Video conferencing was becoming an essential communication tool before the coronavirus outbreak. Fast taking over audio conference calls. As well as allowing flexibility for participants who couldn’t make it to the conference room. For teams now working from home full time it can now be vital. Both for running necessary meetings, and for offering a social outlet. It is more important than every to be familiar with video conferencing etiquette. To avoid the pitfalls which can come up while working from home.
The coronavirus outbreak has pushed a lot of people to work from home, many for the first time. Even more people are practicing social distancing. Don’t panic. At the end of the day you’re doing the same job. And you can still reach out to friends and family. But you’ll need to do so with a different toolset. This site is here to help you make the changes needed to make the most of the situation.
Video Conferencing Etiquette Quick Tips
- Test your setup in advance
- Set boundaries with those you’re living with
- Introduce yourself before speaking
- Look into the camera while speaking
- Mute yourself when not speaking
- Pay attention
- Keep following traditional meeting etiquette
Test Your Setup In Advance
The start of a meeting is not the time to seek technical support. Verify your computer is ready and able to join and broadcast video to the meeting before it starts.
Go to SpeedTest. Or in Google search for “internet speed test” then click Run Speed Test button.
- Minimum Speeds for 7+ Person Video Conference: 4Mbps download, 128Kbps (0.128Mbps) upload
- Recommended Speeds for 7+ Person Video Conference: 8Mbps download, 512Kbps (0.512Mbps) upload
If your test results are too low and you’re on Wi-Fi check the signal strength. If that is weak (1-2 bars) considering moving your computer or wireless router. Or using a wired connection is possible. If Wi-Fi is good you can call your Internet service provider. In the meantime you may consider going audio only for the video conference. Tell the meeting organizer why.
Audio and Mic Check
Verify the headphones/speakers and microphone you plan to use are set as your computer’s default audio devices.
To change your audio devices click on the Start button, then Settings. Go to Sound. There you can set your output (headphones/speakers) and input (microphone) device.
- Play music or a YouTube video to check your headphones or speakers.
- Right click the volume icon on the taskbar (lower right), then select Sounds, and then the Recording tab.
- Speak into your microphone. If green bars rise as you speak you are good to go.
To change your audio devices click on the Volume icon in the menu bar (upper right). Select the devices there. Or click Sound Preferences. Then set the Output (headphones/speakers) and Input (microphone) tabs.
- In Sound Preferences (click Volume icon, then Sound Preferences) go to the Input tab. Speak into your microphone. If the input level changes you are good.
- Play music or a YouTube video to check your headphones or speakers.
You can verify your webcam is working:
- Windows: Open Camera
- Mac: Open Photo Booth
Video from your webcam should come right up.
You should also check it with the video conferencing software you’ll be using. Most allow you to preview video in their settings, usually under video. You may also be able to double check your audio devices.
If you want to do a more thorough test arrange a video call with a friend or trusted co-worker.
Set Boundaries With Those You Are Living With
Chances are you aren’t the only one stuck at home right now. Your significant other may be working from home one desk over from you. If you have kids they are out of school and likely bored. Even your pets are getting use to you being around more. And possibly trying to take advantage of the situation.
Family comes first, but you still need to establish boundaries which allow you to work and earn a living. Those boundaries can be more important with video conferences. Where a disruption on your end can impact an entire meeting.
Ideally setup in a room with a door and close it for the conference call. Put up a sign to tell others a call is in progress and when you’ll be available.
If working in a shared space make visual queues that you are on a call. Use earbuds or a headset. Or again put up a folded sign or other agreed upon visual clue.
Introduce Yourself Before Speaking
If your meeting is among your own team you can skip this step. But if you aren’t as well known then saying, “Hi, this is Paul,” before speaking helps others keep up with that is going on. As well as getting your name out there to others, which never hurts your career. Keep in mind some participants may not be paying attention to their screen. Making identifying yourself even more important.
If your connection is audio only then this becomes an important step each time you speak after a break. Even if you know everyone on the call. The other participants won’t get a visual cue. You may sound different over a digital connection than in person or a phone call.
Look Into the Camera While Speaking
Always look directly into the lens of your webcam when speaking. If it is at eye level you’ll be making eye contact with your audience. Looking at your own video feed or something else on your monitor shows an odd angle. It can give the appearance of not paying attention or caring.
Making eye contact in person is easy for many of us. Making eye contact with a camera is not. If necessary practice speaking to your webcam while offline.
Mute Yourself When Not Speaking
Proper video conferencing etiquette includes being mindful of the distractions you put out. You probably don’t have a professional grade recording microphone. So the mic you do have can pick up background noise. Including breathing, typing, and kids or pets. A loud background noise is distracting. But so are several different quiet background noises.
You can mute your microphone in the video conferencing software. Usually by clicking the microphone icon in or near your own video feed. If your headset has a physical mute button that is handy. But test to make sure the software picks up that mute command.
Participating in a meeting away from everyone can invite distraction. All of the video conferencing etiquette suggestions up to this point have been to help your audience be less distracted. Now it is your turn.
Your computer is open, with emails coming in and other work pending. No one can see your hands, so maybe you can get away with doing some work during the meeting. But don’t. Focus your attention on the meeting and save the work for afterwards.
Few people can truly multitask. Most of us need to focus on one thing at a time to do it well. So focus on the meeting and leave the rest for later. Failure to do so can become obvious to others on the video call. Remember they’ll still see you looking away. If your mic isn’t muted they can hear you type. And when called upon they’ll see the surprise or confusion on your face.
Traditional Meeting Etiquette Still Applies
Video conferencing etiquette is important. As it deals with the fact that everyone is remote and not always in a work friendly environment. But for a good meeting you still need to follow normal meeting etiquette, too. Don’t allow working from home slip you into new, bad habits.
- Be on time
- Be prepared
- Do formal introductions if needed
- Don’t interrupt (software that highlights the speaker and has a text chat windows helps)
- No sneaking out
You also need to dress for work. The same as you would for an in person meeting in the office. You don’t want to be the only person in a t-shirt. I would also suggest going with a full work outfit. It’ll put you in the right state of mind for work. Though it seems a lot of people are opting out of work bottoms due to coronavirus.
Tips for Video Conference Hosts
Use Instant Messaging or Email Before Scheduling a Video Conference – Consider what you are wanting to get accomplished. As well as how quickly it needs to get done. Can instant messaging (Slack, Microsoft Teams) or email get the job done on time? If so start with those tools before you schedule a video conference. It allows for more flexibilities with everyone’s work and home schedules. And there are far fewer technical hurtles.
Times to use video conferencing include:
- Discussing bad news, if in person is not possible
- Team meetings that were done in person before
- Product demos
- One-on-one check-ins with your employees
- Job interviews
Know the Software – Double check the software you’ll be using in advance. You should also be familiar with how it works and basic troubleshooting steps. Or have someone on the meeting you can assist anyone having an issue. You are going to be the first person many people ask for help.
Prepare Your Desktop for Sharing – If you’ll be sharing your screen during the video conference prepare it like you do yourself. It’ll keep the distractions (and potential embarrassments) low.
- Restart your computer beforehand, with enough time if an update or issue comes up
- Disable notifications, especially for email, text, and instant messages
- Close unneeded applications
- Hide your browser’s bookmarks if they aren’t all work related
- Clean up your desktop so it looks neat
- Set a neutral wallpaper
Share This List of Video Conference Etiquette With Your Participants – Help everyone in your meeting to show up ready to work. While reducing the amount of work you need to do to run the meeting. Keep it bookmarked and share with any new comers to your meetings.