Having good manners and following etiquette is important if you want to be viewed as a respectable person – even in cyberspace. It doesn’t matter who you meet with in a video call, it is important to follow the following rules:
Do the following at least 30 minutes before the meeting
- Log in to your video-calling App way ahead of time and make sure your computer, video-calling App and internet are all in good working order and check for software upgrades. Test the speed of your internet connection. The recommended speed for a video-call of seven or more participants is 8Mbps/512kbps. Test the camera, microphone and speakers. Participants may become very irritated if you have to keep asking whether they can hear or see you, or if your internet is slow, having connectivity issues, or malfunctioning hardware. These issues cause unnecessary disruption and it makes you look unprofessional.
- Look at yourself on the screen. Do you make a good impression?
- Check the light. Make sure that participants are able to see you clearly. If there is light behind you, your face will be dark and they won’t be able to see your facial expressions.
- Do you look like you just fell out of bed? Make an effort to look good.
- Wear appropriate clothing. If you are going to meet with work colleagues and/or clients you need to wear work-appropriate clothes. You should care about your appearance even if you are meeting with friends or family on a video-call.
- Adjust your computer so that the camera frames you well.
- Blur or change your background if you have to join the video-call in an unsuitable environment like a hotel room, a bedroom, kitchen etc. You will find different ‘virtual backgrounds’ under ‘settings’ on the video-calling App.
- Have all the appropriate documents on hand so that you don’t have to leave the meeting to fetch anything. If participants need documents from you for the meeting you need to make sure that they receive it well before the meeting so that they can prepare properly. You can’t send documents via email or WhatsApp just before or worse, during the meeting. You will come across as unprepared, disorganised and unprofessional.
- Set boundaries for your family if you have to join a video-call from home. Don’t allow anyone to come into view of the camera and don’t allow any disruptions unless it is a real emergency. If you get distracted or have a conversation with someone else in the
room (even if your mic is muted) you are clearly not paying attention and participants may feel offended. Close the door and don’t allow anyone in. Your pets and/or children should not be in the room with you.
- Be on time. There is no excuse for letting others wait unless you had a real emergency. If you are going to log in late you should have a very good reason and let the chairperson know well ahead of time. Follow rules 1 and 2 above before joining the meeting otherwise you will cause a major distraction if you log in and try to get settled on camera.
- Never eat on a video-call and only drink water if you really must. It is inappropriate to constantly sip from a cup, or worse, having an alcoholic beverage whilst on a video- call. Also, never drink alcohol before the call – you may not behave well during the call.
- Switch your cell phone to silent or off. Don’t be tempted to answer it or to send messages during the meeting unless it is urgent and work-related.
- Introduce yourself if you don’t know all the participants. The chairperson may introduce you to the group if the group don’t know you.
- Don’t play music in the background, and switch your tv off.
- Don’t wear noisy jewellery.
- Never sniff! Blow your nose before the meeting. If you have to blow your nose whilst on a video-call, switch to mute and turn completely away from the camera. Don’t be caught with your finger up your nose – even if your finger is covered with a tissue. It is very bad manners.
- Mute the App if you must cough or burp. Display good manners.
- Don’t laugh or talk loudly.
- Don’t chew gum.
- Watch your language. Don’t swear.
- Don’t cause a scene. You can disagree without being disagreeable.
- Don’t gossip about anyone.
- This is not the time to clown around. Be professional.
- Sit still and face the camera. Don’t move around frequently – it’s very distracting.
- Pay attention to what participants are saying – even whilst you make notes.
- Speak clearly and make sure that everyone can hear you.
- Remember that the meeting is chaired by someone. Always follow their lead and don’t speak when it’s not your turn.
- Don’t keep your mic on if you’re not speaking. Mute it – there is a mute function on the App. All sound will be streamed and everyone can hear what’s happening on your side. Don’t forget to unmute your mic when it is your turn to speak.
- If you want to ask a question or make a contribution you should say: “This is Jo, I have a question please” then wait for the chairperson to invite you to speak.
- Never speak over others. Hold your hand open next to your face if you want to speak so that the chairperson can see that you want to contribute, or use the chat function to ask questions.
- Don’t sneak out. You need to allow some extra time for the call but if you have to leave and you have nothing further to contribute you may write a note in chat to let the chairperson know that you are leaving the video-call, then exit. Only do this if you really have to. Don’t be the person that always exits video-calls before the meeting is over. It is unprofessional.
If you Chair the meeting
- Set up the voice-call meeting from the App and send invitations via the App to all participants. Some Apps, like Skype, will automatically insert a link to the meeting in Outlook. If your App doesn’t send a link via Outlook you should copy the link and include it in the Outlook (or whatever calendar you use) invitation.
- Check whether all participants accepted the invitation and contact those that did not accept to make sure that they attend the voice-call.
- If you are going to be late you need to notify everyone immediately and perhaps start the meeting 15 minutes late. Don’t let participants wait online for you. If you can’t notify everyone, you need to ask someone you can trust to notify all participants. Then apologise once you are able to start the voice-call meeting.
- If you want to call a meeting via video-call with more than one person you should have a good reason because it takes time for everyone to prepare. If the topic could be discussed via email or phone call then rather do that.
- Always have an agenda which you should distribute along with all relevant documents to all participants way ahead of time so that they all know what the meeting is about and so that they can prepare.
- Let all participants know how long the meeting is expected to last and stick to the allocated time – participants may have other appointments scheduled immediately after the video-call.
- As the chairperson you need to be online before everyone else and you need to be organised and prepared.
- State the rules of video-calling once everyone is present and ready to start. Do this until everyone knows how to conduct themselves on video-calling.
- If some participants are not known to the rest of the group you need to introduce them. Ask them to raise their hand when you say their names.
- Remain in control of the meeting. Don’t allow anyone to talk over others. Let them know at the beginning of the meeting that they have to put up their hand if they want to speak or they may ask questions via chat.
- Don’t allow small-talk, jokes, fighting or wasting of time.
- If you set up the video-call meeting you can mute participants until it is their turn to speak.
- When a participant joins that is unknown to some or all participants, introduce them and ask them to raise their hand to indicate who they are and welcome them.
- Keep the meeting focused and on track.