The Five Biggest Mistakes People Make in Video Meetings

Now that things are returning to “normal,” don’t expect virtual meetings to go away. Expect to do more of them, more often, but with improvements.

Remember what happened in late winter 2020, when your employer told you that you would no longer be able to come into the office, but would have to work remotely until COVID was over and you could return to the office?  Those first few months were challenging, as people got used to Zoom, GoToMeeting, MS Teams and other remote meeting platforms.  We all got a chuckle when we saw each other in t-shirts and sweatshirts working from bedrooms, kitchens and the occasional bathroom.  Who didn’t love those precious video meeting “pet interruptions,” like when Snookie the Labradoodle started driving the keyboard?

It’s been well over a year and even though workplaces are returning to pre-COVID conditions, the remote (video/virtual) meeting is here to stay!  Prior to COVID there was doubt about whether or not people could be as productive working remotely as when they were in the office and collaborated with the person in the cubicle next to them. After a year of working remotely that concern has vanished. Virtual employees are more productive and less stressed than their in-office counterparts and have eliminated the annoying commute in bad weather at rush hour.

The Five Biggest Video Meeting Mistakes & Your Brand

Over the past year I’ve participated in more than 800 individual and group video meetings, and trained several thousand people on how to use remote meetings in ways that are effective, efficient, and reflect well on the employer’s brand. 

Whether participating in an in-person or virtual meeting, YOU ARE THE BRAND that the other participants see and hear.  Every second during a meeting, the other participants are reading you, your appearance, your body language, your words, and your delivery and what they perceive is directly raising or lowering the opinion of the brand you represent.  In other words, every second of every meeting you are either building your organization’s brand – or destroying it.

That’s why it’s critical for you and your organization to set yourself apart as a brand of excellence through the effective use of video meeting.  Based on what I’ve seen this past year, here are the Top Five areas of video mistakes that are costing your brand credibility and loyalty:

  1. Connection Deficiencies
  2. Poor Lighting and Setting
  3. Environmental Distractions
  4. Not Leveraging Body Language
  5. Not Knowing Your Platform

Mistake 1: Connection Deficiencies

A poor connection causes your voice and your image to be distorted, to fade in and out, and to disconnect from meetings in progress.  Besides frustrating the other participants, a poor connection slows down the entire meeting.  Here’s what to do to resolve this problem.

  1. Use the highest-speed connection your internet provider offers.
  2. Plug in directly – wireless connections are unstable and other people will compete for the same signal. You may need an adapter for your device (most devices offer some type of direct-connect port).
  3. Shut down competing programs. Unless you specifically need an application open for the meeting, shut each one down completely so that your device will give 100% of its attention to maintaining a great video connection.

Mistake 2: Improper Lighting & Setting

When video lighting is poor, the entire picture is either too dark with lots of shadows, or too bright and the picture is washed out.  Common setting problems include visible clutter (makes you look disorganized), inappropriate items in your background (makes you look unprofessional), too much noise (makes you unintelligible), and distracting items in your background (makes participants focus on the wrong things). Here’s what you can do to resolve this problem.

  1. Use a combination of natural and artificial light to illuminate your face and eliminate facial shadows.
  2. Never point the camera into the light.
  3. Find a quiet and distraction-free place. Not in your car, not the park, not the beach, not the bathroom or bedroom, and not a restaurant or airport.
  4. The camera sees everything behind and around you, so it must be clean, clutter-free, organized and professional.
  5. Consider a professional looking virtual background that is appropriate and bears the logo and branding elements of your organization. You may or may not need a greenscreen – check with your virtual meeting platform provider.
  6. Get feedback from others (like your boss) on how your image looks to them when you are participating in a meeting.
  7. Simply turning off your camera or using a static picture instead suggests to others that you aren’t sociable and you lose the ever-important body language component of the meeting.

Mistake 3: Environmental Distractions

The camera sees what is going on behind you, from pets to kids, and from to inappropriately dressed people parading around to shadows flickering on the wall behind you.  And your mic picks up all the noises, from email alerts to your smartphone sounds, and from trains going by to side conversations. Environmental distractions take the focus off you and the meeting, making the distraction the focal point.  Here’s what you can do to resolve this problem:

  1. Turn off all the noisemakers inside your room, such as phones, alarms, alert tones and the like.
  2. Close the windows, especially during warm weather months where landscapers work, trains rumble by, and jets whoosh overhead.  
  3. Close the door to shut out noise and distractions – if necessary post a sign outside and alert other to respect your “quiet zone.”
  4. Stay out of rooms where people walking by adds both visual and audible ditractions.
  5. Consider a virtual background that can block viewers from seeing any visible distractions.

Mistake 4: Not Leveraging Body Language

Do you know what people look at when they’re in a virtual meeting? People’s faces.  In fact, participants look at faces more than two-and-a-half times in a virtual meeting than the time spend in a physical meeting.  That means that every little thing is noticed, for better or for worse, in a video meeting. Body language makes up more than half of the message that people receive when interacting with someone.  The human face is the part of the body that sends the highest amount of body language messages.  Here’s what you can do to resolve this problem – and leverage this opportunity:

  1. First, the camera should capture your head and top 12-inches below your chin. Make certain your face is framed properly in the window.
  2. Learn to read facial body language. Your eyes, forehead, cheeks, nose, and mouth are the Big Five areas that reveal what you are thinking and feeling.
  3. Facial expressions can seem exaggerated with poor lighting. Best to have a pleasant look on your face, a natural smile (which is from the eyes as well as the mouth), and use affirmative head nods.
  4. Consider learning micro-expressions. Every human being telegraphs their real feelings in that split-second of instant reaction.  If you’ve ever watched a poker tournament you’ll notice that many participants wear sunglasses.  That’s to mask their eyes and visceral reactions.  Check online for works by micro-expression experts like Paul Ekman to better understand this science.
  5. Hands and upper torso should show erect and energetic posture, leaning forward a bit, with natural hand gestures. Caveat: avoid having your hands too close to the camera as they will appear to be giant hands for a small head and shoulders.

Mistake 5: Not Knowing Your Video Platform

Not all video platforms offer the same features, function and form.  In any given day I could have meetings on four different virtual meeting platforms, typically Zoom, GoToMeeting, MS Teams, and Google Meet.  Switching back and forth between platforms can be confusing and you might forget how a specific feature works on one platform versus another.  Here’s what you can do to resolve this problem:

  1. Practice ahead of any scheduled meeting. You set yourself up to fail if you haven’t familiarized yourself with the intricacies of each platform.  Fair or not, others equate your brand to your proficiency in a video meeting, whether you look good and sound good.
  2. Join meetings 3-4 minutes early, so you can have a few minutes to play with the features and locate where they are and how they work. If you’re a meeting participant, most platforms will let you check your camera, lighting, microphone, virtual background, and other features while waiting for the host to arrive. 
  3. If you are hosting the meeting, you should have a plan for the meeting itself that takes into consideration who will be presenting, what is being presented, when events should occur, and other logistical issues. Think through what meeting features and functions you’ll need to use and make sure you know how to use them.
  4. From experience, using breakout rooms seems to be the most challenging for people to master. This may require you to have practice sessions ahead of time so come the meeting, you are fully prepared and ready to go.

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I help leaders and aspiring leaders improve their performance and acumen, and sales and marketing professionals to become more productive and effective. I also work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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