With Video Conferencing platforms such as Zoom becoming the norm for communications during the pandemic these days, I thought I would put some pen to paper of the basics of Video Conferencing Etiquette.
“Alright, Mr. DeVille, I’m ready for my close-up.”
Get Ready, Get Dressed.
Even my business coach was unimpressed with my choice of wardrobe on our last Zoom call. I was wearing a T-Shirt and Jeans. My first thought was, ‘Hey! At least I put on pants!’ He reminded me how much people judge you by how you look and how you present yourself. This is true in both in person as well as in Video Conferences. From then on, I dressed appropriately for each meeting as though I was going to attend it in person.
Silence is Golden
And Duct Tape is Silver.
Evey time I join a call, I IMMEDIATELY put myself on mute. I leave myself on mute the entire time until either I am called on, it is my turn to talk, or I plan to be the next person to speak. Why? Well it is distracting to hear anything that may go on in your background (the dog, the kid, the doorbell, the fan, sirens, car horns, etc.). Whenever I am on the phone with my offshore colleagues I regularly hear the busy streets of Mumbai behind them on the other end of the call. I was on a call with someone who was a MAJOR mouth breather and had to mute her several times during the call so we everyone could hear me speak to the class. So, keep yourself on mute. Teams and the latest version of WebEx have the function to turn yourself on mute AFTER you connect your audio setup and BEFORE you join the call. What a blessing.
Smile, you are on Candid Camera
While we love to “see” everyone in a meeting, it may not always be appropriate. I was on a dress call for an upcoming rebid presentation that the client wanted done over Video Conference. The person who was presenting the power point for the group also had his camera on. While he was not the one speaking the whole time, he was the one who wanted this control. This is totally fine way to do it this way so that people do not need to “pass the ball” around the room with different slide decks and waste time in the transition, this also helps with the flow of the presentation. The problem was he spent the ENTIRE time pacing and fidgeting during the presentation. Even the VP who was on the call had to bring it up as a problem. His response, of course, was he would not have his camera on during the actual presentation the next day but still…it was DISTRACTING. I do have to say, if this was a dress rehearsal, you weren’t acting like it 🙂
Mind Your Background (Noise)
On a recent Zoom call we recorded for our Podcast, one of our hosts decided to put a giant American Flag up on the wall behind him (‘MURICA!). As soon as he joined the call I made sure to comment on it. There was nothing wrong with it but it made an impact on me and was worth mentioning. Plus we normally chat back and forth before the recording for sound check and warm up.
During one of our Virtual Dads Night’s Out one of the dads was commenting on some of the bottles of adult beverages on display behind him in his Home Office. They then went in to a diatribe about their preferences in adult beverages. Totally appropriate to the subject of the call but take this as a note that people see and notice what is behind you in a video call. This also holds true for any background noise coming from your end of the line. Find a quiet corner (or closet) to close the door and connect to your call. Use a headset if you have one. Even a basic phone headset will work over using the built in speakers and microphone on your computer. If you are ever in a busy place, keep yourself on mute and consider Noise Cancelling Headphones.
This is my Good Side
While most of our laptops and phones have the camera at the top, some unfortunate models have it at the bottom of the screen. With this, your video will show you from the chin up – not a good look for anyone. So keep in mind where your camera is and how you look to others when you Camera is on and you are speaking. Some folks have resorted to putting their laptop on phone books or using an external camera in order to get the best angle.
My eyes are up here
When you are speaking or listening keep in mind where you are looking. When you are speaking; think of how the News Anchors do it. Look straight at the camera and “Read the News.” You are making eye contact with the other participants without actually looking at them. (Look but try not to stare.) Glance at the screen to see your audiences reactions. While you are listening; look at the camera and do your active listening techniques (nod your head and agree, or disagree). If this is too much for you, or you plan on getting distracted checking emails (read: surfing Facebook) then turn your camera off when you are done your part of the call.
Lights, Camera, Action!
Believe it or not, your laptop and phone camera do not produce light on their own (shocker)! So make sure there is a good light source in front of you or next to you. NOT BEHIND YOU! (You will be a blocked out silhouette of yourself.) Sometimes it helps to be next to a window with natural light but a desk lamp works just as well. Put the lamp behind your laptop and point it at your face.
Slow Traffic; Keep Right.
If you are on a slow or mobile connection, this CAN AFFECT THE CALL QUALITY. Think about not using your camera, or chatting in the chat box instead of talking out loud as folks may not be able to follow you.
Thanks for reading! If you have more tips to add; please comment below!