Video Conference Calls Dos And Don'ts
If video conferences are a part of your life, it's essential to practice basic etiquette to ensure each meeting is successful. You ultimately want your virtual meetings to go smoothly and for everyone to get their points across effectively. Being an expert communicator is part of everyday life but has especially significant weight in business settings.
Whether you're a seasoned veteran or are just now entering the world of video calls, this article will help you refine your etiquette and look like a pro. Check out this advice from Poised on what to do and what not to do during a video conference.
How To Make Virtual Meetings a Breeze
Whatever video conferencing systems (like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Skype) you use, you can have accessible virtual meetings from home without sacrificing productivity or professionalism. It doesn't have to be complicated as long as you take a few precautions. While we will cover many other best practices, let's first run through a few ways that you can execute a successful video conference.
First, make sure your webcam is on before attending a meeting. Be mindful of where your mute button is and when to use it. It's easier than you think to mute your microphone while someone else is speaking and then forget to unmute yourself when it's your turn.
If you are in charge of conducting a video conference, establish a clear plan with the other participants. A visual roadmap will help attendees understand the purpose of the discussion and create a structure for productive conversations.
You will also want to take the necessary steps to maximize engagement from all participants.
Communicate Effectively on Conference Calls
You know that effective communication is critical for a video conference call, but how do you make it happen?
Here are a few tips on how you can present yourself in the best light possible:
Make Eye Contact While Speaking
Making eye contact during video meetings is essential. It's natural to stare at the other participant's video or image and occasionally glance at your webcam. In a virtual space, the key to eye contact is consistently looking into your camera.
It may help to place a sticky note or a fun sticker right next to the camera. (If your computer is company property, it’s best to check with your employer if this art project is in the clear.)
Other potential ways to maintain eye contact as you speak on a video call include the following. Leverage your peripheral vision so you can read body language without needing to look directly at the person's image.
You could also reposition the participant's image closer to your camera lens so you can pick up on most of their body language while still looking at the camera. If you are in a group meeting, focus on one person at a time to make each individual feel like you are engaging with just them.
Speak Slowly and Clearly
If you naturally speak faster than average, intentionally slow down your pace during virtual meetings. It will help you feel more in control and relaxed. It will also give your words more weight and power. Speaking too quickly tends to devalue the currency of words.
An even pace will make it easier for your audience to follow your presentation. An ultra-accelerated cadence can make it difficult for others to retain information. Speaking slowly also allows you to put more emphasis and emotion into each word. Well-regulated speech can help you manage your pacing and keep distractions at bay.
Speaking slowly and clearly during your video conference calls will make you appear confident and knowledgeable to your audience.
Use Body Language To Enhance Your Communication
Spoken words make up only 7% of human communication. Tone of voice and body language accounts for 38% and 55%, respectively. That means body language is crucial to successful virtual meetings.
You want participants to know you are confident when you speak and listen in video conferences. The best way to get that concept across is to sit up straight through the duration of meetings. Demonstrate how friendly and warm you are by smiling when meeting people and when someone makes a joke or silly comment.
If you pay attention to any effective communicator, chances are they talk with their hands to some degree. These motions show viewers that you are passionate about the topic of discussion and engaged in the conversation, both of which are essential in video conferences.
If you are unsure what to do with your hands when speaking, experiment with using them to emphasize specific points of your presentation. Even if it feels awkward at first, you will build the habit, becoming more natural over time.
Be mindful of fidgeting in virtual meeting rooms. Squirming on screen may make you appear unprofessional and insecure. Just like with in-person conference rooms, a steady posture reflects confidence.
Fix Technical Issues Beforehand
No one goes into a video conference call hoping for their microphone or video to cut out. But technology is complex, and malfunctions happen.
It’s best to get ahead of the game by resolving issues with your video conferencing platform and equipment before entering a virtual meeting. That way, you can speak and listen without worrying about your device having difficulties. If you predict trouble with your internet connectivity, you can use your cell phone or other mobile devices as a hotspot.
Listen While Others Speak
It's just as important to actively listen to other participants in a video conference call as it is to present yourself confidently and professionally.
