It's Time to Finally Establish Video Conferencing Etiquette
We’ve been at this video conferencing thing for too long not to have a concrete set of rules and etiquette for participants. Unfortunately, most of us can name a few bothersome things that we commonly see people doing. The sooner we set the record straight, the better for everyone involved.
The Rise of Video Conferencing
When technologies like Skype first came out, the idea of having a video call with someone else was intriguing, but taboo. Internet connections were notoriously poor at that time and most video conferencing users were teenage girls hosting late night chat sessions with their friends who all lived within a one-mile radius.
But as the technology scaled beyond the individual and into the business world, suddenly an entire video conferencing infrastructure arose. Better conferencing platforms were developed, Internet connections become more stable, and business leaders around the world found it possible, for the first time in their careers, to conduct face-to-face communication without actually being in the same room with clients, partners, and peers.
But attitudes regarding video conferencing have also changed. According to a recent Lifesize survey, 98 percent of corporate employees believe video conferencing helps with relationship building outside of the company, and 87 percent who aren’t physically present for a meeting feel like they’re better engaged with colleagues through video.
These attitudes have infiltrated the C-suite, as well. Data shows that 75 percent of executives believe video conferencing will soon replace conference calls altogether, while businesses using video conferencing see a 30 percent reduction in company travel costs.
Five Rules of Etiquette
The data clearly reflects a rise in the popularity and value of video conferencing, which shouldn’t come as news to you. But the problem with any new development is that the rules regarding how to act aren’t always clear up front. It often takes years for people to identify best practices and push bad ones to the side.
Here we are in 2017 and the video conferencing industry is maturing a bit. This makes it the perfect time to discuss what few are willing to talk about: etiquette.
Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of video conferencing in the business world.
1. Test Everything in Advance
The biggest pet peeve people have when it comes to video conferencing is dealing with someone who has a poor Internet connection or bad audio or video quality. It ruins the entire meeting and usually ends up wasting valuable time.
You can’t always prevent issues related to audio, video, and Internet connections, but you can greatly reduce problems by testing everything in advance. All video conferencing platforms have test features built in that allow you to see where you stand prior to entering a call, so there’s no excuse not to do this every time.
2. Let Your Coworkers Know What’s Happening
When you’re on a videoconference call, you probably don’t look that much different to your coworkers. As far as a coworker passing your office knows, you’re just reviewing a spreadsheet or doing some online shopping. In order to prevent embarrassing mishaps, make sure you let your coworkers know that you’re in the middle of a call. Put a sign on your office door or have a sign that lets you notify people who randomly pop into your cubicle for an impromptu chat.
3. Dress Like You Would in a Normal Meeting
You’ve probably heard crazy stories about how people will get on a videoconference call wearing the top half of a suit and nothing but sleepwear from the waist down. Sure this may be fine in some situations, but why bother? Not only does this put you in a mindset that you’re only half there, but there’s always the possibility that you’ll have to stand up or step away – then what? It’s important that you look good.
It’s important that you dress like you would in a normal meeting. Let’s make a quick note on jewelry, though. When on a video call, less is more with jewelry and other accessories. Large pieces can refract light back into the camera and serve as distractions. It’s best to go with simple, yet refined jewelry that complements your outfit, instead of bold statement pieces.
4. Get the Camera Angle Right
Nothing is more distracting than being on a video call when one of the users has their camera oriented to where they’re picking up lots of activity in the background. As a rule of thumb, you should make sure you’re situated against a solid background, not an area where people are walking by. On a related note, tilt your computer so that the camera is as level as possible. You don’t want to be looking up at the screen or have the screen pointing up at you.
5. Make Eye Contact
This rule of etiquette is very important, yet rarely followed. When you’re in a video call, you obviously spend most of your time looking at the screen so that you can see what’s going on. The problem is that your computer’s camera is located an inch or so above the top of the screen. So to the individual(s) in the call, you appear to be looking away.
While it’s fine to look at your screen while others are talking, make it a point to make eye contact with the camera when you’re talking. This helps build trust and makes for a more powerful message.
It’s Time to Set the Record Straight
We are nowhere close to reaching the peak of video conferencing popularity. The utility of video-based communication tools is just now being realized in the business world and it’s important that users band together and create a systematic set of rules that everyone can abide by. The rules of etiquette listed in this article aren’t comprehensive or universally correct, but they certainly represent an appropriate place to start discussing the topic.
Edited by Alicia Young