Five Tips to Ace Your Next Video Conference from Anywhere

The prevalence of standard video capabilities on notebooks, tablets and mobile devices, combined with a new wave of affordable, enterprise-quality products and cloud services means that many of us will increasingly need to be "on camera" for one business reason or another.

From job interviews, to connecting with co-workers around the globe, video is here to stay. With that in mind, we may as well get used it, and if possible learn to master the art of communicating via camera.

To ensure your next video conference runs smoothly, here are five tips to keep in mind:

1. Practice: Yes, practice. There is nothing worse than being the person holding everyone else up because you can't connect, hear or be heard. Today's devices and services are surprisingly easy to use, but be realistic - five minutes before the start of your meeting is probably not the best moment to try it for the first time. Set aside 15 minutes the day before to get to know your device's audio and video settings and the service you're using to connect, which will probably require a brief download and software installation. If you're going to present, get to know the features you'll need to use. Don't be that guy.

2. Position: Whether you're connecting from a conference room, your office, home or from the road, take into account the positioning of your camera, microphone and seating. It may be that your setup is slightly better suited for working than for conferencing and will need some adjusting. Preview your own image, sound and avoid pointing the camera at a direct light source like a window or lamp, which will cause the camera to overcompensate. Most people either sit too far, too low or in a position that makes them look too relaxed or like they're trapped in some special effect.

3. Appearance: Especially if you're used to working from home, don't skimp on the grooming and dress. Your pet may not notice that you're unshaven or that your hair and clothes are unkempt, but others will. You are going to attend a meeting. The fact that it's coming to you shouldn't change the way you present yourself or otherwise prepare.

4. Attention: Your attention should always be with the speaker. Eye contact and body language are as important in a video conference as they are in person. Distracted and disinterested people distract others in the conference, and multitasking is a definite no-no, unless you're taking notes or otherwise engaged in what's going on. Forgetting you're on camera is sure way to get into trouble. Keeping your eyes on the screen and yourself in the frame will help avoid that scenario.

5. Mute and Disconnect: Failure to mute during or completely disconnect after a conference are two of the best ways to unintentionally annoy others or cause embarrassment. If you're not speaking, and especially if you're in an area with background noise, use the mute feature. Once your conference is over or you're done participating, make sure you have hung up, logged out and closed all conferencing applications.

With more and more businesses of all sizes integrating video into their communications infrastructure, workers need to be prepared for frequent on-camera meetings. To maximize efficiency, and to avoid any awkward gaffes, keep these five tips in mind to ace your next video conference.