We’re living in the age of video calls, where everyone needs to show up and smile to participate in key meetings and collaborations. Some of us have an easy time with video calls, while others are having some trouble navigating this new sensation. What is proper video call etiquette?
We talked to a few business leaders to hear their thoughts on video call etiquette for your meetings and some tips to keep in mind when you log into your next call.
Show Who You Are
A video conference is a weird and unfamiliar environment, even if you know everyone well and you’ve established connections beforehand.
Don’t try to hide or downplay your presence, because that’s not how to make a strong impression.
“If you want to make sure that your video interview goes well then the first thing you need to focus on is how well you showcase your personality through a video camera,” said Steve O’Dell, CEO and Co-Founder of Tenzo Tea. “You don’t have the same connection with people that you would normally be having within these meetings, so do your best to expand on your personality to show everyone who you are with ease. The last thing you want to do is seem quiet or not quite like yourself. Find your voice virtually and let others around you see the power of your voice.”
After a few repetitions, you’ll definitely get more comfortable with the format and figure out what works best for you.
Share the Screen
You’ve got notes, ideas, and insights on your screen, so why are you keeping those things to yourself? Be ready to share your screen and get input from everyone else in the “room”.
“Using the screenshare feature in Zoom is a great start to gain a little more interest in your Zoom meetings,” said Jing Gao, CEO of Fly By Jing. “Also, make it a team effort. A meeting with 20 people, and only one person talking, can get boring and doesn’t tend to be very interactive. Get people engaged by divvying out talking points to your team members.”
Screen sharing also ensures you stay focused on the task at hand – very important.
Everyone is trying to recreate some version of the real office online, with varying results. One great way to do this is by setting a casual tone for meetings, and trying to bring the same vibe as would be expected in person.
“We like to keep online meetings relatively casual,” said Kaz Amor, Founder of VoCe Haircare. “There are no stipulations we have when it comes to them, other than to not be doing anything while on screen that would be deemed inappropriate in the workplace.”
We all have our own work styles, and as long as there is mutual respect among participants, video conferences should all go pretty smoothly.
Wait Your Turn
This is a lesson we learned back in grade school, but we could all use a reminder when attending video conference meetings with coworkers.
When you aren’t talking or presenting, pay attention without distracting from the center of attention at the moment.
“The number one rule of video calls is if you are not talking mute your mic,” said Joshua Tatum, Co-Founder of Canvas Cultures. “So many times people will leave their mic on and have the occasional sneeze, cough or anything else to throw off attention from the speaker. If you aren’t talking then mute yourself and let someone else have the floor.”
It takes time to learn the flow of a video call, but you’ll figure it out soon with some experience.
It’s never a bad idea to ask the question before a meeting is even put on the schedule – why is this call taking place, and that is the purpose we wish to achieve here?
“I don’t agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time,” said Author and Entrepreneur Tim Ferris. “If the desired outcome is defined clearly with a stated objective and agenda listing topics or questions to cover, no meeting or call should last more than 30 minutes. Request them [meetings] in advance so you can best prepare and make good use of the time together.”
Too many meetings suffer from lack of direction and poor time management, so don’t let this happen to you and your team.
This is one causing confusion across the working world – what are you supposed to wear when attending these things? You can always go with standard business casual, but even more laid-back looks seem to be appropriate.
“Virtual calls should be pretty casual,” said Melissa South, CMO of SwingTie. “From time to time it’s nice to dress up on camera, but for the most part don’t expect to go all out all too often. Virtual meetings should not stress everyone out to get all dressed up or to go above and beyond what they normally would do. For the most part your work will most likely be told to take it casual and just relax a bit when you join these meetings, but that does not mean you slack off and do nothing.”
Like any real-life meeting or work event, expectations will vary based on the purpose of the gathering and who is attending.
Setup the Studio
You don’t need to recreate the nightly news with your setup, but since it looks like we’ll be doing video calls for a while, why not put in a bit of extra effort with your studio?
“One thing to keep in mind when you are going to join a Zoom call is to check your lighting,” said Ryan Solomon, CEO of Kissmetrics. “Your lighting can have your video come off in a bunch of different ways, and if you are not properly aware of how your lighting looks at any given moment, then you will look off in terms of perception on the camera. Find a neutral light that can highlight your features and make you look confident and strong from everyone’s perspective.”
This will impact how others react and respond to your presence online, so it’s more than just a superficial thing.
Context is Key
On the subject of clothing, remember not to overthink things too much. As long as you have the basics of lighting and presentation down, you can wear business basics and do fine.
