Video conferencing etiquette: The dos and don’ts

Video conferencing is now a staple tool for connecting with fellow professionals – but there are lots of ways it can go very, very wrong.

Being able to hop on Skype or another tool to speak to colleagues, partners, clients, employees, journalists and other contacts around the world makes life easier, more productive, and more economical.

But it’s also important to use the technology effectively to make sure you’re not committing a horrible faux-pas.

Here are some key dos and don’ts to follow:


What to do


Test your gear

Prepare well or prepare to fail.

There’s nothing worse than wasting the time of people on the other end of the line before the call even starts!

Test the equipment to make sure it’s working correctly and there’ll be no awkward pauses in your meeting.

Make sure the software is working properly in advance, especially if you haven’t used it for a while.

Test the internet connection and the audio and microphone settings too.

Run regular updates

Similarly, you can avoid having glitches on the day by always updating the software you use.

When you’re running the newest version, this gives you a better connection, and makes your conversations more secure, too.

Choose a good location for videoconferences

Even though video chats are online, you still need to choose a good location to speak from.

Videoconferencing from the local Macca’s may be tempting, but probably not the wisest move.

READ: The seven deadly presentation sins

Pick a spot in your office or home where you can talk free of distractions and loud noises.

Shut doors so you won’t be distracted by the sounds of other people talking or walking by, for instance.

Be courteous to other participants in the call

Just as you would make an effort to be on time for an in-person meeting, you must also be prompt for digital ones.

Be courteous by dialling in on time, and making sure you know the names of everyone who’s on the call.

If you’re the one who organised the meeting, introduce each participant at the start of the conversation.

This makes sure everybody knows who’s on the call, and it common etiquette. You don’t want anyone to feel left out or disrespected.

Be clear, be present

How you sound and how you present yourself is important – especially as everybody on the call can see you.

It’s vital to remember that it’s often more difficult for people to hear you clearly on a video conferencing call than it is in person – so speaking clearly and articulately is key.

Smile, nod, lean forward, and keep your eyes on the screen, for instance, to show you’re paying attention.

Avoid folding your arms, frowning, fidgeting, or otherwise making it seem like you’re disinterested, frustrated, angry or upset.


What not to do


Interrupt

We’ve all been in the ‘Sorry, no you go…what? You go….sorry’ roundabout on a video call, and it’s frustrating to say the least.

Be careful not to interject when others are talking online.

It’s not only rude, but with delays and feedback, can make conversations really stilted.

If you want to respond to something promptly, raise your hand or type a note on a chat screen that other participants can see.

Multitask

It’s tempting to check a message on your phone or check the latest pics from your mate’s trip to Dubrovnik, but what people tend to forget is that people on the call can see you.

Most people can tell you’re distracted or even see you reading something else, and it also means you won’t be focused on what other people are saying.

You may miss important information being shared, or the nuanced tone of voice or body language that needs to be noticed.

Ask your colleagues not to interrupt you by walking into your office. You don’t want to be carrying on another conversation while you’re on a conference call.

Dress in your PJs

Believe it or not, some people won’t worry too much about grooming or appearance on a video call because they assume the other people won’t be able to make them out too clearly.

Nope.

Always treat an online meeting just as you would an in-person one.

Even though you may be sitting down, you never know when you might have to get up to fetch a document or test a setting at some point.

Move around too much

Although it’s important to be yourself and act naturally when talking to others online, try to keep movements to a minimum.

Lots of walking about and hand movements can be distracting for your audience, and take away from the message you’re trying to convey.

Try to sit quite still, and avoid jerky motions.