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The year 2020 brought many work changes, including the widespread use of video conferencing software. By now, most people are familiar with the various platforms—such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet—but I still see quite a few goofs. Regardless of what platform you use, good video conferencing etiquette is crucial, so I thought I’d share some tips to help you brush up on your skills.
Dress for the Occasion
Don’t let your standards slide when it comes to video conferencing. Professional conversations require you to dress appropriately—although I’ve found there is no need to overdress for casual conversations with work colleagues.
For formal interviews, I always recommend that you err on the side of caution, which includes dressing for the occasion from head-to-toe. For routine work calls, I won’t suggest that everyone needs to wear formal clothes below the waist because I know that is simply not the world many of us are living in right now. The point is to know when dressing well really matters. When it does, you want to hit it out of the park.
Check Your Lighting
Take care to have good lighting that shows your head and shoulders clearly, and in a way that doesn’t make you blend into the background. This topic could be an article all on its own! You can find some helpful tips in the “Use a good camera and the right lighting” section of this article.
Be aware that setting up effective lighting might take some experimentation and time to implement. Slow but steady progress is still progress.
Avoid Clutter during Video Interviews
Clutter can be both visual and audible; both should be limited as much as possible. Visual background clutter is not only distracting but also can reflect poorly on you because you might appear disorganized. This perception can then be extrapolated by employers, interviewers, and potential clients: Will you represent the company brand well? Can the company put you in front of a client? You don’t want a messy space to plant seeds of doubt about your abilities.
Audible clutter can be more difficult to control, but still take measures to do so. Try to set up your office in a quiet space. If you can’t, give the other person or people on the call advance notice. Not long ago, I had a person tell me, in case I heard it in the background during our call, that sometimes a train goes by and it gets loud. This level of professionalism is appreciated.
Ensure a Strong Internet Connection and Stable Location
In my own home office, I needed to start using a Wi-fi extender when my husband and children were also at home doing work and school tasks online. Otherwise, my connection was not consistently stable. Whether you move closer to where your Wi-fi is located, close all other applications on your computer, buy an extender, upgrade your Internet speed, or do all of the above, make sure you’ve taken steps to have a strong internet connection.
Join on Mute—And Stay on Mute Unless You Are Talking
Staying muted unless you are actively talking makes everything run smoother. I still routinely hear hosts ask participants to mute themselves. Similarly, silence all computer notifications. Typically, other people on the call will hear these and they can be disruptive.
Learn and Practice Your Video Conferencing Software
Whether you’re joining a call or hosting one, it’s best to become fully acquainted with the features of the video software you’ll be using. These features can include breakout rooms, screen sharing, chat boxes, muting/unmuting, and virtual backgrounds—just to name a few. By capably handling them, you will surely make a good impression.
If the software feels overwhelming to you, consider setting up practice calls with friends or family to educate yourself about each feature in a less formal setting. Practice, for instance, giving a presentation while also checking the chat box if this is something that you need to do for your work.
Keep in mind that each platform is unique. Familiarize yourself with the one you need to use before an important meeting.
Be Gracious When Video Conferencing Goes Bad
Although I coach my clients to try to control for everything they possibly can during video conferencing, be understanding when things go off the rails for the other party. Sometimes dogs bark, kids need their parents, internet connections become unstable, and tea kettles whistle. Be kind and gracious—and never forget it could be you who has the issues. Having a sense of humor about mishaps can go a long way, too.
Have a Plan B
As routine as video conferencing is, sometimes things can still go wrong. As a result, I recommend that you have a back-up plan in place. For example, know the other person’s phone number, especially in situations like an interview or client call. Along the same lines, keep a glass of water nearby in case you get a dry throat from talking.
Most people’s comfort and familiarity with video conferencing has grown exponentially in the past year, but I do not recommend getting complacent. Even if we know that most of us are wearing comfy pants, that doesn’t give us permission to start wearing pajama tops to video meetings. Or, to forget that clutter (even bookshelves!) distracts people. Good video conferencing etiquette sets you apart when you are having professional conversations, whether that is with a colleague, boss, or potential employer during an interview.