Video Conferencing has been around a long time.  While industry professionals are excited about how far the technology has come, users often still feel that it doesn’t work or is too complicated, whether they are sitting in a $200,000 telepresence suite or using Skype on their desktop.

Here are a few ways to smooth out the rough edges and make your Video Conferencing experience the best it can be:

1) Use a quality camera — You can spend thousands of dollars on a top of the line HD PTZ camera for video conferencing, but the truth is that you can get excellent results with a Logitech C910 which is available for $75.  It isn’t the money you spend, but the getting the right camera for your environment and your expected uses.

2) Good light — Cameras need light reflecting off the subject in order to capture an image.  The difference between good light and bad light is like night and day in terms of what other people see.  Again, you can have really expensive lighting designers develop studio-grade lighting for you, or use natural light effectively.  The key is to be aware that it makes a difference.  When you are standing in a poorly lit hallway talking with someone, you don’t notice it, but bad lighting on a video call can be a big distraction.

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Photo credit: Scott Sharer, Communication Design Group, Savannah GA

3) Look ’em in the eye — Most conference rooms are designed so that when you look at the screen, it appears that you are looking at the camera.  With desktop video conferencing, it often helps to move the image(s) of the people you are speaking with as close to the camera as you can.  So when you look at the other participants in your video call, you appear to them to be looking right at them.

4) Be Yourself — Most modern video conferencing systems have full duplex audio, transmitted in CD quality, so you don’t have to shout at the mic, you just need to talk.  Think of the microphone as the ear of the person you are speaking with.  As long as you are close enough, they will hear you whether you shout, whisper, or just talk.

5) Keep background applications closed (unless you are sharing them on screen) — Unlike an audio conference call, people can see what you are doing, so like in-person meeting you should be totally present (or figure out how to check your Blackberry under the table).  With everyone “checked in,” hopefully meetings will be shorter and more productive.

6) Sit still — When you meet with people in person, you focus on them, look them in the eye and concentrate on listening (hopefully). A video conference should be no different.

7) Make it like a “real” meeting — Have an agenda, start and end on time, make sure you involve all participants, etc.  Make the most of the time you saved by not going to a conference room and waiting for the meeting to start, or driving/flying to the meeting site.

What other key success factors have you encountered in your experiences with video conferencing ?