Now that we have the basics of logging onto a video call down to a science, it's time to address the elephant in the room. There is some etiquette we should all adhere to when signing onto a virtual meeting.
When meetings were held in person, it might have been an option to silently slip in the back and have your tardiness go unnoticed. In the world of virtual meetings, this just isn't possible anymore. More often than not, there is a waiting room set up for presentations or meetings. The host(s) will get a notification that you are waiting to be granted access. Once you're admitted to the meeting, your image pops up, and everyone will see that you've joined late. Not only can this be disruptive, but it also sends a message that you don't respect their time, and that is not a message you want to broadcast. The meeting may have been delayed waiting for you to arrive, which wastes time for those that were prompt.
Turn On Your Camera
After a year of consistent virtual meetings, you should be prepared to be camera-ready at a moment's notice. It would be best if you came to a meeting, especially a scheduled one, with the expectation of being seen by others. Having a discussion over video can be even more intimidating for the presenters when they are the only person (or people) willing to show their faces on screen. Turning on your camera will let the group know that you are present, engaged and ready to contribute. It is far more welcoming than speaking to several blank squares.
When you're out of the office environment, it's easy to forget you're conducting business. When you're in a virtual meeting, be sure to be mindful of your actions. Swivelling in your chair, consistent shifting and adjusting your camera is distracting for everyone on the call. When you log on, take a moment to get settled and check your camera position before things get started. This will allow you and everyone involved to focus on the task at hand.
Skip The Snack
Sometimes it's hard to find time to eat when you're in back-to-back meetings. However, if someone is presenting, it's hard to focus on what they're trying to say when you're slurping down spaghetti or munching on some veggies. If you wouldn't bring your lunch to the boardroom, give a virtual meeting the same respect and schedule yourself a nutrition break at another time.
Interrupt… When Needed
It can feel daunting to ask a question when you're not in the same room as the people you're meeting. Learning when and how to interject with a thought or question is very important. In a virtual setting, there is often a delay between when someone is speaking and when we hear them. It may be beneficial to utilize the "raise hand" or chat box options in larger meetings. In smaller meetings making a statement and pausing for a moment is your best bet. Try saying something like "If I could interrupt for a moment." or "I have a question" and pausing until they address you. This will allow them the opportunity to welcome your comment/question or ask you to wait until the end of the presentation. Either way, you will eliminate the awkward moments where you speak over one another.
Close The Door
We're working and living in the same space these days, and sometimes our work and home lives collide. While it's important to be forgiving when these things happen, we should also be mindful to keep them to a minimum when in important video calls. Separating yourself from the rest of your household when on calls is critical. This won't guarantee that interruptions don't happen, but they can deter them. If you have other people in your household that are also in meetings, try to separate yourself when possible. Another alternative is to use headphones if there is any background noise in the room.
Watch Your Microphone
This might be one of the most important rules when it comes to virtual calls. Keep your microphone muted unless you need to speak. You may think your space is quiet, but the sounds of squeaking chairs, papers shuffling, and throat clearing are amplified in a virtual setting. Other times you may forget your microphone is on and begin speaking to someone else outside of the call. Again, this can be both disruptive and aggravating to everyone involved. Another essential task to do before joining a call is to ensure that your microphone is working by testing your app settings' volume.
Working on other projects while on a video call may be tempting, but it is far more apparent than you might think. When the speaker is talking, take the time to listen to them. It might be convenient to quickly update that spreadsheet or check an email discreetly; however, it takes you away from being present and interacting with other attendees.
Remember Your Background
Your workstation/desk in the office is likely built to look professional, but you may be limited to space(s) you use when working from home. If you are uncomfortable sharing your home with the group for personal reasons or are concerned about privacy, clutter or tidiness, consider using a virtual background. Most major video conferencing apps have easy-to-use pre-programmed backgrounds built into the app. Alternatively, you could upload a personalized one. It is best practice to be sure your virtual background is professional and appropriate for the workplace.
If you wouldn't do it in an in-person meeting, the takeaway is that you shouldn't do it in a virtual one. Be respectful of the hosts, presenters and fellow attendees. Engage in the meetings you're involved in and be courteous. Someday we will be back in the same space for these types of meetings, but in the meantime, let's do our best to make the most of it.
Are there any other practices you would like to see in video calls?
Communications Assistant, RLB LLP