EtiQuette for Video CaLLs
In today’s day and age the available technology often is no longer an issue – starting from tablets up to complete virtual room systems the range is wide. Communication via online conferencing can easily lead to misunderstandings, even though our counterparts are no aliens but moreover our colleagues or clients. The success of a virtual meeting is therefore often dependent on soft factors like basic rules of conduct and online etiquette. Some issues can be easily avoided – so here a few recommendations for a great turn-out of your video communication.
PRIOR TO THE MEETING…
1. Check your hardware.
The easier the handling, the better - – that is especially relevant for video conferencing technology. When you send out invites to an online call, make sure that the access instructions for dialing in are simple and easily understandable – so all invitees can join quickly and without problems. It is recommended to do a sound check with a colleague prior to the actual call. Attention: Android and Apple are not necessarily compatible – try to avoid „mixed systems“.
Take your time, and make yourself familiar with the technology you want to use. You should know your way with your tools – nothing is more embarrassing than the host of an online meeting fiddling around, randomly opening and closing windows on their desktop, etc..
Additionally check your camera settings and ensure that every participant is fully visible on the screen. A mere half of a head, or a view of the chest neckline are not only irritating to the participants, but rather complicate a clear communication including body language.
2. Pay attention to what you are wearing.
When your business partner can see you, you should choose accepted business dress, at least in those areas captured by your web cam…
3. Choose a quiet surrounding.
The success of a virtual conference is dependent on undivided focus. And nothing is more disturbing than background music or noise whose origin cannot be identified by other participants.
4. Eliminate disruptive factors.
This is as important for online calls as it is for face-to-face meetings. Avoid interruptions and other disruptive factors. Inform third parties that you are having a conference call and don’t want to be disturbed. In case you are taking part your office, put a „Do not disturb“ sign on your door. Be aware that pets or children crossing your frame do not convey professionalism. Also make sure to remove unsuitable decorations in the background before joining a video call.
Carefully place refreshments, coffee and other drinks on your conference table. The micophone can pick up clinking sounds if you put your glass or mug too closely, causing ongoing disturbances. AND – mute your mobile phone before your call. A ringing phone during a video conference is a real „meeting killer“, distracting there just as much as in an „offline“ meeting.
5. Clear your computer desktop before sharing.
When sharing your computer screen with the other participants, you should ensure that your virtual desktop is clean and tidy. Chaotic and cluttered desktops do not belong in a professional meeting.
DURING THE MEETING…
6. Be on time.
Basically a given: As everywhere in the business context, punctuallity is imperative. Being late is considered plain rude, especially, but not only in Germany, as you are robbing the other persons time - and time is money… In case you cannot avoid being late, you must notify your business partner in time. That way they have the chance to use the waiting time productively.
7. It is essential to have a moderator.
Introduction of the participants
In case the participants are not acquainted with the moderator previously, they should open the meeting with a short introduction. This warms up the "room" - since you are not interacting in person and don't have the regular small talk beforehand. The integrated participant list shows the names of all your communication partners. That enables you to address everyone personally by name.
To prevent someone from digressing to far during a online conference is part of a moderator's duty. They should set and enforce a clear agenda. Engagement and active participation should be kept up through regular enquiries for opinions or suggetions by the moderator.
Should someone start to drift off into a neverending monologue, it is the responsibility of the moderator to take action to steer the communication back to the topic.
8. Whether you speak with an accent or not – Articulate! Clearly!
Ensuring clear communication of all participants is crucial for a sucessful conference call.
In conference calls – mind your voice
Without a web cam, when you cannot see your opposite(s), you are stripped of mimic and body language. That is why you should carefully consider your wording, to not be misunderstood. A clear and distinct pronounciation supports comprehension. Smiling helps, even on the phone – you can hear it.
9. Keep eye contact.
Good eye contact with all participants of a video call is very important. Your camera should be aligned in a way, that you are directly looking into it's lense. So the other participants feel like you are addresssing them personally. Look your opposites in the eye via the video screen.
10. Use the mute function.
Every heavy breath and cough will be broadcast loudly, not just through a headset with microphone right infront of the mouth. Even telephone or integrated computer mics convey this noise interference. That is where the mute function comes in, use it during someone else's presentation or whenever you are not actively speaking.
11. Avoid multitasking.
Avoid being busy with other things during an online meeting, even when you are not actively participating. Your colleagues will notice when you are checking social media, quickly replying to an email or just plainly appear bored – and that will deflect attention. By the way: Also eating a quick lunch or dinner during a conference call will distract others and will decrease the meeting quality. So keep your sandwich in the bag until after your call.
12. Let others deliver their point.
Hearing others out is one of the most important etiquette rules in Germany. Endless seaming monologues can however be interupted by relevant and closed questions to the point being provided. Important questions could also be posed in parallel, using the integrated chat window. Should the time for Q&A be insufficient during the call, those questions can be addressed via email afterwards.
13. Keep it short.
What applies to classical meetings, should also be regarded in a virtual setting: A conference should not exceed 90 minutes. After that duration the attention will deteriorate drastically. For larger subject areas, an agenda with coffee breaks is more likely to promise a successful outcome.