With more people working from home these days, video conferencing has replaced most–if not all–of our in-person meetings.
For many professionals, this has turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, video conferencing has been amazingly convenient in many ways (No travel! No redundant meetings!), while on the other hand, there’s now an entirely new set of etiquette rules to follow.
For instance, is it OK to eat during a video conference? Do you need to have the perfectly clear skin of an Instagram influencer to look professional? And what’s the consensus on using silly backgrounds for your Zoom meetings?
We’re living in strange times, yes, but that’s no excuse to be unprofessional on a video call. To help you navigate this new normal, consider this your go-to guide on video conferencing etiquette.
1. Look Professional
Make an effort to look good for your next Zoom meeting. While we understand that keeping up a self-care routine may be difficult right now, there is a lot at stake with your professional image. Research has shown that attractive people tend to make more money than unattractive people.
You don’t need to win any beauty pageants or anything of that nature. Get on a skin care routine, disguise unsightly blemishes with some makeup and dress professionally. In other words, do what you would normally do to prepare for an in-person meeting.
2. Be Punctual
There are two types of people in this world: those who are on-time for video calls and those who always seem to arrive late. Don’t be part of the latter camp, especially if you’re the one hosting the meeting in the first place.
It doesn’t matter if you’re only five minutes late to the video conference—it’s still bad form. In fact, being a few minutes late is even worse because everyone is then forced to make awkward small talk until you arrive.
Don’t subject your colleagues to that. Set multiple reminders if you need to and show up on time, every time.
3. Don’t Let Your Environment Be a Distraction
Feel free to personalize your space with your favorite books or maybe some interesting plants. But before you join a virtual meeting, remember to look behind you. A messy room can be a major distraction to your colleagues.
On a similar note, be careful with your Zoom background. Silly backgrounds are probably fine as long as they aren’t too distracting. You don’t want your background to take away from the important point that you or your colleague is trying to make.
4. Mute Your Mic When You’re Not Speaking
If you don’t know where the mute button is on your video conferencing app, be sure to find it before your next video call. It’s considered common courtesy to mute yourself whenever you’re not speaking.
Here’s the thing: Your audio probably picks up far more than you think it does. If your colleagues have a good microphone, it’s likely that they can hear dogs barking, babies crying and even the road construction going on outside your house.
And though it probably goes without saying at this point, don’t eat on your video call. When you unmute yourself to talk, people can hear the food in your mouth.
5. Make Eye Contact Regularly
When you’re talking to another person on a video call, remember to look them in the eye. Eye contact is an important form of nonverbal communication that can show respect, sincerity and that you’re paying close attention.
While there are many nonverbal cues that can be lost in translation during video calls, eye contact doesn’t seem to be one of them. According to a recent study published in Psychophysiology, making eye contact during a video call can elicit a similar response as making eye contact in-person.
To give your fellow video callers the impression that you’re looking them in the eye, be sure to gaze directly into the camera. You don’t need to stare into it all the time, but if you’re speaking, do it regularly to display confidence.
6. Have a Plan
Don’t go into a virtual meeting without formulating a plan first. This will only make your colleagues annoyed. No one wants to waste time with an unnecessary Zoom call!
What is the purpose of the meeting? What are your main points that you want to talk about? Know what you want to talk about and don’t forget to leave five minutes for additional questions at the end.
For the most part, meetings are considered a necessary evil. If there is any way you can wrap things up early, then by all means do it.
7. Let Others Speak
When someone else is talking, don’t cut them off or try to talk over them. Wait for the right moment to give them your input.
Similarly, don’t have a side conversation with another person while someone is presenting. You wouldn’t dream of doing that in a regular meeting, right? Then don’t do it in a virtual meeting.
8. Pay Attention
Checking emails. Reading articles. Scrolling through your news feed. All of these things can be added to the never-ending list of “What Not to Do on a Video Conference Call.”
It’s obvious to everyone else when you’re not paying attention to the speaker during a video call.
Not only is it distracting for others to see you distracted, it also looks highly unprofessional.
Try to focus and pay attention to the speaker, even if your camera isn’t turned on. This way, if someone suddenly asks for your input, you won’t look like a deer caught in headlights.
While there are a lot of dos and don’ts for video conferencing, it’s not as complicated as it seems.
Remember to be yourself and don’t be afraid to crack a joke or two. If you make a mistake, cut yourself some slack! We’re all trying to make the best of our current situation.