Keep Your Customers and Your Teams Connected: Turn on Your Camera

pexels julia m cameron 4145190 750x400We, the ProAV people, know better than anyone that video communication has been around a long time. The first official video call was in 1958. I remember working to help corporations define a return on investment for the videoconferencing infrastructure. They had an automatic message for every travel request. For example, “Could this meeting be done over video? Cut travel costs and save time with video!”

Back then, we didn’t think about the bacterial benefits of staying away — being remote — from each other. During COVID, the desired benefit of the remote communication was to maintain a sterile distance between team members. Keep your germs to yourself and do not sneeze on me! The boom of remote work, enabled by video communications, allowed a safe distance while still communicating and collaborating.

The London Image Institute says “Nonverbal communication incorporates many areas that include physical expressions, posture, mannerisms, eye contact, gestures, tone of voice, and other ways people communicate without speaking.” They assert that only 7% of communication is the words themselves. We get the nuance and the teamwork through the body language — the faces of the people with whom I am speaking tells me a lot more than the letters in an email.

More and more people have become familiar with the logistics of video calls. Some users got very serious about it and invested in separate webcams from Logitech and set up ring lights to illuminate their faces for their audience.

The restriction of distance carried on for far longer than people thought, and there came a backlash. Sterile was good, but not enough. The distanced teams needed to connect with one another other and be people again. That little square of communication felt confining. Some people started turning their cameras off. There was talk of “Zoom fatigue,” a feeling of emotional depletion from having to be on camera for hours of communicating with people far away. Is it possible that even our own ProAV teams have forgotten the benefits that our cameras bring to the conversations and relationships?

Studies show that teams and their members benefit from seeing each other. TechTimes reported, “individual workers stand to gain, but the entire team does too, including perhaps the most obvious improvement-better teamwork and collaboration.”

Approximately seven out of 10 of those surveyed believe that their colleagues pay more attention when the video is on, and three in four say the quality of their conversations improves. Also, over two-thirds of professionals say turning their camera on helps them perform better even in a remote setup with several distractions.

As old as video is, it has become the current standard for communication. The culture has shifted to the camera for communication. When someone wants to know how to do something, YouTube is going to deliver a video with instructions. No wonder work teams expect our cameras to be on to add color and aliveness to the interactions.

Salespeople are usually willing to bring all their forces to the meetings. Internal teams might feel differently. But teammates communicating within their own group can get better collaboration by showing their faces. Everyone will benefit from seeing how we respond to their communications.

Cameras allow faces to show interest, concern and understanding. Not only that, our team members and our customers can see when we crack a smile at a joke. Shared humor is very bonding. This is not new. It’s been known that communication includes a lot more than only words. Body language accounts for a lot. Study after study has asserted this human reality.

The desire to capture that deeper communication is what inspired the invention of the video phone in the first place. What was new became old, but now it’s time for real-time video communication to be valued and embraced for what it has always been.

True, video calls are not always the right answer. There are many times when a text or an email is the best answer. In this time of multiple messaging mediums, it’s best to understand the purpose of the communication and the preferences of the audience.

It is possible that this magnificent tool is being taken for granted. But just because it has been overplayed doesn’t mean it is tapped out. When video is the right choice, turn on the camera. If necessary, utilize a fake or blurry background.

However, holding a meeting and not taking advantage of what our faces have to share with other people is undermining the message. Teamwork and cooperation are hard enough, I don’t want to leave anything that will assist out of the equation. Even on a bad hair day, I’ll show my face to my team.

It is useful to have a face to attract team members and customers. There are issues to be resolved, projects to complete, and relationships to be strengthened. Nothing beats video for bringing people together.