Video conferencing etiquette

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We’re expecting to now be in an environment where video conferencing for client meetings and things like recruitment interviews will likely be the new norm for some time. It may well be the case even after restrictions are lifted as we take some time to adjust back.

Much of the below may seem like common sense, but based on an open letter that a Miami judge issues to Attorneys in the States where he admonished such behaviours as addressing him from under the covers in bed, one being shirtless altogether and others trying to clumsily trying to disguise that they were by the pool, even the best of us might need some reminders. Not to mention the student who seemingly forgot she had her camera on and took her computer to the bathroom during and on-line tutorial conference…

Here’s some things to keep in mind;

  1. Treat it as you would a face to face meeting – be punctual, make proper introductions if you’re meeting for the first time, and don’t get distracted. If you wouldn’t send a text to someone in a face to face meeting – don’t do it in a VidCon (you might think you’re getting away with it but you’re not). If you have two screens working, turn the second one off so you don’t get tempted to check that email.
  2. One at a time! Otherwise no-one gets heard. Wait until someone has finished their point before you jump in. Using the text box can be a good option.
  3. Dress for the occasion. Depending on your culture, if it’s an internal meeting, active wear may be fine. Boardies in front of a client less so. The newsreader trick of business up top, casual below the desk is all well and good unless you have to stand up for some reason.
  4. Think of your audio. Speak clearly, be careful not to shout. Shirt collars can disrupt mikes on phone headsets. If in doubt, do a practice call to a colleague first.
  5. Be conscious of background noise. It’s not always possible to keep kids, dogs, neighbours etc quiet so don’t be afraid to mute your mike when you’re not talking. Unmuting yourself can also be a clear sign that you’ve got something to add, without having to talk over someone else.
  6. Eye contact / camera angle. If you’re using a moveable webcam, position it so you’re looking at the meeting, not at your second screen. Have it at eye level – no one wants to see up your nose or stare at the bald spot you didn’t know was there.
  7. Bandwidth. If you have an important meeting scheduled, get the kids to do something off-line during that time and get the other half to download something the night before instead of using a streaming service. Test beforehand! Mobile data dongles can be an inexpensive back-up if your fixed option is slow.
  8. Background. Before joining the meeting, have a look over your shoulders to make sure there’s nothing ‘incriminating’ that you don’t want your colleagues to see. Many services have the option to blur your background for you; can be beneficial in reducing distractions.

My final tip is to be understanding / empathetic. Remember that not everyone has a perfect home office set-up and even if we do they’re not impenetrable. Never underestimate the wiles of a determined pre-schooler! We’ve all seen the video of the correspondent having the kids interrupt him while he was being interviewed on the news.

Realistically, that went global because of the clumsy (and hilarious) attempts to smooth it over. If he’d picked up his little one and calmly shown them the door, I’m sure it wouldn’t still being replayed to this day. Allow your fellow attendees to sort things if/when they go pear-shaped and it’ll be reciprocated if you need it.