However, there will be times when you’ll need to step up your look, so be prepared!
“It depends on the purpose of the video call,” said Brittany Dolin, Co-Founder of Pocketbook Agency. “If it’s an informal session to merely check in about something with a coworker, there’s no need to dress up too much. If it’s for a job interview, however, you should wear exactly what you would wear to an in-person interview and make sure that your background is presentable. Just because the interview is over video, this does not in any way allow for the interview to be taken any less seriously.”
Besides, it sometimes feels nice to dress up and look sharp, even just for your home office.
Know Your Tools
Video conference tools seem simple on the surface, and for the most part, the basic features are pretty basic and intuitive.
Still, there is always more to discover with your software, so learn the ropes sooner than later.
“Remember to utilize all of the options that the video platform offers,” said Ben Teicher, President and CEO of Healthy Directions. “For instance, with Zoom don’t forget the “Raise Hand” button and the chat option. Pressing the ‘raise hand’ button is useful so that whoever is running the meeting already knows that there are other people who would like to speak after the current speaker is done, rather than having to deal with awkward interruptions from people trying to get their word in. Inputting necessary links in the chat space is helpful as well so that people can have access to certain pages that were shared during the meeting that they may want to look back at later. You can even chat with someone else privately during the meeting if needed.”
Learn all your options and settings are available to you to make the whole experience way easier.
We’re all adults here, and appearances aren’t that big a deal, but you should take some time each morning to look and feel fresh, whatever that means to you.
“It’s easy to feel self-conscious over video, but try to remain present and look at all of the other faces rather than obsessing over yourself and how you look on your screen,” said Mary Berry, Founder and CEO of Cosmos Vita. “If you’ve groomed yourself well enough before the video call, assure yourself that there’s nothing more to worry about and pay the same attention to others as you’d want from them while you’re speaking.”
The less your focus on yourself and how you look, the more you can contribute to the conversation and move the dial forward.
We’re all feeling some extra pressure with everything going on in the world, so a video call should be a place where we can all speak honestly and openly.
It’s not a full-on share session, but just interacting with people directly can be a huge help.
“Independent of the formality of the meeting, we generally like to create an environment of levity to ease stress and cultivate solid team unity,” said Dan Potter, Co-Founder of CRAFTD London. “Many meetings consist of going around and having each person share a unique or unassuming trait, a success in work or simply a popular topic, which we use as a catalyst to begin conversation. Generally, the mood gets lightened for roughly 10 minutes before we get down to business. Sometimes it’s extended depending on the absurdity of our responses. It’s a great activity that brings much-needed laughter into the room on days that are challenging.”
If things are heating up too seriously in a conference, just remember to take a breath and relax.
Are you really so surprised to see this entry on our list? It’s definitely one of the more obvious points, but it must be reiterated nonetheless. Are you doing the daily hygiene basics you need to stay healthy and be presentable?
“When it comes to ensuring you have a great video meeting experience, the best thing to do is to put your best face forward,” said Ben Cook, Jr., Vice President and General Counsel of Cook Capital Group which owns Printed Kicks. “Make sure your hair is combed, there’s no food stuck between your teeth and you’re dressed appropriately at least from the waist up. Also, check your audio levels ahead of time on your computer to make sure everything is working properly.”
We all take shortcuts on self-care sometimes, but this should not be made a habit for proper video call etiquette.
You may not realize how much noise your mic is picking up, but the other people in your video conference definitely will. Do them a favor and control the noise of your machine and surroundings.
“For a great video meeting experience, use a headset,” said Dennis Hegstad, Co-Founder of LiveRecover. “This helps block out background noise and helps you to focus on the call. Have a nice background behind you and not something that will be distracting. It is also best to mute yourself when you’re not the one who’s talking, especially if you’re in a loud environment.”
Just a few simple fixes can dramatically improve your video call etiquette.
It might feel uncomfortable or obnoxious to be loud and vibrant with your video call presence, but trust us, it makes everything a lot easier for the other folks in the meeting.
It helps them stay engaged, pay attention, and absorb all the key points you’re saying.
“Video conferencing technology is great, but it isn’t perfect, and you need to bring a strong performance to make up for shortcomings in the format,” said Dr. Robert Applebaum, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. “Speak louder than you think is necessary and project your voice through the screen so that nobody misses a word you say. It feels unnatural at first but it’s very important, and you’ll get used to it.”
