The rise in popularity of video conferencing in the work place, thanks to software such as Blue Jeans that make it easy to schedule meetings online, has led to numerous articles and debates on proper video conferencing etiquette.
Everyone knows by now about looking directly into the webcam to simulate eye contact and dressing appropriately even for a remote interview. Most people know not to wear striped clothes while video conferencing as it creates a strobe effect on camera.
Even so, there are still many small but significant pieces of video conferencing etiquette that are easy to forget about and that many people are guilty of, usually without realizing. Here are just a few that you can improve upon to make an impact in your next online appointment or interview:
1/ Don’t eat
Lunch discussions are fine when you are seeing each other in person, but they become somewhat awkward when you are communicating through microphones.
Modern microphones can pick up anything including the sounds of people eating. Doing this with a microphone too close to your mouth can be incredibly offensive to the person on the other end.
If you are working remotely, reschedule lunch meetings, spend your lunch hour away from your computer, and at the very least mute your microphone when you are eating, even if you are just snacking while everyone is talking. Your colleagues and clients will be grateful.
2/ Include Everyone
When you are not all sat around a table together, it can be too easy to forget about someone and leave them out of the discussion. If you are unfamiliar with your conferencing software, you could also mute them or even kick them out of the discussion without meaning to.
If you are running an online gathering, try to make all the people involved feel included and ensure that every attendee has had a chance to share their work or express their opinion.
If they are left out by accident, apologize so that they know it wasn’t done on purpose. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be much point in inviting them to the appointment in the first place.
3/ Get the lighting right
You may not realize it but bright sunlight could be causing a glare to your webcam image and preventing people from seeing you clearly.
The opposite can also happen, the room is too dark and no one can make you out properly. Solve these issues by taking a few moments to get the lighting right before you join the video call.
Draw blinds and face away from direct light sources if there is too much glare and open the curtains or turn on a lamp if your screen is too dark. Making yourself clearly visible will have a big impact on your online forum.
4/ Have a backup communication method
Despite our best efforts, sometimes the lines of communication can fail, usually through no fault of our own. It could be a bad connection on the recipient’s end or maintenance work cutting out your internet connection.
It happens to everyone at some point. Northwestern University’s Information Communication department recommends keeping a backup channel open, usually instant messaging or e-mail, in case this happens.
This way if the worst should happen, you can still keep in touch and relay important information or documents. As an added bonus, you can also have a side conversation with a colleague without disrupting the session.
5/ Don’t cover your mouth
It is surprising to note the amount of communication that is non-verbal and based on physical clues, even through webcams. PGI reports that 55 percent of all communication is done through body language.
There are a lot of informative articles online about proper expressions and movements during online meetings. One of the most important gestures to keep an eye out for is covering your mouth with your hands.
Not only does it muffle your voice and make it harder for people to understand you, it is a negative signal that makes you look defensive and afraid rather than active and engaged with the conversation. It is also important for people to be able to make out your mouth when you are talking.
If you find yourself doing this too much, keep something off camera such as a rubber band or a stress ball that you can play with to keep your hands busy and away from your mouth. You could even sit on your hands if this solves the problem.
As video conferencing becomes more and more commonplace and more people are getting used to it, issues such as these are being discovered and eliminated.
You can stay ahead of the curve by keeping these points in mind while video conferencing. You will not only be showing consideration for your colleagues but you will also impress your employers or clients and put yourself in their good books.