For years I’ve been making and jumping on conference calls, but now that I am working remotely I feel I need to figure out video conferencing etiquette. I’ve witnessed some sloppy ones first hand that were really embarrassing. Some have become a joke. Most of which I won’t go into, but you can guess what happens when dogs and kids are cooped up at home.
Would you, please, give us your guidelines for video conferencing. Thank you for your time, Didi.
- You’re going to need to choose the right background, but it should be plain, neutral beige (if possible) with no knickknacks or such that look kitschy and foolish. And certainly don’t have your TV muted with Netflix in the background.
- Make sure you’re secluded from people or pets who might pass behind you or jump in your lap. And there shouldn’t be a pile of laundry waiting to be folded in the background.
- It is best to be seated at a desk, which is more professional than mansplaying, slouched on a couch.
- A glass of water in a plain glass? yes; a cup of coffee in a cutesy Red Sox mug? no! Avoid the coffee mug as it is too laid-back. You’re not on the Stephen Colbert Show. You want to appear composed and easygoing but, I repeat, you’re not a talk show guest.
- You don’t want anything on your stage set to distract the viewer from the conversation. No cat in your lap, because if the viewer doesn’t like cats, he’ll be distracted by that. You wouldn’t take your cat to your office for a meeting. No Giants pendant or Madonna on the wall behind you.
- Nix the tie and three piece suit as you’ll only come off as pompous. You want to look slightly relaxed.
- A collared shirt and a sports jacket or blazer, but no need for a tie, would be just right. Play to your audience, if it is the black V neck T-shirt audience, then fit in and wear a fresh black T-shirt.
- Be well-groomed, nobody wants to see a bedhead or greasy locks, or to see white specs of dandruff on your black T-shirt.
- Shave, but don’t look half-shaved, as though your shaver broke down half way through your morning shaving ritual.
- Don’t wear too much make-up if you’re a man, (because you don’t want to look like orange-faced Donald Trump); a woman’s make-up should be no heavier than what she would wear to a board meeting, church or to a job interview.
- Since the viewer won’t see you from the waist down, the same goes for a woman, a crisp top would do perfectly with or without a jacket or blazer. Hold off on the jewelry as it could be a distraction, with the person out of focus wondering if your pearls are real or faux, real gold or not.
- Save the sweater fireside look for another time. Perhaps a video conferencing with family or friends.
- Stage a dressed rehearsal videoing yourself in your costume and at your desk to make sure that the lighting is just right and that there isn’t anything weird in the background.
- Try turning light fixtures off and on and/or pointing the camera at a different angle.
- The lighting will either be flattering or you may actually feel you need a bit of makeup if your nose shines too brightly, or that there’s food left over from breakfast in your beard.
- Likewise test whether to wear your eyeglasses or do without.
- Do all this before the call begins so you’re not muddling about trying to fiddle with the lighting or looking for your notes.
The show begins: but first do a sound and lighting check, don’t just pick up a call or dial into it until you are sure you are well prepared–just as you would be prepared for an important face to face meeting.
- Where you wouldn’t be looking around for your notes.
- Be visible and clear to your clients to garner rapport with clients.
- Remember that face to face adds a level of extra communication that you don’t have in a regular conference call.
- Video conferencing is sociable and that is what makes it a more productive tool.
- Remember to mute yourself while other people are talking.
- Preview your webcam.
- Test your set up: microphone, Internet speeds, lighting, background.
- Make use of mute default when you’re not speaking to eliminate the amount of possible disruption, especially if there are only a few people on the call.
- Keep video chats sharply focused.
- Start by having a roll call acknowledging the participants.
- Set boundaries: no shouting + no interrupting.
- Follow an agenda.
- Pay attention.
- Limit the number of meetings.
- Avoid the lingering wrap-up.
- Don’t you dare wave good-bye.
- Instead graciously thank people for their time.
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