Are you a therapist struggling to conduct your regular appointments during the current social restrictions? Well, the show can go on! With online platforms, clients can be supported by their care providers completely digitally, which is great to see. But now we’ve crossed the first hurdle, we can take it even further and give some attention to video session 'hygiene'. Because just as you would have rules of conduct in a conversation in person - this goes for online sessions as well.
In this blog, we’ve highlighted 7 best practices for video calls, to help the call run smoothly for all participants. Have you started using video sessions recently? With these tips you can take it to the next level - video calling like a pro!
1. Stability of the camera
Make sure that the phone, tablet or laptop with which you make video calls has a stable surface. This means that it is best not to hold it in your hand or put it on your lap. Where possible, place your device on a table or in a holder.
A shaky camera can be distracting during a video call
Why? A moving image is distracting, meaning that your attention keeps going to the image: Can I still see the other person? Am I still in the frame? But when your device is on a fixed surface, you're able to focus much better on the conversation. When having a casual video call with a friend or family member, a shaky image might be less of an issue. But when we’re talking about treatment or therapy, this becomes more important. It also means you'll be hands-free, so you’re able to ‘talk with your hands’, or to make notes if needed.
2. Posture and distance to the camera
Watch your posture on the camera: does it feel natural? Are you relaxed? It might also be a good idea to give some thought to your sitting position. As a therapist, you might find yourself having several video sessions a day, so it’s important to sit in a comfortable position to avoid physical complaints. Then think about your distance to the camera - can you see your screen and conversation partner well? How do you come across?
To read body language, you need to be able to see the other person properly
Avoid a position where your head fills all of the camera view; move yourself or the camera back slightly instead. In person, you wouldn’t sit very close to someone else’s face - it doesn’t feel natural and can distract from the content of the conversation. Also, the person you're calling might appreciate being able to read some of your body language. To be able to do that, they need to see part of your body. So make sure you bring your shoulders into view and stay relaxed.
3. Bring the camera to eye level
During day-to-day work, you’re probably used to having the middle of your computer screen at eye level. But when you’re going to have video sessions, it's better to bring your camera to eye level instead. This way, you’re closer to looking at each other in the eye as you can be. This helps to bring both participants to the same height.
Come as close to looking each other in the eye as you can
If your camera is positioned much lower than your eyes, you'll need to look down on the screen. And apart from the fact that this can be a less charming angle, it can come across as if you’re ‘looking down’ on someone. Raising your camera to eye level often isn't too tricky - a pile of books can serve as a makeshift laptop stand or phone holder.
4. Choose your backdrop
What makes a good background for a video call? Ideally, something that isn't too distracting - it's not ideal to see a cluttered bookcase or a pile of laundry behind someone you’re having a call with. However, that doesn't mean that your background must be completely bare - your usual sessions in person wouldn't be in a blank room, so a bit of atmosphere is fine.
It's not ideal to have a cluttered background which can distract
For example, if there's a potted plant or vase of flowers in the room, that can bring a bit of life to the background, without being too distracting. If there's something in your background that you cannot remove but that you feel might divert attention, you could consider covering it with a sheet or blanket.
5. See the light
Pay attention to the light when you make a video call - where is it coming from? If the sun is shining, make sure to not have the sunlight directly behind you as this makes you appear as just a silhouette on the screen. This can give off the impression of someone under interrogation rather than a therapy session - which definitely isn't the image you want to put across!
Is your call before sunrise, or after sunset? If so, make sure you have a light or a lamp on to replace the natural light. If you don’t, the only light will come from your screen, creating an eerie, non-natural atmosphere. A bit of artificial light can make all the difference, as can curtains.
6. The sound
If you can, it's best to use headphones or earphones with a microphone. It may look more natural to see someone without headphones, but sound is very important in video calls. Especially if at home with families, housemates or pets wanting attention: the risk of background noises that don’t belong in the conversation is quite high.
Close yourself off from your surroundings
With a set of good earphones, you lower that risk and will be less affected. Also, it means less chance of an echo, which is great, because echoes can mean a negative video calling experience. With almost every phone you receive a headset, so you probably have the right tools at home. Is there someone in your house who is a major fan of gaming? Chances are this person can lend you a good set of headphones with microphone.
7. Test (and relax!)
You can forget all of this as soon as you start your video call. Why? Because all of the previous tips are things you'll be preparing in advance and testing. Where is the best lighting? Where should I put my potted plant? Where did I put those earphones? How many cookbooks do I need until my camera is at eye level?
The last tip is to prepare your set-up and your surroundings, do a test call with one of your colleagues and then don't stress - good preparation is sometimes half the job, but in this case it’s the whole job. So, now you can start your call and focus completely on the session and your client.
Want to know more?
Discover more about video calling for online therapy on our video sessions page.
Interested in implementing video calling for your therapy service or healthcare organisation? Get in touch!