Here are a couple of techniques to help with becoming a better listener:
Know When To Mute Your Microphone
Usually, you will keep yourself muted until speaking if you are in a large meeting (with six or more people).
For appointments with five or fewer people, that may not be necessary. In smaller video conferences, you can see each person's face on the monitor and recognize when they are about to speak. You will be less likely to interrupt or talk over someone else.
This is not possible in large meeting setups, which is why it's safer to get in the habit of staying muted until ready to present. That said, there are a few exceptions for when you should mute your microphone during smaller meetings.
Muting is a good idea if you are prone to interrupting or have potential interruptions nearby. If you are in proximity to loud noises like dogs barking, children yelling, construction, you should remain muted until it's your turn.
If it has been a long day and your only opportunity to eat lunch is during a video conference call, make sure you stay muted because no one wants to hear you munching on those fries!
Moreover, if you're interrupted by the need to use the restroom, someone coming to your door, or anything else, be sure to mute the audio before taking a break, so the other participants are not distracted.
Stay Engaged While Someone Else Talks
Being attentive to whoever is speaking is the first principle of active listening. If you use the group chat on the call, do so intentionally to minimize real-time disruptions.
It's much easier to stay engaged when you actually pay attention to the speaker's content and tone of voice. Words convey a fraction of the message, so look for emotion in their voice and body language. Try to imagine yourself in their position to experience what they are feeling and thinking.
You can also show your engagement by asking the speaker questions at an appropriate time, like when the presentation ends or when they take a break for questions. If requested, now is time to provide positive feedback.
What Not To Do in a Virtual Meeting
We have covered some fundamental practices for conducting a successful video conference call, but are there any actions you should be sure to avoid? Yes!
Here are a few:
Don't Eat Your Lunch During a Formal Meeting
Few things are more distracting than eating lunch on a video conference call. It's even more distracting in a virtual environment than in an office; everything is focused on your face and voice through your webcam.
You want to follow the same etiquette as meeting people in person. That said, you may not have had the opportunity to eat or drink anything if you have had back-to-back virtual meetings.
Most participants will be fine with you sneaking in a snack during a video conference call, especially if it's more of a casual meeting. If you are speaking with only a few people, the considerate thing to do is ask the host and other members if they mind.
Never Check Your Phone During Video Conferences
You may be at home, but other participants can see when you're staring at your phone rather than engaging with other speakers in a virtual meeting.
Put your phone in a drawer or turn it off to remove the possible temptation to check how your latest Linkedin article is doing. Consider muting notifications from your Gmail, calendars, or text messages as well.
Avoid looking away from your webcam at other content on your monitor. One easy way to avoid this temptation is to close out or minimize all other tabs on your screen so you can dedicate all of your focus to the video conference.
If there is an urgent matter that needs tending, consider explaining why you must turn your focus away from the camera. If it is a larger meeting, you may want to turn off your video if you cannot fully focus on the speaker.
Avoid Distractions During Virtual Meetings
There are many other potential distractions other than your phone and background noises. To stay focused and minimize distractions, consider changing your video conferencing platform to full screen so that all you see is the people with whom you are meeting.
Take notes as other people speak, and be wary of your surroundings.
Take a moment to breathe deeply, close your eyes, and center your thoughts before entering a video conference call. This will help you settle down and kick the meeting off relaxed and focused.
Try Not To Talk Over Your Colleagues
We discussed the importance of actively listening to others and not interrupting, but sometimes it is easier said than done. If you are engaged in the content, your passion may drive you to interject a thought now and then.
One way to ensure you don't talk over your colleagues is to pretend you are interviewing the person speaking. Taking notes and focusing on your breath can also help you engage without disrupting.
Making Remote Work Work For You
The tips above can get you off to a strong start, but there is always more to learn when perfecting your video conferences.
A communication coach like Poised will notify you when you are rambling, using filler words, or speaking too quickly during a video call. It will help alert you to optimize your desktop or laptop camera for optimal benefits. You can maximize your performance and potential on Google Meet, Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, and more.
Thanks to technology, companies can conduct productive meetings while team members are scattered across the globe. Learning the appropriate etiquette is essential for productivity and career advancement. Remote work is no longer a trend; it's a permanent fixture.