Lesson from a Web Cam

Create a “web cam culture” at work

The Backstory

When walking around the office, I notice that almost everyone is talking to their monitor with their headsets on. People are oblivious to the world around them. This is the world I helped create.

Yup, it’s true. My job is to help others do their jobs better, more efficiently, and more comfortably and that means temporarily disconnecting them from where they sit by video streaming them to another place for others to see. It’s the closest we’ll get to a Star Trek transporter anytime soon!

Arguably, part of being “better” means becoming more disconnected to who is physically around you. We need to connect with our customers and volunteers that are not anywhere near us… those who can make a difference in reaching our organization goals; they need us; we need them.

One way to accomplish this is leveraging video conference capabilities, so I encouraged and helped create the “web cam culture” in my organization. Somewhat tough to achieve but totally worth the effort.

The Object

My favorite desktop web camera.

It’s attached everyone’s monitors. The Microsoft Lifecam web camera… and that’s in addition to the built-in cameras on everyone’s laptops. These little bullet cams are awesome… easy set up, HD quality, and simple to support. But, this wasn’t always the case.

The Cultural Evolution

To briefly explain the how we got here, I need to go back a little ways… about four years.

When I first started working for my organization, people sporadically used office communication tools beyond email and a phone line, and there were few standards or strong centralized support.

Year one…

People were using one monitor, I thought… how can people get work done efficiently and see what they’re doing on one, tiny monitor? Rolled out two to everyone, and boom… instant love with no turning back. Productivity and morale increases.

Year two…

There were pockets of instant messaging utilization, but not wide-spread adoption. So we encouraged and demonstrated the value of IM’ing during work through Lync, now Skype for Business. It started to sell itself as a useful and complementary communication vehicle. Productivity and communication speed increases.

Year three…

Holiday sales were on, and only a couple of people had web cams. I thought… now is the time to enable everyone. So, I bought web cams — enough so every full-time person had one. People probably thought I was nuts, but without good equipment, good luck trying to get people to try video conferencing. Pockets of regular use emerge; communication value increases.

Year four…

Now, let’s put it all together… good monitors, on-screen instant messaging experience, and a decent web camera. We showed how easy video calls can be done and slowly change how people work together. With a couple of staff working remotely and a drive to use web cams, jumping on video calls started to become the norm around the organization.

My friend Charles Holmes-Hope and I interacting through a Google Hangout.

Then it expanded exponentially through tools like GoToMeeting, Skype, Google Hangout, and Zoom. We encourage others to turn on their cams — customers and volunteers interacting with staff, external vendors on implementation calls, partnership calls with other organizations, and so on. Working via video isn’t just novel or hip anymore, video conferencing is how work gets done today.

Of course, consumer technology integration and social media video tools in general helped inspire more video conferencing. So, now what?

Cameras are everywhere. Are they watching you? Some people think so.

The Lesson

While I could use this topic to news jack popular topics like reasons why web cams should be covered up when not in use, I am not going there. So, I’m going to list a few key take-aways resulting from the transformation of my organization to a web-cam culture.

  • It’s easier to hold people accountable to paying attention while on camera.
  • Money can be saved by reducing the cost of travel and meeting through video conferencing.
  • Increase revenue and brand value by reaching larger audiences quicker.
  • People work together better by seeing each others’ eye balls.

That’s great and all, but HOW did we transform?

Here are a few quick tips I recommend for anyone on the journey to become a web cam culture:

1) Be Prepared

  • Think engagement value and talk with people not to them
  • People will multi-task; deal with it. But they will multi-task less when they can see you, and you can see them.

2) Understand the Audience

  • What is the motivating factor for others to join a video conference?
  • Be clear with the invitation and what is planned for the call
  • Most humans like to see another human face. Capitalize on that.

3) Focus on the Few

  • When video conferencing with more than one person, only present key points and stick to primary take-aways.
  • People won’t remember much, so don’t waste your time.

4) Think Visually

  • Appeal to emotions and illustrate points as much as possible
  • Use images and ideas, not words, while telling a story
  • Pick up the camera (or tablet) and “bring” the person on the other end with you… to the whiteboard or wherever.

5) Be Conversational with Body Language

  • Avoid saying out-loud the information people can read, while watching the “back channel” during calls
  • Be aware of the quality and variance of your voice
  • Pay attention to how you “move” and your own facial expressions
  • Think about the background… it’s what people will see around you.

Encouraging more video interaction is a lot easier than it used to be… shoot, now people are demanding it. Harness the movement, and keep things professional. Enable where you can.

My computer at work. #lucky

Written by Shaun Holloway.