Mind your As and Vs. – Audio/Visual Conference Etiquette

Many of us are now confined to our homes, forced to conduct business through technology like never before. But just because you’re working from home over video conference doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t present yourself professionally. Just like in-person meetings, video conferences have etiquette that should be followed as well, especially in the informal setting of a spare bedroom. So, here are 10 tips to help you have a more successful virtual meeting!

Captain Kirk may have been the king of virtual conferencing!
Star Trek is a registered trademark of CBS/Paramount.
  1. Don’t buck the system. Regardless of what software you might be more comfortable with, you’ll probably have to do some adjusting. So often we hear things from clients like, “I’m not going to use that website/software/process because …” It comes from the inflexibility of some people to be prepared to adjust rather than be the one who has to be adjusted to. Download several different video conferencing software packages and familiarize yourself with each – here are links to the top 3, most-used https://zoom.us/, https://www.skype.com/en/, GoToMeeting. Most function the same way, it’s just the details that might trip you up.
  2. Stage Your Setting. Find a location with minimal distraction and turn on your camera to see how things look to those on the other end. Stage the surroundings, even if that just means blocking the image so you take up most of it and you’re not surrounded by distracting clutter or activity. Be sure to mount your camera or position your laptop so that the lens is at eye level. Otherwise, people are always looking up your nose or from some other bizarre angle. You don’t want people looking up your nose or seeing you as tiny, floating head because you decided to play with the chromakey (green screen) feature (more on this later). Don’t do a video conference from a spot that might have a lot of surrounding activity in the background – not that this will be much of an issue during COVID-19 isolation.
  3. Lighting Matters. One of the hardest parts of webcam operation is finding a good balance of light on the subject. You don’t have to be a video expert to know that you need to have enough light to be seen well and not too much to wash you out. Don’t go crazy, you don’t need to buy that fancy lighting kit your favorite Instagram influencer is peddling. Just use what you have.
  4. Avoid the Green Screen feature. Yeah, we get it, you’re the next Spielberg. No, really, you’re not, and you shouldn’t try to be. Unless there is a real purpose for it – and that’s going to be a very rare instance – don’t use the chromakey, commonly known as the “green screen,” feature of your platform. The background shouldn’t be what people are focused on. So, unless you’re suddenly a weather reporter on the evening news, just set up your staging and keep it easy. Trust us, the less technology is required to have a professional, successful meeting, the better the outcome.
  5. Practice. Get your software set up, test your audio and video devices and get someone to help you test and practice using it. Read about and try out the features of your chosen platform. This offers you a great opportunity in advance to test out your camera, mic reception, lighting and everything else.
  6. Get Dressed. Please, for the love of Mike, put on some clothes! (At least from the waist up.) It should go without saying, but we can all see you! There’s no question that a video conference from your temporary home office in the back bedroom is informal. But put on, at the very least, some business casual (for whatever part of you is visible on camera). It should be noted at this point that lighter colors, like pastels, tend to work better and show up more clearly. Avoid dark or heavily patterned fabrics.
  7. Be Prepared and On Time. A virtual meeting shouldn’t be treated as any less professional than its in-person counterpart. Be prepared. If you’re hosting the meeting, have a well-planned agenda and stick to it. Be respectful of your attendees’ time. As a participant, you should be ready with paper and pen, or however you take notes, ask for an agenda in advance if it’s not been offered, and be sure you’ve set aside enough time for the entire meeting. If you’re chronically late in person, you may find yourself late for your video conference too. Why? Because your problem likely stems from being unprepared. Just as you’d ideally plan your time to arrive slightly early to an in-person meeting, you will want to be logged in and ready as soon as possible for a virtual one. Follow the previous points and test your hardware and login well in advance, don’t wait until the last minute. Remember, “To be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late. To be late is to be left behind.” – Author Unknown
  8. Mute Your Mic and Speak Up. Sounds like a conflicting idea, huh? Not at all. Simply make sure your microphone is muted whenever you are not talking. When it is your turn, speak up – don’t yell, just project and speak clearly. If you’ve practiced as we suggested earlier, you’ll have full command of the mute button to quickly toggle it off and on as needed.
  9. No Eating. Sure, it’s fine to have a sip of your drink once in a while while you’re in a meeting, even a virtual one. But, one of the grossest things ever is seeing someone up close on a webcam chomping down on a donut or breakfast sandwich. Yuck. Finish your lunch or breakfast or whatever before your meeting. Lunch meetings might work in person (although we never recommend them), it never translates well to a video platform. Just don’t.
  10. Maintain Eye Contact. Don’t reinvent the wheel from normal meeting etiquette. You should pay attention and maintain normal eye contact with your meeting partner. You do that by looking at the camera, not yourself on the screen. Position your camera close to the screen so you don’t have to look in some alternate direction to look at the camera and still see your meeting partner. This works even if you’re in a group meeting.

One final note. If you’re uncomfortable with the technology and simply resist using it, then get someone to help you. We are living in a new normal of business thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. You’ll have to adjust to the technology or you’re going to fall behind rapidly. If like us, your business thrives on referrals, you’d better snap to it and don’t be so resistant.