Studies show that roughly 65% of employees work remotely, at varying frequencies. Because of this, video conferencing has begun to replace face-to-face meetings on a global scale.
But with widespread adoption comes a new challenge: what’s the proper etiquette for a video conference?
Practicing good video conferencing etiquette makes for more effective meetings and helps you make a good impression.
From timing to lighting to how to meet, here are some best practices to adopt for your next video conference:
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Keep It Simple
Video conferencing, like face-to-face meetings, can often be seen as a waste of time - so don’t waste your team’s time. Limit meetings to a shorter duration; 30 minutes is best for most video calls.
To keep your meetings on track and finish them on time, make an agenda and stick to it. Not only will this help you discuss everything you want to within the allotted time, but your team will also appreciate the opportunity to come to a meeting prepared for the discussion at hand.
Last but not least, invite the right number of people to your meetings. A brief meeting can easily go into overtime when 20-30 people are trying to be heard over each other. Limit meetings to small groups, a maximum of 10 attendees, to ensure your conferences are brief and effective.
Make Eye Contact
Communication is more effective when it is joined by a good physical presence.
First things first: make eye contact. It is easy — and common — to look at the video feed during a conference, but you should regularly look at the camera to establish eye contact with your meeting attendees.
To improve your physical presence in virtual meetings, optimize your camera setup. Sit at eye level to your webcam lens and position yourself so you are in the foreground. Take up a large portion of the screen to keep the focus on you rather than a distracting backdrop.
And, of course, since a video conference is still a business meeting, keep things professional! It can be tempting to dial in with your work-from-home outfit, but be sure to dress appropriately for the call. You should also make sure your surroundings are appropriate — colleagues or clients don’t need to see a pile of laundry behind you.
Test the Tech
Even in a technologically advanced world, technical difficulties are all too common. Be sure to test your video conferencing setup before you dial in. You can do this by test-calling a colleague before your meeting or even dialing in 15 minutes beforehand. Your meeting attendees will be thankful that you’re prepared — and again, that you’re not wasting their time.
Be aware of default video call settings. If you dial in with your audio automatically muted, it may take a few minutes to realize that nobody can hear you — and that it’s your fault!
On the same note, make sure you have the best possible equipment for your video conference. Get a headset with a good microphone and a mute button to eliminate noisy distractions.
If you’re sharing screens, make sure your presentation is ready to show. Test it in advance so you don’t have to dig around for it on a video conference.
This should go without saying, but pay attention! In a virtual space, multitasking is a regular practice. But would you multitask during a face-to-face meeting?
Here’s the thing: in a video conference, the camera focus is on you, meaning the attention is on you even more so than an in-person meeting. If you’re checking your phone, typing a message to someone, or even stepping away from your computer, it’s obvious. And it’s disrespectful to the speaker (and everyone else in the meeting!).
If you’re already limiting meetings to a set amount of time, take that time to focus on the task at hand. Everything else on your task list will still be waiting for you when you finish your video meeting.
Take Your Time
Sure, you don’t want to waste anyone’s time in a video conference, but you don’t need to rush right through it.
A big issue with any video or audio conference is “double-talk,” where attendees speak over each other and nobody is heard. To avoid this, allow everyone to finish speaking before you speak, or establish a “handoff” procedure that gives every participant a chance to respond.
Another way to avoid double-talk is to pause frequently when you’re speaking. This gives attendees the opportunity to interject without interrupting you and makes them feel heard and included.
Do it the Right Way
While many of these strategies may seem like common sense, it’s easy to forget proper meeting etiquette once you’re on a video call. These tips can help you lead a video conference the right way, making everyday business meetings more collaborative and effective.
This post was updated in January 2020 with new information.