Videoconferencing has become a daily activity for many businesspeople, but just because we do it a lot doesn’t mean to say we are doing it well. Consider your last virtual meeting; how professional were the attendees? Was there that one guy with a background filter making him seem as if he was floating in space? If there were several attendees, did some of those not contributing look bored? Were they looking down at their phone, was the room in the background messy?
Here is a videoconferencing etiquette refresher that discusses many of the pitfalls inherent in this relatively new business communication.
When there is no agenda (with time limits on each item), meetings go off on unexpected tangents, and little gets achieved. An agenda helps attendees focus and keep on track.
2. Pre-meeting Information
Provide information in advance and request that everyone attending review the material before the meeting. Do this, and you will not waste time bringing everyone up to speed at the start of the session.
3. Meeting Times
Here’s a little trick that encourages people to be on time. Instead of setting a meeting for 10:00 a.m., set it for something like 10:12. An odd meeting time is more memorable and has proven to be effective in improving the timekeeping of chronic latecomers.
Be punctual; use a calendar reminder to alert you ten minutes before the start of a meeting.
Those Zoom virtual backgrounds are cute but not professional. We’ve all sat watching someone floating in out of space, and then there’s the story of the attorney in Texas who accidentally left his cat filter on during a Zoom call at a court hearing. Filters are also unstable. You may find that the green screen breaks down as you move, revealing glimpses of the room behind you.
The most professional approach is to position your computer so that there is a plain wall behind you or a bookcase. However, ensure there are no inappropriate books or items on the shelves. This has been the downfall of many an executive and news reporter!
5. Dress Professionally
This depends on the meeting, but working from home is no excuse for dressing like a hobo. Enough already with the sweatpants.
6. Transition into the Call
Take a few seconds before the call to focus on the meeting. Too often, people are working on something else when others join the discussion. Imagine this in an in-person meeting where you go into someone’s office, and they ignore you while dealing with something else. It isn’t polite, and the same goes for a videoconference.
7. The Dreaded Mute Button
Be aware of this important button. There are legions of stories online about what people heard during a call when one of the attendees thought they were muted. Some of which were not pretty.
Ensure there is sufficient lighting. Nothing is worse than being barely able to see someone during a meeting. Consider purchasing a videoconference ring light. These inexpensive items can be attached to a laptop, and others have stands. You can order them online for less than $25.00.
9. Beware the Camera
Remember you are on camera! If you decide not to wear pants because you’re at home and people can only see your top half, that may be okay. But, if you forget and stand up to do something, or the meeting ends, and not everyone has signed off, your professional image will suffer.
10. Look at the Camera
One of the sad things about virtual meetings is that they lack personal connection. In real life, we react to social cues; we look people in the eye, we gesticulate, and we focus on them when they talk. Do your best to look into the camera as if it was the person or people’s face. One thing that makes this difficult is when you have the window showing your own image open. It’s too tempting to keep glancing down at yourself. Close it, and you will be able to focus more on the other attendees. Heck, you know what you look like!
11. Close all Unnecessary Programs
Whether or not you will be sharing your screen during the meeting, close all programs to avoid distraction. If you are going to share your screen, this is very important because you may not want people to see that you have been Googling something private that is not in keeping with your position. Close your email browser and switch your phone to silent. Have you ever noticed that with a larger group, somebody’s phone dings, and everyone looks down to see if it’s them?
Follow the simple steps above, and you will not only take your videoconferencing to the next level, the people you meet with will notice your professionalism.
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