Make it Real
Don’t be the person who rolls in late to the video conference every time and doesn’t participate beyond the bare minimum. Try to contribute some good energy and be someone that people look forward to talking to.
“In order to ensure that you have a great video meeting experience, treat the remote meeting as if it were one you were having in the office,” said Daniel Snow, Co-Founder of The Snow Agency. “Dial in early. Nothing is worse than showing up late for a video meeting. Another advantage to dialing in early is that you can chat with other people on the call before the meeting starts. This is especially helpful since you’re not in the office where you would normally be able to strike up conversations in the hallway. Also, check your audio levels and camera before the meeting starts.”
The key takeaway is that it never hurts to prepare a little bit extra for a meeting and outshine everyone else on the call.
However you can make your video conference experience a little more professional, do it. Try to get up off the couch, set up a quality camera, and do whatever you need to add that extra shine to the experience and demonstrate video call etiquette.
“Curate a professional video space for your virtual meetings,” said Vincent Bradley, CEO and Co-Founder of Proper Wild. “First, create good lighting by moving your workspace to face a window and investing in a desktop ring light. Next, make sure that your background is free from clutter or inappropriate wall art. Finally, try to find the quietest nook in your home away from loud leaf blowers, screaming children, or adorable pets, and be sure to mute yourself whenever unexpected noises occur.”
Rather than asking coworkers what they think of your studio, maybe ask a friend first!
Be Positive Always
Video conference technology is truly a blessing, so make the most of it and really work to connect with coworkers, clients, and anyone else you encounter.
“No matter how hard you work, if you don’t make people feel like work is great, then they’ll forget about the rest,” said David Burk, Economics Professor at Georgetown University. “Technology makes people feel good.”
If you find yourself dreading every conference, you’re probably missing the point.
Stick to a Plan
Maybe you aren’t the leader of the meeting or even the head of a project, but you should still enter each conference with a game plan and a series of points you want to make.
“Set up clear objectives prior to the call, just as you would with any other type of conference in person or on the phone,” said Michael Fischer, Founder of Elite HRT. “You want to avoid getting sidetracked or distracted on a video call, because it’s tougher to get back on track. Know what you want to achieve in the meeting and hit those goals as soon as possible.”
Remember that you don’t need to be the start of the show to make an impact on the meeting and steer the team in a better direction.
Start with Small Talk
We all need to ease into a conversation before talking about serious matters, and that goes for video conferences as well as in-person meetings. Keep the small talk appropriate and fun, and be ready to get to work when everyone is ready.
“Before starting a virtual presentation, it’s often helpful to set the tone with some lighthearted conversation prior in order to adjust to the environment,” said Katie Lyon, Co-Founder of Allegiance Flag Supply. “Everyone understands that virtual conferences can be uncomfortable, and you’re probably not the only one who will feel that way. Capitalize on the vulnerability through transparency and allow your nerves to settle in. Generally, the levity brings an excellent momentum to segue into the call’s business aspect, and things seamlessly transition from there.”
Also, apply the same methods to the end of the meeting, allowing everyone to slow down, cool off, and reflect on the events of the call.
You’ve probably experienced this first hand – a surprising number of people don’t even attend their video conferences on a daily basis. If they do, they are often not even connected via camera, which simply isn’t a good look.
“To make sure that everyone is on the same playing field, be sure to be camera-ready if this will be a video call,” said Travis Killian, Owner and CEO of Everlasting Comfort. “In other words, don’t be that one blank box on the screen! It can actually build trust and a sense of comradery to be able to see your coworkers or potential customers. So, be ready to smile for the camera!”
The least you can do is throw on some clothes, sharpen up your look, and face the camera with confidence
We mentioned it before, but it’s worth a final reiteration – as a part of video call etiquette structure your meetings so that you stay on track and actually get things done. The sooner you apply this lesson, the better.
“When you’re set to have a video meeting, it can be just as structured as a face-to-face boardroom meeting – and it should be,” said Jordan Dwayne, CEO and Founder of 6 Ice. “Previous to the meeting, start making an agenda, and share it with all of the meeting attendees. In this way, everyone can add to the meeting points, and you can be sure that each person is heard and that their questions or concerns are addressed.”
Video Call Etiquette
Video conferencing is going nowhere soon, even as we start to move back into the physical office. Get used to the new normal and remember these video call etiquette tips for your next video call so you knock it out of the park.
One thought on “Video Call Etiquette for a Great Video Call Experience!”
Great post. I’ll definitely come back for some more knowledge
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