

In those discussions I observed two things:

  • The more technical the people in the conference, the less participants have video enabled.
  • The conference calls without videos were less productive on average.
One has to be careful as correlation does not imply causation.

But I have discussed this by now with several people around me. All share my impression:

  • A meeting where all or most participant have their video stream enabled tend to go a lot more smoothly.
  • Not seeing the other person increases the social distance, especially if there is (as currently) no other contact beside the conference calls.
  • Technicians in general dislike activating their camera. Even when there is the option to hide (obscure) the private space, they "don't want" to use their camera.
I can totally relate that one does not want to be filmed the whole day. But not being seen comes at a price too. When "being a colleague" means you're just another voice on the phone, work becomes a lot harder for you. We humans are social animals and we do not just use our voice to communicate.

My recommendation would be:
  • Turn on your video when you enter the conference and during the small talk.
  • When you say something that is longer than one sentence, also enable your video.
It is OK, to turn off the video stream when you're just a listener. But if you say something, you usually want to achieve something. This is much easier when the others perceive you as person. This is much easier for the others, if they can see you.

It is also OK, not to stream the whole conference call. Me too, I turn off the video when eating, drinking or blowing my nose. But don't forget to turn it on again, when you give your report.

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