You might think of video conferencing as a combination of a phone conversation and a personal meeting, but it’s really an entirely separate thing.
The concept of getting multiple people together virtually is a relatively new one, and the etiquette of these meetings is still evolving. Common sense rules derive from telephone conversations, video tape and department meetings, but the combination of all three influences has created a new area of work rules that apply to video conferencing and nothing else.
Follow these basic rules and expand on them to fit your personal work culture:
What They See
The video part of video conferencing is designed to capture the attention, not to distract it from important issues being discussed.
- Begin with your work setting: Take a quick look at the background your viewers will be seeing. If you’re in an office setting, the view should be fine. If you work from home, you may have to make arrangements for a blank wall or other nondescript background.
- Avoid very bright colors or busy prints. Avoid stripes and solid red, white or black. The best choice is a solid pastel shirt or outfit that blends into the background. After all, you want the attention to be on your work, not your clothes.
- Look into the camera and maintain eye contact. Typing might be an important part of your presentation, but looking down gives your audience a grand view of the top of your head. Sit back and look downward, then back up toward the camera again.
- Keep your body movements minimal to avoid distraction. If you’re someone who uses her hands a lot when talking, train yourself to keep your hands on the desk in front of you. Avoid moving back and forth rapidly while on camera and try to keep head movements to a minimum. Anyone with a less-than-optimal connection will see those as puppet-like choppy movement.
What They Hear
- Set up your conference area in a space free from interrupting noises. No one wants to hear trucks racing by from outside, kids chasing each other in the next room or phones ringing on your desk. Silence your phone, get other people out of the house, and set up in the quietest place you can find.
- Take off any distracting jangling jewelry. Your charm bracelet or necklace collection might be a signature fashion statement, but the jingling noise they make can distract even the most dedicated listener. Bracelets bumping against a microphone don’t make for a serious business discussion.
- Test your equipment before your conference attendees get together online. You want to be able to speak and be heard clearly without having to raise your voice, but the volume level should be a comfortable one for all involved. If someone says they can’t hear you, check your microphone or adjust the volume control before raising your voice. Speak clearly and slowly so everyone can understand your pronunciation.
- Take note of everyone’s name so you know who you’re talking with. Don’t talk over or interrupt anyone else while they’re speaking. Wait until a natural break in the conversation before adding any contributions.
- Finally, avoid side conversations with anyone else in your office. Your purpose there is to speak with everyone in the video conference—that’s your priority. Unless an emergency arises, you should hold all outside calls and conversations until your conference is over.