Posted by Robert Half on Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 06:00 | Follow me
More and more, businesses have employees, clients and vendors from around the country and even the world. And while face-to-face sessions among these parties are ideal, they also cost money and time. Video conferences, which allow participants to see facial expressions, body language and product demonstrations, are the next best thing to being there in person.
But just because you’re participating via video conference instead of in-person doesn’t mean it’s slacker time. In addition to common courtesies, there are some best practices you should observe. Here are seven video conference etiquette tips to keep in mind before you join your next video meeting.
1. Make sure your system works
Whether you’re running the show or just a participant, take the time to make sure everything works properly prior to the meeting. The trend in video conferencing is moving away from dedicated hardware and toward cloud-based services. For users, this means downloading the appropriate software or app, and making sure it runs smoothly with your device, browser and operating system. You don’t want to be the one coming in late or holding up the start time.
2. Stage the room
Don’t let a messy workspace or inappropriate wall art draw people’s attention from you and your message. If you work from home, remove any signs of domesticity, such as bedroom furniture, children’s toys and kitchen appliances, from the scene. Project a professional image with a neutral backdrop and an uncluttered foreground. To check how you come across visually, sit down as you would during the video meeting and open up the video conferencing software or app. Then take a selfie to see whether the background and lighting are appropriate.
3. Optimize the audio
Sure, image quality matters in a video conference. However, without good audio, the meeting falls apart. “A noisy … connection can negatively impact the entire call, whereas video can sometimes be forgiven when lacking certain quality,” according to ClearOne. For the best sound quality during video conferences, use a headset to minimize broadcasting ambient noises such as outside traffic, printer noise, keyboard clicks or a projector’s fan. For a group, consider investing in a professional-quality speakerphone.
4. Dress appropriately
Bold patterns and bright colors may be fine in a casual office setting, but when people have to look at you on a screen, opt for more conservative colors and styles. A good rule of thumb for video conference etiquette is to dress as if you were going to a job interview. Check out Pinterest for good suggestions on men’s business attire and women’s interview outfits.
5. Lights, camera, action!
How you illuminate a room is an important part of good video conference etiquette. Natural lighting is best, but well-placed lamps work well, too. A too-dark room defeats the entire purpose of video conferencing, and harsh lighting creates garish shadows on your face. Also avoid backlighting, such as having a bright window or lamp behind you; this will make your face appear too dark on camera.
6. Be a good presenter
When you have the virtual floor, speak more clearly than normal to compensate for a potentially spotty audio connection. But this doesn’t mean you need to raise your voice or over-enunciate. Also remember to look into the camera as much as possible rather than looking at yourself on screen. Think of the camera as your coworkers, and concentrate on maintaining friendly eye contact and showing through your body language that you’re paying attention.
7. Be a good participant
As with conference calls, mute your microphone when you’re not speaking so you don’t add to the meeting’s ambient noise. But unlike a phone meeting, you’re on camera, so you shouldn’t multitask or zone out. You also shouldn’t do anything distracting and disrespectful, such as eat, yawn, check your smartphone or whisper to your colleague. As much as possible, keep still so you don’t draw attention to yourself when you don’t have the floor. When you want to comment, don’t interrupt the speaker. Instead, wait for a natural pause before interjecting.
As the workplace becomes even more virtual and remote meeting technology further improves, video conference etiquette will only become more important. Make sure you always conduct yourself professionally — both on and off camera.
What other tips have you found helpful for video conferencing? Share them in the comments section.