Even before the global pandemic, video conferencing was becoming an essential component of the modern business world, helping to improve the connectedness of remote team members. Recent research suggests that the long term implications of Covid-19 could result in as many as 50% of the UK workforce working remotely by 2021, therefore it isn't difficult to understand why being on top of your video conferencing etiquette is important.
As such Butler Ross has put together some do’s and don’ts of video conferencing so you don't find yourself committing a major faux pas at the next meeting.
Before the Meeting:
1. Ensure your technology works correctly.
You don't want to have to delay a meeting because your video conferencing system isn't working properly. Do a few test runs first and make sure you understand the process fully before starting your first video conference. This will make sure everything runs smoothly during the real thing.
If you do need to share your screen during a video call, take a few seconds to prepare before you hit that share button. Clear your desktop of any extra tabs or programs you may have open and make sure any private or sensitive information is hidden.
2. Wear work-appropriate clothing.
While it might be tempting to work in your comfy clothes all day, consider wearing professional attire to any video conferences you're attending. Simply choose something that would be appropriate if the meeting were face-to-face, rather than virtual.
It’s best to avoid patterns or stripes which may be distracting on camera. Wearing a bright white or black shirt may cause your camera to auto-adjust the brightness and make it hard to see your face, so wear a less extreme colour. It also doesn’t hurt to have good posture.
Also don’t fall into the trap of only dressing from the waste up. We’ve all heard the stories of people getting out of their seat with the camera still rolling to reveal their underwear. It’s a big no no!!
3. Set up your space.
If you can, find a private place to hold the meeting and if possible, use headphones to minimise background noise. If you have housemates, partners, or family members who are also working from home (or just stuck at home), let them know beforehand that you’ll be in a meeting to minimise interruptions.
Clean up the area around you. Open up the camera on your laptop or switch on your external camera and see what’s visible in the background before the call, and check that you’re comfortable showing that on a video call. Another option is to set up a virtual background, if you don’t have time to tidy up your space. This should be quite easy to find in settings in the software you are using. It also can add some light-hearted humour to the meeting.
4. Frame the camera correctly.
The last thing anyone wants is a view up your nose or down on the top of your head. When you are on video, make sure you frame your camera in a way that feels natural and allows you to look at the camera. Sit at eye level to the lens so that when you are looking at the screen, it appears as if you’re looking at the person you’re talking to. Try to position yourself so that it shows midsection up.
5. Have the right light.
Poor lighting conditions have an enormous effect on the video conference image quality. Make sure your face is well lit. Natural lighting and side lighting work best, but overhead lights will work well, too. Backlighting can often make it hard to see as such don’t have a window behind you. You'll want to make sure that there is enough light in the room you're in so that your video isn't grainy and unwatchable. You also don't want any faces being lit from below, as this makes you look like a cartoonish villain from a silent film.
During the Meeting:
6. Be on time.
This one should be obvious with any meeting, video or otherwise. However, when you are dialling into a video conference, it's especially important. Whilst you might be able to get away with sneaking into a physical meeting late, everything is more visible in a video conference. When you “walk in” late, you'll distract anyone who is speaking. This can result in confusion, stoppages, and frustration.
7. Mute yourself when not speaking.
Even though you may not be speaking and think you are being quiet, most microphones can pick up minor background noises, like coughs, sneezes, or typing. There have even been cases of hearing people excuse themselves and go to the toilet!!. These sounds can easily distract other video conferencing participants and potentially cause annoyance.
Muting allows others on the call to easily hear who’s speaking. Also, if you need to get up or move around or do something else during the call (or if your toddler suddenly makes an appearance) it doesn’t get picked up and disturb the flow of the call.
8. Make eye contact/Look into the camera
Eye contact is extremely important during a video conference, as you want the person or team that's conferencing in to feel engaged.
A common mistake is looking at the video feed instead of the camera when speaking to remote participants. While it may seem like the right thing to do, it makes it appear as if you're looking off and not paying attention. This will make you come across as more aloof and less professional. Looking into the camera lens is the equivalent of looking into the person's eyes, so practice doing so until you are comfortable with it.
9. Signal when you want to talk
During in-person meetings, you can pick up on visual cues to help find the right time to speak. It’s a lot easier to accidentally interrupt on a video call. Wait for a few moments of silence before speaking up in case there is a sound delay. If your company or team is going to have regular online meetings, it’s a good idea to decide on a system for asking questions, such as raising your hand or using chat to ask a question. It’s also helpful to call on people by name during the meeting.
Speak clearly and watch how fast you speak (and don’t forget to unmute yourself!). Also speak at your normal volume, there is no need to shout, if you do, your co-workers may lower their volume and then miss something else.
10. Pay attention.
Not only does research suggest that less than 5% of people can multitask effectively, you will also look rude to your participants. Be attentive and engaged during the call. As tempting as it is, try not to do any other work or read articles or send emails. (Don’t look at your phone and don’t eat!) When you are not talking, make sure you are paying attention to whoever is speaking or sharing their screen and that you’re looking at any materials you may need to reference. Remember, others can see where you are looking.
If there’s a pause in the conversation because, for instance, you need to pull up an email or reference a document, make sure to communicate that. Delays or long stretches of silence might make it seem like you have lost connection, so this just keeps everyone on the same page.
Keep in mind that you are more visible on video calls than in offline meetings, since you get to see close-ups of everyone’s face individually instead of a whole group of people at once. It’s often helpful to keep your own face visible on-screen, just as a reminder that you’re on camera, and so you can see what others are seeing.