The New Meeting Experience: Video Conferencing Etiquette Dos and Don’ts
By Mike Keadle, CTS-D, CTS-I, CQD, CQT, AV Division Manager
With the explosion of COVID-19, the occasional meeting has now turned into a daily occurrence—often the only way we see and communicate with our coworkers and customers. The sudden shift of technology into the hands of new users has brought about its own set of challenges. Everyone wants to talk about the latest and greatest technology, but let’s revisit the basics. How many times has your meeting been interrupted by a screaming child or barking dog? How many times was this addressed quickly? Sometimes, these things are unavoidable (given the year we are all having, it’s probably not a big surprise that meetings get interrupted).
By going back to some basic meeting etiquette guidelines, we can avoid many of these interruptions and save ourselves time, money, and frustration.
First, let’s talk about audio.
To ensure good audio, you need to make sure your microphone picks you up. Use the test function in your UC software, or do a test call with a coworker. Make sure that you can be heard clearly. Speak toward the microphone—don’t speak with your head down or while doing other work, as you will likely come across sounding distant and unclear.
Next, let’s get rid of the background noise. Try to isolate yourself from the kids, the dogs, and the neighbor mowing his grass. If you can hear it, chances are everyone on the call can, too. It is typically best to have a quiet, interior room where you can close the door.
Third is the self-induced noise—the paper shuffling, pen tapping, etc. Try to be conscious of noise you are creating, as it can be extremely distracting.
Finally (this is a mind-blower—kind of like a turn signal in a car), you have a Mute button. Learn it. Use it.
The majority of the interruptions we experience in a call can be avoided by simply placing yourself on Mute when you are not speaking. This wonder does not come without challenges, though. You have to remember to unmute yourself before you begin talking. I know — the excitement gets to you, but remember, no one can hear your enthusiasm unless you take yourself off of Mute.
Now that we have solved the world’s audio problems, let’s discuss video.
First, you need to test your camera and make sure it works. In Windows 10, there is a built-in Camera app. Just type “Camera” into the search bar of your start menu. It will display the app, and you can click to launch it. (For Mac OS, there is a free app called Hand Mirror that gives you a camera preview). Now, you can see what everyone else will see in a call.
Since you can see yourself now, let’s look closely. First, what does your background look like? Ideally, a neutral background is best — nothing too busy or distracting. You also might want to make sure there is nothing showing that you don’t want to share with the world. As much as your dog running in circles in the background is entertaining, it is also very distracting for a meeting.
Next, let’s talk about the Mute function again. We can use the video mute to shut off our camera. This can be great if you are stuck in a long meeting and need to step away to grab a drink, but, like the audio mute, it can be problematic if you forget to unmute your video, and you need people to see your shining face when you speak.
Content sharing when utilizing video platforms.
Finally, there is content sharing. Most video platforms allow you to share content. The exact means of doing it will vary by platform, but it is not a complicated process. Do not wait until your meeting to try it, though — I promise you will stumble through it. Take two minutes and familiarize yourself with the screen sharing functionality. Again, a test call with a coworker can be very valuable to test this. Make sure you are not the one holding up the meeting because you don’t know how to operate the software.
These are all easy ideas and practices but can have a huge impact on the quality of your meetings. Don’t be the one everybody rolls their eyes at.