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To stay healthy during the Covid-19 global pandemic, telecommuting and remote work-from-home arrangements have become the norm for many. People who had always worked in offices and met face-to-face with colleagues and clients have turned to the digital world of video conferencing and teleconferences to keep working and stay productive. Video conferencing has made face-to-face communication, collaboration and teamwork stil possible, despite shelter-in-place and social distancing. But many were using a video conferencing system for the first time. In addition to needing the right hardware– such as internet connectivity and a computer with speakers – workers also needed the right software or video conferencing provider.
Benefits of Video Conferencing
There are many choices for video conferencing services including Zoom, GotoMeeting, GotoWebinar, Skype, RingCentral and Zoho Meeting. But these services usually offer more than just face-to-face interaction. The best-in-class video conferencing providers allow users to share screens, remotely access one another’s desktops, chat via text, post questions to the host during a presentation, exchange files, communicate via digital whiteboards, and even broadcast conferences to a large group of passive viewers. Some are part of business-geared Voice-Over-IP (VoIP) packages, allowing users to dynamically change voice calls to video calls or shared meetings with the touch of a button without establishing new connections.
These systems take online communication to a new, more personal and service-driven level. In addition to shared meetings, video conferencing is also a highly-efficient way of getting other business tasks done, whether that means addressing customers’ questions live, interacting with customers in real time webinars, hosting marketing events, or even reaching out to board members and business partners to plan strategy. It takes all the collaborative and communicative work between people into the digital, virtual realm. In that regard, it has allowed many businesses to continue to function that might have otherwise had to shutter.
The Rules of Engagement
Beyond having the right technology in place, professionals have also had to learn not only how to use all of the features of the video conferencing system chosen but also how to behave in an online professional environment. Stories and memes recounting recent video conferencing and webinar gaffes have blossomed on social media. Clearly, not everyone has a solid understanding of the rules of etiquette governing the virtual office space of video conferencing. Here are some of the dos and don’ts for webinar and video conferencing behavior.
1. Make sure the technology is working.
Well before — at least 10-15 minutes before a video conference is set to begin – test out the wifi connection and pull open the file or email with the link to the call. An audio check should be done before the virtual meeting begins to ensure that everyone can hear you. If using a cell phone, ensure it is sufficiently charged to work for the entire call. Make sure the laptop is either charged or plugged into a power source.
2. Dress appropriately.
Dressing appropriately may seem like a no-brainer. But, there are two elements at play when it comes to appropriate attire for a video conference. First, is the issue of dressing professionally. While some may think that working from home means being able to dress in casual or even sporty attire, video conferencing for a work call with coworkers does not mean it is acceptable to wear pajamas or workout clothes. And conference calls with clients / customers require the same kind of attire that is appropriate for the office. It is possible to adopt a business casual attire if speaking one-on-one with a long-term client, but ultimately the clothes say something about the person and organization. So it is important to keep it professional. As in the face-to-face world, it is important to dress for success.
The second issue of proper video-conference attire has to do with how certain clothes look on camera. Striped shirts or blouses with intricate patterns can be very distracting on camera. Also, red, white and black are poor choices. A pastel or other light or muted colored top is best. For women, it is also a good idea to keep jewelry to a minimum, especially avoiding anything dangly or jangly. Clanging bracelets and big hoop earrings can be noisy and distracting to the others on the call.
3. Turn off other technology.
Just as with in-person meetings, it is rude to be texting or surfing the web while on a video conference call. Turn off sound notifications on a cell phone and turn over all tablets and phones until the meeting is over. If there is a need for an alarm to notify when it is time to end the call, set that up on the laptop, not the phone.
4. Be on time.
It should go without saying that punctuality is an important part of professionalism. Unfortunately, it needs to be said. Just like being late for in-person meetings, being late for a video conference call is likely to irritate and cause tension. While people are certainly willing to make allowances for a person to run a few minutes late once in a while for a call because of home-schooling demands, those who are always late for appointments are communicating a lack of respect for others’ time.
5. Be prepared.
Make sure to have all the notes and materials needed for the meeting in hand before the meeting starts. There is nothing worse than asking people to wait while scrounging through a stack of papers to find what is needed.
6. Control extraneous noise.
For those who have pets or others in the house who can interfere or interrupt the meeting, it is best to move to a room where the door can be closed and noise controlled for the meeting. If that is not possible, then plan to keep the mute on to block out noise and turn it on only when speaking.
7. Take time for introductions.
When jumping on a video conference call with multiple people, each person should take a moment to introduce him or herself before speaking so everyone knows who’s talking and can address one another by name. Even if the people on the call are colleagues, it helps to be able to pair the name with the sound of the voice, which may not be obvious if the person is blocking their camera. It makes sense to take note of the other speakers’ names so they can be addressed by name.
8. Speak clearly and be heard.
During the video conference, make sure to speak loud enough to be heard, but don’t shout. The audio quality on most video conferencing systems is on par with that of most phones, so there is no need to speak much louder than normal. Yelling will cause participants to turn down their volume and potentially miss what is being said. If someone can’t hear, then adjust the level on the microphone and make sure it’s not covered by something. The person having trouble hearing might also have to adjust their microphone as well.
Also, speak clearly. If needing to present information to a client, it is important to know the material well since uncertainty causes most people to mumble. Speak naturally but slowly. Enunciate each word to ensure everyone can not only hear but also understand.
9. Don’t speak over one another.
Just as in in-person meetings, it is rude to interrupt or speak over other speakers. Proper etiquette dictates to wait for an opening in the conversation to inject additional comments or insights into the discussion. Cutting someone off midsentence indicates a lack of respect or self-control. An alternative is to post pending questions by instant message to ensure every comment is addressed.
10. Focus on the camera.
Look at the camera during the call. Looking at other things during a video conference call can be off-putting to those on the call. Unlike a phone, a video conference usually means that everyone is visible to the rest. So when someone is speaking and the others on the video call are looking down or look distracted, it says “I’m not listening” or “I’m bored.”
Quote of the Week
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” Helen Keller
© 2020, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.