Video Call Etiquette: Small Ways to Make a Big Impression Online

How many virtual meetings have you attended since March 2020?  10?  20? Countless?  For most people around the globe, the sudden dawn of digital meetings meant a fair amount of discomfort, having to clear a space with a professional-looking background and needing to quickly learn (and come up with) etiquette rules in this “new normal” way of doing things.  The large number of jokes, memes, faux pas videos and sightings of people in their underwear is enough to put the fear of online meetings into anyone, but you are in luck!  We have selected the very best, most useful ways that you can make a big impression in your next video call.  Let’s learn from others’ mistakes so that we can avoid them ourselves.

1. Your setup:
Like with most things, preparation is key.  Be sure to set up and check these points before the meeting starts:

  • Your background. Ensure that it’s clean, clear of clutter and relatively professional looking.  (Think bookshelf, clear wall with some art etc,)
  • Your lighting. South African comedian, Rory Petzer, released a number of hilarious videos about Zoom meetings, entitled, Meetings in a Time of Corona.  In the series, there is one character who is constantly fixing his curtains.  While this is a funny exaggeration of reality, it really is a very important point.  If the light behind you is too bright, you will be a silhouette, and if it’s too dark in the room, people will be distracted by trying to see you at all.  The best bet with lighting is to have a sidelight, like from a window or lamp, as well as your overhead lights on.
  • Your video and audio. Be sure to check these BEFORE the meeting starts.
  • Your connection. It’s best to have an internet connection that is able to be plugged in, but if you can’t, use as fast a connection as you can.  In the case of your connection being dropped, consider having a backup, like your phone.  You can use it as a hotspot and jump back on to the call.
  • Your outfit. Even if you are at home all day, every day, you need to dress up a little for a meeting.  As part of your set-up, choose something professional to wear and do some grooming.  You will not only look good, but it will make you feel good with that inner confidence too.

2. Personal Interactions:
Meetings involve people, whether they are online or face-to-face.  These tips will help you stay in the good books with your colleagues, clients and employers.

  • Arrive 5 minutes early. This will give you the opportunity to exchange small talk before the meeting starts.
  • Make eye contact. Try to have your webcam at eye level.  This will make it seem like you are making natural eye contact.
  • Look at others. It is so tempting to look at yourself during an online meeting, but people really can tell when you are doing that.  Be sure to look at others when they are speaking and look into the camera when you are speaking.  One trick is to place a post-it note over your face, to avoid looking at yourself.

3. Clarity of Communication:
People have different hardware, internet connections and hearing and auditory processing abilities.  Try these etiquette ideas to make sure you are heard and understood.

  • Speak slowly and clearly. Think of the way you would speak to an elderly person. You need to do the same in an online meeting.
  • Don’t shout, but do project your voice. Now think of delivering a speech to a group of elderly people.
  • If the group is having a hard time hearing you, check your microphone settings, to up the volume.
  • Etiquette dictates that if the majority of the group has their video on, you should too. Video really does add that human touch to a virtual meeting and helps keep everyone focused.
  • Mute your mic when you aren’t speaking. This is good etiquette, as it allows minimal distractions to the person who is speaking.  Even if you are in a quiet room, a simple foot movement or dog barking outside can cause disruptions online.

Yes, things have changed. Yes, they are sometimes a little foreign or difficult to adapt to, but they don’t need to be the cause for embarrassment or stress for you.  Take each meeting at a time and treat it like you would a face-to-face one.  Before you know it, you will be a pro at online meetings and will make a big impression no matter where you are streaming from.

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