Sharon Koehler

Artistic Stone Design

There are rules of courtesy and common sense for an online video business meeting, just as there are etiquette and protocol rules for an in-person meeting. And for heaven’s sake, get dressed!

There are rules of courtesy and common sense for an online video business meeting, just as there are etiquette and protocol rules for an in-person meeting. And for heaven’s sake, get dressed!

We are all aware that video conferencing has really taken off in the past few months. More so than ever before people are Zooming, Teaming, Meeting and Slacking. Now that we have gotten the hang of video conferencing and we see the benefits, I don’t think it will ever go away.

That being said, we might as well all become familiar with the etiquette of video conferencing. Yes, there is etiquette for video conferencing just like business emails, business letters and meetings. This isn’t social like Skyping or FaceTiming. This is business. 

We have all seen the commercials with the insurance gal talking about her coworkers and they can hear her because she isn’t on mute. Or, people saw the guy in the kitchen dancing in his undershorts waiting for the conference to begin not to mention we have all heard the horror stories of people dressed for business on top and very casual on the bottom and, through some unfortunate event, being discovered and embarrassed. Don’t let this be you. 

So here a few guidelines you might want to think about:

Get dressed
– Don’t let the cat knock over the camera and catch you in your skivvies. This is ESPECIALLY true if you are hosting the meeting. If you are the leader, dress and act like it. You can wait 30 minutes or so to get back in your sweats.

Look into the camera
– When in face-to-face meetings, sometimes we glace away to look at something. The thing is, the other people in the room can see what you are looking at. In video conferencing, they can’t. They have no idea what you’re doing or why you are distracted. Stay looking at the camera. Think of it as eye contact.

– If you aren’t talking, mute yourself. If your phone is nearby, put it on silent, and especially if you are listening to music or watching TV, mute the sound. Other people can hear what you hear. Just because you find heavy metal music soothing doesn’t mean someone else won’t find it distracting.

Look at your whole area
– People in a video conference can see more than just you. They can see what is around and behind you. Don’t let it be the lace brassiere laying on the unmade bed, the sink full of dirty dishes (as I have seen), the ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts or the basket of unfolded laundry by the couch (as I have also seen). Make sure the area around you is straight, neat and clean. Make sure the impression you are making is a good one. 

Do a test run before the meeting
– Usually 10 minutes before a meeting starts I go to the site and make sure all my equipment is working. Most sites have a test you can do to make sure you have the correct audio and video connections. There is nothing worse than being in a meeting and not being able to hear what everyone is saying – or worse, they can’t hear you. You don’t want to be late because you can’t get something to work properly. Also, test those mute and video off buttons, just to be on the safe side. 

Make sure you aren’t in the dark
– My boss could tell you about how I don’t like to turn the lights on at work. We finally had to come to an agreement about what time I should turn the lights on in my office because if it was left up to me, I would never do it.  (For me, this is an additional perk of working from home; I don’t turn the lights on unless I am in a meeting). Anyway, personal differences aside, make sure you have plenty of light (natural or artificial). People don’t want to have to hunt for you in dim light and if you are presenting something, it will be much easier to see.

Keep on task
– Video conferences can sometimes run long or get off topic. Try to stay focused on the topic or task at hand and try to keep other people focused as well. The meeting will flow better, end quicker and get you back in your comfortable clothes much faster.

Don’t be the distraction
– Remember, people can hear AND see you. No picking your nose, chewing, making obscene gestures, twirling your hair or making the ridiculous faces we all make when something boring pops up. Smile, limit hand movements and be professional.

Become familiar with site tools
– Most sites have tools that will help you have a better meeting. They can help you transfer files, share your screen, remove unruly participants and limit/manage the chat options of your meeting. They want you to have successful meetings so you will keep on using their site. Let them help.

Don’t invite the world
– Send invitations and links to only the people who need to be there. If you post the link on social media, anyone and their brother can join in and you don’t need meeting bombers.

Finally, if you are the host, be the first into the meeting and the last out.
Don’t leave your participants wondering if you are coming and don’t frustrate them by leaving before all their questions are answered. Announce the agenda at the beginning and thank everyone at the end for coming. Make a meeting plan so you know everything gets covered – a meeting to-do list, so to speak.

Video conference meetings are here to stay. Hopefully, these guidelines will get you out of your business clothes and back into your sweats quickly and with no embarrassing moments. 

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