We’re all adjusting to the “new normal” of working remotely (though with varying degrees of success.) Video conferencing has always played a part in uniting teams regardless of demographic location. Though today, we rely on it more than ever before. It can be endearing to allow your coworkers to get a glimpse of your home life. A barking dog or wandering toddler remind us of the juggling act we’re all experiencing as our professional and personal lives continue to merge. But it is possible to share too much.
Whether using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype or Google Hangouts, we’ve compiled some basic rules for video conferencing etiquette.
1. Stage Your Area
Take the time to see how your video looks to others. Consider your environment. Are you in a space that’s clean, quiet and professional? No one wants to look at an unmade bed or an open door looking into your bathroom. If you’re unable to make your space presentable, both Skype and Microsoft Teams allow you to blur your background. This is great because it keeps the focus where it belongs—on you—not your dirty laundry.
2. Background Screen
Nearly all video conferencing platforms now allow you to create a customized background. Your favorite meme or a still from the Shining is the perfect background when chatting with friends. However, when participating in a business meeting, it’s best to forego the humorous in favor of the professional.
3. Dress for Success
You should try to look your best for any meeting, whether in-person or via video. Dressing as though you were going to an office gets you mentally prepared. When you know you look good, you experience improved confidence, and that can help bring forth your “A” game.
4. Test Your Setup Before Your Meeting
Join the meeting early to make sure your video and microphone are working properly. No one wants to hear heavy breathing or assaults against your computer while you fiddle with your audio settings. Zoom even offers a link (https://zoom.us/test/) that allows you to test your connection and audio before joining an actual meeting. Also, using your computer’s microphone and speaker can cause echoing and feedback. A modest investment in a good set of earphones ($30 or less) with an internal microphone can really pay off. Quality audio can vastly improve the efficiency and performance of a video conference call.
5. Only Invite Participants Who Need to Be There
No one likes being in meetings. Especially when they have things they could be getting done instead. People really hate being in meetings that don’t pertain to them, or when they have nothing to contribute. As the host of a meeting, you want it to run as smoothly as possible. The more people you have in a single meeting, the more hiccups you can expect to encounter. More invitees allow for more opportunities for things to go wrong. Have you ever tried to troubleshoot your boss’ video connection from your living room? A smaller, more engaged group increases participation as people are more likely to experience a smooth, productive conversation. Remember, a meeting can be recorded and sent to interested parties after the fact.
6. Introduce the Meeting and Attendees
The same social standards that apply to an in-person meeting, apply to a virtual one. Start off by stating the meeting’s objective and an outline of what it is you hope to accomplish. Introduce the attendees to one another with a brief description of their respective roles at the company. When people know who they’re talking to and why, they’re more likely to engage, participate and learn.
7. Be Respectful to Your Host
As someone who has facilitated many video meetings, I can attest to the frustration born of seeing someone completely unengaged. Casually scrolling on your phone or having a conversation with someone out of frame is disrespectful to the meeting host. Even worse, your disinterest could signal to other employees that the topic being presented is of little importance. If you absolutely cannot avoid taking a call or engaging in conversation, turn off your video. Don’t allow your detachment to provide a distraction for others.
8. Mute Your Mic When You’re Not Talking
This is probably the most rudimentary and self-explanatory rule of video conferencing etiquette: mute your mic. Shuffling papers, chewing, or simply breathing loudly can all become distracting (if not annoying) to your fellow participants. Disruptive background noises aside, if you’re experiencing a video lag, an unmuted mic is likely to create an echo effect. Best practice dictates muting your microphone whenever you’re not talking. In Microsoft Teams, the key command to mute and unmute during a call is Ctrl, Shift and M. In Zoom, it’s Ctrl, Shift and A.
9. Look Directly into the Camera When Talking
By making eye contact with the camera, it’ll seem to other attendees like you’re looking directly at them. Looking at yourself while talking can make you look preoccupied. Set up your computer’s camera at eye level and at a distance that’s relaxed and comfortable. If using your phone’s camera, avoid holding the phone in your hand. Find a flat, secure location to place your phone so your video remains steady. You don’t want your coworkers getting motion sickness while you’re explaining your next great idea.
10. Lighting is Crucial
If possible, position yourself so you are facing a window or a lamp. If you are backlit, your face will be hidden. This makes it hard to read your reactions and also to know when you’re about to speak. Natural light is always optimal, but if it’s not available, just make sure you’re able to be seen. It’ll go a long way toward making sure you’re heard.
11. Stay Focused
Fight the urge to read your email or check in with social media. No matter how good you think you are at multitasking, other participants can tell when you’re not paying attention. If focus is something you struggle with, you may find it helpful to step outside for a few minutes prior to joining a meeting. Some people claim standing up during video conference calls keeps them from feeling distracted or listless. Find what works best for you, to retain concentration and maintain focus.
12. First to Enter, Last to Leave
As the meeting host, it’s up to you to know when to end it. Be mindful of other people’s time and try to wrap up within the time originally set. Recap key takeaways and review “next steps.” Encourage people to take conversations offline if their focus becomes too narrow for the group as a whole. As the host, thank people for their participation and wait for everyone else to sign off before exiting the meeting.
That’s All Folks!
By practicing professional, common sense video conferencing etiquette, you’ll get the very best out of every meeting. If you have any questions, comments, or if there’s something we’ve left out, be sure to drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you.