Video conferencing tips

Life Online: Etiquette for communicating in a digital world

While Covid-19 has imposed a number of physical restrictions in general, paradoxically, it has introduced many of us to new spaces to live, work, study and be connected. With people from 90 to 9 (and younger) using a range of technologies, many of us have become adept in a short few weeks with the vagaries of the digital world. We are going online to collaborate with colleagues, to learn online and to connect with family and friends.  For most people there is a learning curve.

As we have gotten over the initial rush and early adaptation, there is an awareness and growing consensus about expected standards of behaviour when being online, especially in a work and business context. In much the same way a key element of learning to drive is having to learn the rules of the road, the same applies to our online selves and codes of conduct or the old fashioned sense of etiquette we need to embrace while online. In short, bad manners are unacceptable whether online or offline.

For many of us the swiftness of the move to video conferencing in particular has been the most spectacular and probably most scary. For work meetings to be successful using video technology, there are some dos and don’ts for both hosts/chairs and participants to follow.

Video conferencing tips for everyone

  • Be on time and be prepared. If it is the first time you have used a particular software you may need to install an application, learn how to use it and ensure it has access to your camera and microphone etc.
  • Be polite to others – do not interrupt others while they are speaking.
  • Speak clearly and distinctly.
  • Do mute yourself while not speaking to eliminate any noise from your background.
  • Do dress appropriately. Keep dresswear professional especially if dealing with clients and stakeholders as you would in a face-to-face meeting. Remember, colleagues may appreciate the same gesture.
  • Stay present. It may be that you have to step away, but apologise and let the group know.
  • Don’t eat while on the call, it’s distracting and could be seen as being disrespectful.
  • Mute mobile phones, do not read or send emails or read other texts.
  • Try not to move around too much, again it can be distracting.
  • Be aware of your background, both physical and lighting.
  • Face a window or the light source, this will light your face.
  • Try to remember your own positioning and remember to look at the camera to maintain eye contact.
  • Finally, don’t say anything you would not say in a face-to-face encounter.

Video conferencing tips for hosts

  • Send out invitations in sufficient time. Be mindful that different time zones may apply.
  • Check your connection in advance of the call.
  • Be familiar with the technology. Take time to understand the different software features, e.g. how to mute, how to invite others to join in etc.
  • Make sure to be online ahead of schedule to welcome everyone as they join.
  • Have your agenda ready and pre-circulated.
  • Remind participants they can use the text chat function rather than talk over other participants.
  • Remember to include all participants. Try to recall who has spoken and who has yet to speak.
  • Keep the meeting on track as you would in an offline setting.

Online communication is here to stay. Etiquette and codes of conduct will evolve over time just as text messaging has. However, you will always need to ensure you have prepared, are ready for the meeting and treat others the way you would like to be treated.