In a world where many of us are now working from home or on travel restrictions because of COVID-19, video conferencing has become the norm. Here are some great tips of dos and don’ts that will help all of us “video call” a little bit better.
Do: Log in 5 minutes early. We all have been guilty of logging in right at the designated time only to find out that there’s a software update we didn’t anticipate or a connection issue. Respect your time and others’ and join the call a few minutes early to allow yourself more time to troubleshoot any issues. Be sure to test all of your technology (including camera/video, microphone, Wi-Fi, and screen sharing) before the meeting. Also, you may want to have a backup plan if your “go-to” technology isn’t working. Many companies have multiple tools for video conferencing, like GoToMeeting or Microsoft Teams. If your company’s technology is glitching, another attendee may have something else you could try and they could start the meeting and invite everyone.
Do: Care about your background. What you have behind you matters when you’re on video. It’s OK to have some unique tchotchkes or personal items, but too much clutter is a distraction. Make sure what’s showing on camera is work-appropriate. Some technology, like Microsoft Teams, allows you to blur your background so folks can’t see what’s behind you. But be aware that this does create some funky digital blips sometimes as you move around on camera.
Do: Lighting matters. We’ve all been on a video call where someone looks like they work in a dungeon. Make sure your room is well lit. Oftentimes natural light from surrounding windows or a side lamp will help amplify your video lighting. Take the time to test it beforehand so you don’t end up leaving your guests in the dark.
Do: Position your camera eye-level. Are you ready for your close-up? Making sure your video camera is eye-level is important in order to engage your attendees and appear as though you are there in the room with them. Don’t be looking down at the camera lens, and make sure your camera is on a monitor that you’ll be facing. Weird camera angles can be distracting and unflattering. This may mean you have to put your laptop on some sort of riser to make it eye-level.
Do: When you’re talking, look into the camera lens instead of looking at the video of yourself talking. It helps others feel like you’re in the room with them, making eye contact.
Don’t: Don’t be doing other work or checking emails. Don’t stare at your phone while others are presenting, or work on other tasks. It’s very easy to spot the people on the call that are not actively engaged and solely focused on the call. Respect the other people that are attending the meeting, and give them your full attention.
Do: Mute and unmute during the call. Mute your microphone whenever you’re not speaking, even if you’re alone. Background noise (shuffling paper, typing, eating, side conversations, etc.) can be an annoying distraction. Silence your cell phone and turn off all notifications on your computer. Be sure to check to see if your microphone is unmuted before you start speaking, too. Some people even raise their hand to interject on a video call.
Don’t: Don’t let one person dominate the call. Video calls can be difficult to navigate when you have many individuals that want to contribute. The host should be the one to guide the conversation and manage the interruptions while allowing everyone to contribute. Having participants raise their hand when they have something to say, or want to speak next can be a simple visual cue.
Do: Look professional. We all have heard of those stories where someone is only dressed professionally from the waist up. Don’t be that guy or girl. Wear appropriate clothing and be sure to brush your hair. You never know if you’re going to have to get up suddenly.
Do: Be prepared for interruptions. With many of us working from home with our children present as schools have closed, we need to be prepared for unexpected interruptions. A quick and easy solution is to write in big letters on a piece of paper “I’m On A Video Call. Do Not Bother Me.” or something similar that you can simply hold up as a visual cue to the person interrupting you. That way, others on the call won’t even know you had a disruption because you don’t have to look away or verbally address the person. If a distraction or interruption does occur, apologize and focus your attention back to the meeting.
Don’t: Don’t eat during a video call. If the attendees aren’t expecting you to be chomping through your lunch during the call, then avoid eating during that time. Sounds are amplified with your microphones, especially if you’re using a headset, so be aware of the extra noise you’re producing.
Do: Be yourself on the video. It’s OK to let your personality shine through. You don’t have to be stoic and paranoid because you’re on video. Conduct yourself as you normally would in a live meeting. Be engaging and offer casual conversations before diving into the meeting content.
When in doubt, just practice common courtesy. People want to be heard, seen, and respected during an online meeting—just like they do everywhere else. Be patient and understanding as not all meeting members are accustomed to being remote. And remember to smile and have some fun. We hope you enjoyed these tips and that they help all of us connect better while on video calls.