A graduate's guide to modern video conferencing etiquette

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

As more companies continue to offer remote working opportunities, video conferencing has replaced traditional in-person conversations.

No thanks to the covid19 pandemic but video conferencing has become the new norm.

Similar shifts across other video conferencing platforms are indicative of the heightened importance of communicating through this medium.

With that in mind, here are some tips on video conferencing etiquette to help you ace every virtual meeting.

If you are hosting, prepare everyone ahead

It is the onus of the host to send a calendar invite to the participants specifying the topic and any essential details in the description.

The best practice is to do it on the day the meeting has been confirmed to book everyone's time or to avoid a clash of events.

As for some, if it's not in their calendar - it does not exist.

If you are new to sending out invites, some basics to include in every calendar invitation is:

  • Meeting title

  • Date and time (ensure everyone/you will be in the right time zone!)

  • Location or type of meeting

  • Guests and their emails

  • A dial-in link for virtual meetings (make sure the link is accessible for all)

As a courtesy, send a friendly reminder close to the meeting time because in a busy workplace, people do tend to forget sometimes!

If you are leading the meeting, take the lead

You would be surprised how easy it is to get off track during a meeting.

As the host, it might be frustrating when the conversation sidetracks and it might be tricky to steer it back.

Chalk out a plan to stay on track

To stop veering off topic, prepare an agenda before the meeting and share it with the participants.

This will help maintain focus on what needs to get done, and you will find that your time is spent more productively.

If you have the time, do check it out this HBR article on how to design an agenda for an effective meeting.

Here is a summary of the most important tips.

  1. Seek input from team members

  2. Select topics that affect the entire team, so that everyone’s time is used in the best way possible and their inputs will be valuable to the conversation

  3. Communicate the meeting's purpose, so people know why it concerns them

  4. For each agenda item, estimate the time needed and the decision making process required

Make introductions

Do not assume that everyone knows each other in the meeting.

Help to create a welcoming environment by making sure that everyone is introduced, so that they know who is on the call. It also provides context as to why they are involved.

If the meeting consists of 10 people and more, then perhaps making introductions only for key people that are relevant to the topic of the meeting would be sufficient.

Keep introductions short and sweet. For example: "Hi everyone, this is Jane Smith, Marketing Director at ABC Company and she will be leading this project."

Before joining a call, follow the six tips below

1. Ensure a stable connection

The most important tip of all — make sure you have a stable internet connection.

A spotty connection can derail a meeting and render it useless. One of the most annoying situations for all parties is when someone cuts out during a meeting.

It can be frustrating for others if your connection lags out, and this can hinder the effectiveness of your communication as well.

Sit near the router, close any unnecessary programs that might cause lag, resume any huge software updates or downloads till after the meeting, and do an internet speed test before joining to ensure that you will have a smooth conversation.

If there is no immediate remedy and connection continues to remain unstable, don't worry — people usually understand when there are unexpected tech issues. It happens to all of us.

2. Eliminate background noise

Similar to a poor internet connection, background noise can massively disrupt meeting progress.

Whether it is fan noise, a dog barking or someone yelling, it can be guaranteed that your team will not enjoy hearing any of these sounds or have any interruptions in the call.

So follow the footsteps of John Krasinski and find a quiet place to take the call.

We know it is not always easy to find a quiet room while having access to a good internet connection, especially when you are living with others.

If you aren't able to make both work, choose the spot with the best signal and try to make the room quieter by:

  • Wear a headset, or get a podcast mic. If the work culture involves frequent video calls, consider investing in a good quality headset or podcast mic.

  • Give a heads up to those around you. "Hey, I'm going into a video call. I'd appreciate it if you guys could keep it down. Thanks a ton!"

  • Muting yourself when not speaking. A good practice, whether or not you are a victim of background noise, is to mute your mic when you aren't involved in the conversation. Your colleagues will certainly appreciate this considerate gesture!

3. Be mindful of what shows up on video

Keep the situation and audience in mind when setting up your webcam. People form impressions based on how you present yourself and the surrounding environment in your video.

Here's what to consider:

  • Use good lighting so that people can see you in the best light. A well-framed and well-lit setup gives off the impression that you came prepared for the meeting.

  • Wear the right clothes and make sure that you know what is expected. Is it a strictly work-oriented meeting or a casual get together? A lot depends on your company culture when it comes to dressing appropriately.

  • Get a preview of how you look. If it's a zoom call, test your video in advance by clicking the "New Meeting" button. This will allow you to view a preview of how other people will see you. Make adjustments to the placement of your camera so that participants can see your facial expressions.

  • Use professional backgrounds only. Posters or clutter around you can distract from the point you are trying to communicate or your organisational capabilities. Try choosing a blank wall or a professional-looking virtual background.

4. Listen attentively

This tends to happen a lot, especially during video conferences, and everyone is guilty of tuning out at one point or another.

Sometimes it might not be your fault: The speaker could be rambling on, or maybe you are not involved in the topic at hand.

However, for the person speaking, your lack of attention can seem insulting.

Resist any urge to multitask. Not only will you miss important details covered during the meeting, but it is also pretty obvious when someone isn't paying attention.

If you ever choose to multitask, be prepared for the ensuing awkward silence when someone directs a point or question to you.

For these reasons, avoid multitasking at all costs - it's for your own good.

During a meeting, no matter how boring, while the conversation continues, maintain eye contact by positioning the camera at eye-level and nod to show that you are paying attention.

If you hear an important point or have a question for one of the participants, jot it down first instead of interrupting the speaker in the middle of their presentation.

5. Ensure clear communication of points

Mumbling or speaking like a zombie also makes for an unproductive use of everyone's time, and it is vital to keep everyone engaged to have a fruitful meeting.

Take time to think about what you are going to say before you say it. It might take jotting down a few words on paper, or simply mentally rehearsing the key points you want to communicate.

To speak with clarity, keep your points concise, enunciate your words so that others can better understand your message and show that you are engaged.

6. Be respectful

The universal rule of treating others the way you want to be treated applies to video conferencing as well.

Try not to cut other people off. If someone has begun speaking, wait for them to finish before countering or adding to it. It can also create chaos when multiple people are trying to speak at the same time.

But when someone else interrupts you while you are speaking, don't take it to heart — It might be a genuine mistake or could be an urgent interjection. If that person continues to interrupt your flow, you could let them know that you will have them ask their questions later.

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