Video conferencing etiquette is one of those things that often goes ignored in most professional environments. That’s not to say video meetings are an uncontrolled and wild affair, simply that most participants don’t think twice about changing their normal behavior given the situation. Luckily, this is almost never intentional but is instead the result of a misplaced belief that video meetings are identical to their face to face counterparts and therefore play by the same rules.
The truth is that while no matter how common or widely adopted video meetings become, there will always be a some key things that you need to take into consideration before engaging in one.
Enter video conferencing etiquette, aka how you should act when meeting anyone remotely. These following 7 tips will ensure you look like a pro in your next meeting instead of the person who borrowed their mom’s laptop in order to make this happen.
1. Look at the Camera - The importance of eye contact does not disappear just because you aren’t in the same room, it’s still necessary to show that you are engaged and attentive. Plus, if I see you look away in a traditional meeting, I can easily follow you eyes and see you checking out that last bagel on the table. If I see your eye wandering over video, I have no idea if you’re watching TV, keeping an eye on your cat, or just deep in thought. Don’t make your colleagues wonder where your focus is at - keep your eyes on the camera as much as possible.
2. Mute Your Microphone - Modern microphones are extremely powerful and I am often surprised with the details they can pick up. The sound of a gum smacking, side conversations, or just shuffling papers is easily amplified to annoying levels. I’m not telling you not to chew gum or click your pen, just turn off your microphone so you don’t make everyone else deaf. Pro tip - modern video conferencing solutions often change what’s on the main screen based on sounds, so turning your microphone off will prevent you from becoming the center of attention without warning.
3. Dress Appropriately - I know, I know - lots of video conferencing happens when you’re working remotely and decked out in your finest tank top and mesh shorts. However, we must insist that you dress reasonably when there is a camera involved. It’s not only respectful to your coworkers, it also shows you are taking the topic and meeting seriously. If you are conferencing with clients, then dress as you would if you were meeting them face to face.
4. Mind Your Background - One of the greatest benefits of a video meeting is that it can happen anywhere. However, participants must do their best to minimize distractions and that often includes the background. You’re typically safe when meeting from your office or conference room, but if you’re somewhere busy like a coffee shop or coworking space, try and have a wall behind you to reduce distractions. If you’re meeting at home, make sure whatever is behind you is something you don’t mind everyone else seeing. Nothing like getting into work the next day and finding out everyone saw the Beanie Babies you still have lining your mantle.
5. Allow for Technical Issues and Have a Backup Plan - Everyone can’t be Bill Gates when it comes to video conferencing technology. There will always be people that don’t get it or have trouble connecting for a variety of reasons. When this happens, don’t panic, just think back to this list and remember that you made a backup plan. Your backup plan should be emailed to all participants ahead of time (ideally included in the meeting invite) and consist of 3 things - instructions on how to use the video conferencing platform, a number to call, and an email to reach out to should there be a technical issue. If you do all of that you’re in the clear and absolved of any blame should someone really struggle with how to connect. You did your part, right?
6. Keep Movement to a Minimum - We’ve already talked a lot about distractions in this list so what’s the harm in adding in one more? When you’re meeting face to face in a conference room or office, you can get away with swinging your chair, stretching your arms, or even getting up and walking around. This is not the case when it comes to video, everything you do is visible and it can not only be distracting, but also disrespectful to your coworkers if you’re constantly moving around. So make your mom proud and try and sit still for the meeting and hope that everyone else does the same.
7. Understand the Restrictions - As glorious as a good video meeting can be, it still has some restrictions when compared to the traditional version. The main thing that comes to mind is trying to show anything other than your face via the camera, including a piece of paper, a whiteboard, or even a product. I know personally that it is almost impossible to hold a report still enough so that everyone can see it while you try and explain what it is you’re showing them. Do everyone a favor and use the screen share feature or distribute the materials before hand - it will make the process a lot easier and your colleagues a lot happier.
Video meetings are an amazing tool when done right, and even given some of the limitations their use continues to grow worldwide. Because of this, video conferencing etiquette has become even more important as people connect all over the world and place a greater importance on leaving a good impression. So, before you host or join your next web meeting, try and keep the following tips in mind so you can get the most out of the experience and set a good example.