Even if you’d never before used a videoconference, chances are the events of 2020 have changed that and you’ve now used videoconferencing, such as Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or some other platform at least a few times this year. Many are now using it regularly, even with returns to offices or workplaces. Videoconferencing can be a great option for many in the workforce. It can reduce travel time to and from meetings or other events, it allows people to view either other face to face even when they are not in the same location, and it offers options such as question or chat functions during the meeting or the ability to record the meeting for future reference or for those who could not attend. There are some differences between videoconference meetings and those in real life, however, and certain rules of etiquette should be kept in mind and applied when using videoconferencing.
Find an appropriate location for your videoconference meeting
You may have a home office or other designated workspace set up where you are regularly able to conduct your work, take calls and participate in videoconferences without concern for unexpected interruptions or noise. But not everyone has such a space available at all times. When you know you’ll need to participate in a videoconference, find a quiet location that is as free from background noise or potential interruptions as possible. Consider using headphones with a microphone to ensure you can hear what other participants are saying and that they will be able to hear you when you need to speak, especially if you can’t guarantee your location will remain quiet throughout the meeting. Additionally, regardless of where you set up for your videoconference, always make sure to check your lighting and background to see how it will appear on camera before logging into the meeting. While it may not be a problem for your close coworkers who know you well to see a basket of laundry, your dog or photos from a tailgate party behind you, you want to make sure your background and surroundings will not send wrong messages and that you can maintain a professional environment even when working remotely. Some videoconference platforms allow you to “blur” or change the background to something neutral, and you can consider using that function if the actual background in your location won’t be ideal.
Test your equipment in advance of your videoconference meeting
Make sure you are familiar with the app or platform that will be used for your videoconference. While most are fairly user-friendly and similar to one another, there are some differences between the various videoconferencing platforms. Particularly when you are using a new method for the first time, check any invitation links or make sure the software is downloaded and you can pull it up and log in well in advance of any scheduled meetings. Check that your camera and microphone are functioning properly as well and that you will have a solid internet connection. Of course, things occur unexpectedly with technology that cannot always be avoided, but it is better to take a little time far enough in advance of a meeting to identify any issues and have them resolved so you are not inconveniencing others or putting yourself at a disadvantage by missing parts of the meeting or being distracted by a lack of familiarity with how to use the videoconference app.
Mute yourself when you are not speaking
Even if you are in a quiet location, there can be a lot of feedback and echoing during videoconferencing, which is distracting and irritating to everyone who is participating. One way to help avoid this is to place yourself on mute whenever you are not speaking during the meeting. Make sure you are familiar with the buttons you will need to click to mute and unmute yourself during the meeting and pay attention to what is going on so you can promptly unmute yourself when you need to speak. Avoid using both the microphone on your computer and the dial into audio by telephone function on the videoconference, as this can create significant feedback and echo when you are speaking. Also, make sure if you have multiple computers running that only the microphone on the computer from which you are running the videoconference is turned on during the meeting. Also check to mute other noises, such as rings to your email inbox or other notification noises, and those from your cell phone, during your meeting so there won’t be distractions.
Identify yourself when you are speaking
In videoconferences where there are a number of participants or in meetings where you may not know all of the participants personally, identify yourself when you begin to speak. Even though the screen will show you on video and have a name tag identifying your video screen, it can be difficult to follow who is speaking in large meetings.
Dress appropriately for the meeting
There is no shortage of humorous internet stories or news articles about the attire or appearance of participants in videoconference meetings, but it won’t be as humorous to you or your company if meeting participants notice you are not dressed appropriately. Even if it is acceptable to be dressed less formally than you would be in a typical office or conference room setting, make sure you are fully clothed, that clothing is not see-through or does not look odd on camera and that you are still sending a professional and respectful message with your appearance. Getting dressed in work appropriate attire can also help get you into a productive and work-oriented mindset for your videoconference meeting.